The only way to stop Taliban is with U.S troops: But would YOU let them through Shannon Airport?

If we accept U.S force is the only way to free Afghanistan, and a President takes that action, where will the people of Ireland stand when the Americans ask to again use Shannon Airport as a stop-off point for their soldiers?
The only way to stop Taliban is with U.S troops: But would YOU let them through Shannon Airport?

A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan this week. Picture:  REUTERS

IS it possible to be against the Taliban — as I’m darn sure 99.9% of our population are — and also be against U.S troops fighting them on the ground in Afghanistan — which is the only solution I can see to the nightmare scenario that has been unfolding there while the horrified world looks on?

It seems illogical to me to be in both those camps at the same time — to treat the feared Taliban and the American ‘imperialists’ as an equal foe, while somehow hoping peace and democracy will break out in Afghanistan by some other means.

But ever since it became clear that the Taliban were swiftly wrestling back control of the country after U.S troops announced their withdrawal, that is just what many, particularly on the left, have been espousing.

It seems, to me, to be a feat of mental dexterity that defies all common sense and logic — if you really want to bring an end to the appalling new regime in that troubled country.

For, let’s be clear, the Taliban’s brutal government will remain in place — terrorising the population, attempting to spread unrest and rebellion across that unstable region, while hoping to act as a lightning rod for renewed acts of terrorism in the West — unless and until the American forces go back and unseat them.

That may seem extremely unlikely today, and under the current President — but in a few years, who knows?

It would not be an ideal option. It would assuredly lead to deaths and yet more tragedy for that long-suffering country in the short-term. And the Americans have a dreadful track record on what happens in a country after their military might has held sway. But it is the only option.

A successful U.S military intervention would, like the last one, ultimately enhance the lives of millions of Afghans, in particular women, who now face a lifetime of misery and torment at the hands of the Taliban.

But why can’t some people accept this truism? How can they ever hope to restore freedom to the Afghan people if American force is not used first?

Joining hands around a circle of like-minded people and chanting ‘Give peace a chance’ won’t unseat the Taliban. Nor will the United Nations, since it didn’t even authorise the U.S invasion of Afghanistan 20 years ago.

Who else could act, then, on the western world’s behalf?

Well, even if the European Union had an army, it is doubtful all 27 of its countries would agree to undertake a conflict in Afghanistan. Think what the body bags arriving in Munich, Paris and Dublin would do to public morale in nations cocooned from the wars of the world for two generations — even if these soldiers died fighting a barbaric enemy.

No, we in Europe don’t like to see people die for the sake of global peace. We prefer to let the Americans do it.

Or, in the case of many on the left, to not let Americans do it and ... what? Simply hope for the best?

Just to be clear, when it comes to the Taliban, hoping for the best is not an option.

There are other countries that could do ‘an America’ and adopt the mantle of global policeman in Afghanistan, I suppose.

China or Russia could invade it and implement a regime change, but that would surely end up being an annexation, led by a useful puppet of those country’s own authoritarian leaders.

Besides, Russia, in the guise of the Soviet Union, tried invading Afghanistan before, in 1979. They retreated almost a decade later, tails between their legs, so may not be so confident of a victory in Kabul.

Would even the most principled and impassioned left-wing person want either China or Russia to do our bidding, ahead of America? Er, maybe don’t answer that...

So, in conclusion, I suppose it is entirely possible to be against U.S ‘imperialism’, as the left call it, and the Taliban. But only if you then accept that you will never be able to fix the woes of the Afghan people. And holding onto your principles will be cold comfort for the multitudes of its people facing hardship, death, rape, and a multitude of other horrors.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Here’s another question: If we accept U.S force is the only way to free Afghanistan, and a President takes that action, where will the people of Ireland stand when the Americans ask to again use Shannon Airport as a stop-off point for their soldiers?

Of course, we have known the answer to that for 20 years.

A sizeable amount of people will insist this is contrary to Irish neutrality, and a chunk of those will be out protesting on the streets at this affront.

Ever since the U.S invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, many Irish people have made their views on the Shannon connection perfectly clear.

An anti-war demo in Dublin just a few weeks after 9/11 included placards that stated ‘Stop and think: Give space for peace, not air-space for war’.

Would that happen again in the event of a new invasion?

I’m afraid so, as anti-American sentiment is rife in this country.

Campaign groups that sprang up to oppose using Shannon as a stop-off point for U.S soldiers included Shannonwatch, Afri, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, and the Irish Anti War Movement, to name just a few.

Many parties of the left in Ireland allied with these groups in vociferously opposing any attempt to help the American fight in Afghanistan. None of this made a jot of difference. As recently as last year, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney reiterated the government line — that the use of Shannon Airport by U.S military was fully consistent with Ireland’s position of neutrality.

But opposition to it has never wavered. Prior to the 2020 general election, Labour’s Brendan Howlin said his party would push for an end to the Shannon stop-off for the U.S if in power.

In Kabul this week, we saw the direct result of not supporting the U.S. against the Taliban.

Around three million soldiers have passed through Shannon Airport since 2002, and presumably this link will be redundant now U.S troops have pulled out. 

As we saw images of armed Taliban taking their place on our TVs and in our newspapers this week, can any of us say that the world is a better place for America’s retreat?

Of course, the U.S has rightly been attacked for the manner of its withdrawal, President Trump was foolish to think a deal with the Taliban would hold, while the sight of the U.S contriving to lose a war it thought it had won will do great harm to President Biden.

The withdrawal signals a sea-change in U.S foreign policy, as its politicians and people tire of losing thousands of their citizens’ lives and trillions of dollars on behalf of something called ‘the free world’. It’s not as though Europe ever thanked it for its sacrifices — too many people here are happy to enjoy the peace and prosperity the U.S has helped to create, while lambasting its ‘imperialism’.

In truth, there is a sizeable bloc in Ireland who will damn the U.S if they do invade Afghanistan in the name of democracy, and damn them if they don’t. But I repeat, their presence in that country is the least worst option on the table.

It’s not that I’m a supporter of the U.S or its myriad wars on foreign soil — I just don’t like any of the other options one bit.

And while America refuses to do the world’s bidding, god help those poor people in Afghanistan.

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