RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Talk to the Taliban? Don’t waste your breath… whichever way you cut it, this was a humiliating defeat for the NATO alliance. Militarily, the game is up
By Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail
30 Aug 2021
The last American troops are on their way home, confirming that the war in Afghanistan is all over bar the shouting.
Whichever way you cut it, this was a humiliating defeat for the U.S.-led NATO alliance, Britain included.
Militarily, the game’s up.
Yet the shouting goes on, as Western politicians try to salvage some face from the rubble.
Last night, an emergency session of the G7 was taking place, wondering how the West can still put pressure on the Taliban.
Incredibly, Boris Johnson has dangled the possibility of establishing formal diplomatic relations with the new regime in Kabul.
There’s even talk of unfreezing billions of dollars in seized Afghan assets and increasing foreign aid in exchange for the Taliban guaranteeing safe passage to all those who want to leave.
The Prime Minister is offering to double our humanitarian and development aid to £286 million if the Taliban promise not to allow their country to once again become a haven for international terrorists targeting the West. He said: ‘We will use every lever we have to help the people of Afghanistan and protect our own country from harm.’
The Taliban must be trembling in their trainers. With the troops out, the West no longer has any leverage.
Does anyone in London or Washington seriously believe that the Taliban is desperate for a seat at the UN top table in New York, or an invitation to take afternoon tea at Chequers?
Trying to bribe them by offering to double their pocket money will cut no ice. They’ve already had the gift of tens of billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment left behind. They are armed to the teeth with American weapons, and Afghanistan now has a bigger air force than most NATO countries.
OK, so while there’s still a faint hope that the thousands of American and British citizens and their allies who are still stranded will be allowed to leave, it probably makes sense to flatter the Taliban.
To be fair, Boris isn’t the first to believe that if you talk to the Taliban nicely they will behave properly.
Fourteen years ago, after becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made a flying visit to Afghanistan for a photo-op with British troops. While he was there, he suggested it might be time to engage in talks with the Taliban.
At the time, the idea was so absurd that I imagined him as Dr Dolittle, played by Rex Harrison. Headlined ‘If I Could Talk To The Taliban’, here’s a brief flavour . . .
If I could talk to the Taliban
Or the dialect of
Try a phrase or two of Farsi,
A word of Gujarati,
I’m sure that I could make
We could converse in Ashkun
Learn a little of the lingo
If people ask me: ‘Can you
I’d say: ‘Of course I can,
If I spoke the native tongue of
I could guarantee that I would
end this war.
Give a massive grant
Well, it always works in Scotland,
I’d even let them have
Sharia Law . . .
That appeared in the Daily Mail on December 14, 2007. It was supposed to be a joke. Today, talking to the Taliban is official government policy on both sides of the Atlantic.
You couldn’t make it up. Except I did.
Back then the Taliban was considered to be an international terrorist organisation, which gave safe haven to Al-Qaeda to launch the 9/11 attacks on America.
It still is.
But there are plenty of people now prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. A couple of weeks ago, I noted the public relations offensive aimed at selling us Taliban 2.0, the new caring, sharing cuddly version. The usual useful idiots have fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.
Today, its spokesmen are interviewed on television with the kind of reverence normally reserved for the leader of the Swedish social democrats.
Some journalists, who should know better, have abandoned all sense of scepticism and objectivity. Take this drivel, from the once-respected U.S. magazine Newsweek, headlined:
‘Seeking World Recognition, Taliban Vows to Help Fight Terror and Climate Change’.
Did no one grasp the absurdity of a caveman dressed up as an extra from Carry On Up The Khyber, surrounded by thugs with AK47s, burbling on about fighting terrorism and global warming?
If, 14 years ago, I’d filed a column — even in jest — about the Taliban promising to tackle terrorism and climate change, the editor would have concluded that I’d gone too far this time, even by my own miserable standards, and would have checked me in to the Priory for a drying out session.
Yet today, this far-fetched PR guff is reported as gospel.
Soon we’ll be hearing about the Taliban’s enlightened plans for a congestion charge, bike lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Kabul.
Meet the Green Taliban, twinned with Extinction Rebellion. We’ll be asked to believe that they only closed the airport to cut greenhouse gases, not stop anyone escaping.
Next thing you know they’ll be drumming and dancing and chaining themselves to a giant pink yacht outside the abandoned American Embassy.
Boris talks a good game — perhaps that should be Great Game — but without leverage he’s just another Dr Dolittle.
I’m surprised he hasn’t already invited the Taliban to take part in the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Scotland. I can just see him posing for photos with Wee Burney, Sleepy Joe Biden and one of the mad mullahs.
After all, in the war on global warming the British Government has already taken its lead from Kabul and is hell-bent on dragging our economy back to the Stone Age.
So the Afghans could be considered trailblazers by the environmentalists. Never mind ISIS-K, stand by for ISIS-XR.
The way things are going it can only be a matter of time before the Taliban are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.