Join our expert panel, including our defence editor Kim Sengupta, as they discuss the situation in Afghanistan and what the future holds for the country
The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating at a pace few would have imagined in the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out US forces at speed.
For the people of this land battered by decades of violence, most of it brought about by foreign powers near and far, there is now darkness only too visible.
The Taliban have taken over huge swathes of the countryside, and are now targeting key cities, seemingly convinced that they would achieve a military victory. There is widespread fear about what the possible return of an Islamist regime to power would mean for a range of vital issues ranging from human rights, especially women’s rights, to the survival of democracy.
As the US, Britain and the West retreats, other states seek to move into the vacuum. We have to wait and see what impact this would that have on the country, the region and beyond. Armed extremist groups are also on the move.
We know what happened in the past when the West had walked away, on that occasion after using the mujaheddin and an international jihadist brigade to drive out the Russians. That led to the creation of ungoverned space, terrorist camps being set up and attacks following in many parts of the world, including on 9/11 on the US.
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President Biden, who had long been sceptical of the Afghan mission as Barack Obama’s Vice-President, has set 9/11 as the symbolic end date for the departure of American forces.
In reality, almost all except a few hundred would be gone by then. ‘ In-country’ air support, crucial to Afghan government forces in their operations, has stopped, although ‘over the horizon’ support from bases in other countries have continued.
How would the Afghan government forces cope especially as the Taliban continue to receive foreign support. We are finding out in the battles now being fought in the cities of Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, which are still in the balance.
As the outcome unfolds, questions will continue to be asked about the West’s mission in this country. What exactly has been achieved by America’s longest war, the trillions of dollars spent and hundreds of lives of US, British and allied servicemen and women lost?
What about the Afghan people, which the intervention was , meant to be about. Would they be allowed to shape their lives and that of their society and government to their choosing? Or is that chance disappearing as the violence spreads?
The Independent has provided decades of award winning journalistic coverage from the ground in Afghanistan. And now we are holding a webinar Afghanistan: An abandoned nation? to discuss the future Afghanistan faces and what lessons can be learned from the past.
The panel will be hosted by foreign editor David Harding and the panel will consist of foreign correspondent and commentator Patrick Cockburn, Camelia Entekhbifard, editor of Independent Persian, and Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayell, a commander who was the Middle East advisor in the Ministry of Defence and myself, the Defence and Diplomatic Editor.