The Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of Afghanistan was amazingly achieved with relatively little killing and bloodshed. Since the rout of the government, an entity essentially installed by the US, the Taliban has been assuring the Afghan people that its governance style will be more moderate than under its previous rule. Many people in Afghanistan are very fearful and particularly skeptical about the idea that the Taliban will change its ways. Many in the US share this skepticism and view the comments by the Taliban about including women in government, an amnesty and honoring human rights as simply public relations spin.
In contrast, very few people in the US political arena or the corporate-controlled US media express any skepticism about the US and its trustworthiness. It appears the possibility that the US is not trustworthy never crosses their minds. However, if it does, they realize that it is likely not to their political or professional advantage to raise this possibility with others.
President Obama benefited from this lack of skepticism when he falsely touted the precision of the US drone program. When Obama claimed that few civilians were killed, the mainstream media generally accepted this claim until there was too much evidence of civilian deaths to be denied.
The hypocritical US political/media elite are now raising concerns about the safety and well being of the Afghan population under the Taliban’s rule. However, it appears that these concerns about Afghan lives were not a major issue for these elites when US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected a proposed surrender by the Taliban in December 2001, a surrender that would have brought an end to most of the fighting there.
These elite also didn’t show much concern about Afghan lives during the past 20 years when the US forces were bombing and then militarily occupying the country. In addition, the fighting with the Taliban, especially the air campaign, continued throughout these past 20 years and killed a large number of civilians. In fact, according to a excellent recent article by Jim Lobe in Responsible Statecraft, using research by Andrew Tyndall, in 2020 the corporate-controlled media mostly ignored Afghanistan with a total of 5 minutes coverage during the 14,000 minutes of weekday evening news coverage on the three national broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). In the previous five years prior to 2020, the networks averaged 24 minutes per network per year. Thus there is little evidence of any real concern being shown about the safety and well being of the Afghanistan people before the Taliban recaptured control of Afghanistan.
Moreover, the US has denied the Taliban access to $9.5 billion of Afghan government funds and has worked with the IMF to cut off aid to Afghanistan. These acts clearly demonstrate a hypocritical lack of concern for the welfare of the Afghan people who are facing desperate conditions.
There is also much concern expressed about the treatment of women under the Taliban rule. However, if the US and its corporate media were really concerned about the treatment of women, both entities would certainly challenge Saudi Arabia about its treatment of women. It appears that the issue of women is used selectively and hypocritically to advance US political interests.
There are certainly grounds for being very skeptical about the Taliban and its claims of moderation. However, there are overwhelming grounds for doubting US claims as well. For example, under the Trump administration the US reneged on the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran and other nations on the enrichment of uranium. The Biden administration broke the Trump agreement with the Taliban for the withdrawal of US troops by May 1, 2021. The George W. Bush administration used the false claim of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as the basis for its illegal attack on Iraq. The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all broke the George H.W. Bush promise to the Soviet Union not to expand NATO one inch to the east if the Soviet Union would allow the unification of East and West Germany. This shameful record of the US duplicity stretches all the way back to its very beginning when it broke its treaties with American Indians.
Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, but it depends upon how well the Taliban can deliver on its promises. Given that the Taliban consists of very conservative members as well as members who are relatively progressive, it faces a major challenge in being able to live up to its words. If the US and its allies stop being vindictive losers and allow the international community to help Afghanistan through the current dire situation, Afghanistan will have a chance. In addition, Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbors will play a key role in the success of the Taliban and Afghanistan.
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics, having taught at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. Since my retirement in 1991, I have been an activist for peace and social justice. He was a candidate for Congress and for governor of Colorado for the Green Party.