New Conservative agrees that what the world has witnessed in Afghanistan is a tragedy. Twenty years of Western investment – time, money and most significantly life – has been undone in just three weeks. The ability of the Taliban to regain control of the whole country so quickly appears to have caught much of the world by surprise. As a consequence many countries are now scrambling to evacuate diplomatic staff and the Afghani’s who have supported them including New Zealand.
However, the contribution the NZ Defence Force and Police made to Afghanistan, and in particular Bamyan Province during the 20 years that New Zealanders were deployed, was significant and gave the Hazara people hope for the future. Enabling governance, security and justice by supporting the Provisional and District leaders saw many of the Hazara return to their homes and re-establish their lives. Setting up schools for both boys and girls, training the police, assisting at the hospital and District Medical facilities and supporting the building of infrastructure and roads are just some of the achievements. The fact that Bamyan Province was the first in the country to transition to full Afghan control is a testament to these efforts.
The new Taliban regime has stated that it wants to represent all Afghani’s and will be more inclusive, allowing greater freedom for women. However, a leopard rarely changes its spots – the New Zealand Government should be very cautious in establishing diplomatic ties with the new leaders. Allowing girls to continue attending school and women’s university will be a key indicator as to whether they are speaking with a forked tongue.
New Conservative commends the NZ Government for deploying a C130 with 80 Defence personnel, supporting the international effort to evacuate people from the country. We have a moral and ethical obligation to evacuate all those local interpreters and staff who so courageously supported NZ troops and police, often at great risk to themselves and their families. This will require coordination to move some down from Bamyan in the mountains to Kabul for evacuation.
The next challenge for the international community is to ensure that the country doesn’t deteriorate into the lawlessness that Somalia has. Otherwise potentially we may have to return again in the future. Kia Kaha Afghanistan, you are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this time.