After the US withdrawal the fall of Kabul and the restoration of Taliban rule in Afghanistan was as inevitable as it is tragic. But it is not accurate to say our intervention was “all for nothing”.
John Howard’s intervention was about purging Afghanistan of Osama Bin Laden and the terrorist groups the Taliban had been happy to host. Those terrorist groups and those they trained and indoctrinated in Afghanistan were a threat to Australians, both here and abroad. That mission was successful.
The creep to regime change and nation-building were not so successful. Afghanistan is a complex and difficult place. Ask the English and the Russians. Democracy and the rule of law as we know it are not a neat fit in a country 100 years behind our own.
Afghanistan is multi-ethnic, tribal, and operates within borders established by outsiders. Years of foreign invaders have hardened the resolve of its original inhabitants. It was ambitious to think it could be tamed.
Is it a better place for our time there? Only time will tell. It’s new generation of Taliban leaders may have learnt from the mistakes of those who governed before them. They will hopefully have learned that hosting terrorists will not be tolerated by the international community. Hopefully, they’ll be conscious the country’s population will have had a taste of democracy. They will want the international community to recognise the legitimacy of their rule. They will want foreign aid.
Of course, modern countries like Australia and the United States are not the benchmark for “better”. Countries like Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan are.
Most important, let us take every opportunity to recognise and thank the valour and sacrifice of our troops. They did everything we asked of them and more. They did so with great skill, commitment and courage. We remember in particular, the 41 who gave their lives and the many who were wounded. We thank their families too. Lest we Forget.