Simon Tisdall (, Journal, 20 August) is completely correct in his analysis of the US peace initiative in Afghanistan: it is all about enabling the withdrawal of US troops and little about the future of the Afghan people; “details”, such as the shape of the future government of the country, are, apparently, to be settled later.
This week saw one historic occasion for , the 100th anniversary of its independence from Britain, but the deal being negotiated in Doha more closely resembles the end of the Soviet engagement in 1989. Desperate to stop a war they were losing, the Soviets negotiated the end of combat operations in 1989 and withdrew the bulk of their troops. Three years later, under pressure from the west, “cooperation troops” withdrew; and two years after that, in 1994, the Najibullah regime itself finally collapsed, paving the way for the Taliban to take power in 1996. History won’t repeat itself exactly, but the precedent is not encouraging.
Those most likely to suffer if the west withdraws its support, as the Russians did in 1992, are of course the Afghan people themselves; battered by nearly 30 years of war, they have nonetheless seen some progress in the last few years, all of which may be in jeopardy. We must also have an especial care for those Afghans who worked, with honour and courage, for us in opposing the . Successive governments’ attitudes, towards our former interpreters particularly, have veered from indifference to shameful betrayal, with any concession grudging and niggardly. In the rush to achieve a settlement, the people’s interests are likely to be forgotten. This cannot be allowed to happen, else we will be creating “Britain’s Harkis”, to match the French abandonment of their cooperators in their withdrawal from Algeria.
The 100th anniversary should remind us that we have a long history in Afghanistan. The next few years are likely to be deeply challenging for the Afghan people. We need to stick by them and honour the memory of our recent sacrifices and the obligations created.