The fall of Afghanistan has provoked much comment and soul-searching on both sides of the Atlantic. Along with the usual talking heads and thumping op-eds, the Taliban's imminent victory has prompted some truly awful takes from some of the less distinguished figures in public life. Below is Mr Steerpike's guide to some of the most tone-deaf, stunningly crass and just plain sinister responses to the fall of Afghanistan.
Stop the War Coalition and Richard Burgon
Straight out the blocks with a statement was the hard left Stop the War Coalition, formerly chaired by one Jeremy Corbyn. The group has claimed the withdrawal from Afghanistan as vindication for its cause and called for the British government to give reparations to the Taliban. Talk about living down to expectations. The group wrote on its website that:
“The British government should take a lead in offering a refugee programme and reparations to rebuild Afghanistan, an act which would go a great deal further in advancing the rights of the Afghan people, women in particular, than continued military or economic intervention in the fate of the Afghanistan.
Steerpike looks forward to seeing how this new regime does advance 'the rights of women in particular.' Former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has now added his voice to such calls, weighing in with a typically thoughtful intervention: 'There is no military solution in Afghanistan. The focus now should be on reparations and supporting refugees.'
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) August 17, 2021
The crisis in Afghanistan is the result of 20 years of disastrous military intervention.Just as in Iraq & Libya, backing US-led invasions led to a huge loss of life.There is no military solution in Afghanistan. The focus now should be on reparations and supporting refugees.
In 239 characters, the former Greek minister of finance manages to show what 'solidarity' means to him. Switching effortlessly from hailing 'liberal-neocon imperialism' being 'defeated once and for all' to washing his hands of all responsibility –'it is what we can offer' – to end with the patronising sign-off 'Hang in there sisters!'
— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) August 15, 2021
On the day liberal-neocon imperialism was defeated once and for all, DiEM25's thoughts are with the women of Afghanistan. Our solidarity probably means little to them but it is what we can offer - for the time being. Hang in there sisters!
Shamima Begum's lawyer
A criminal defence lawyer who specialises in terrorism law, Tasnime Akunjee is well known for leading calls for Isis bride Shamima Begum to be allowed back into Britain. He has previously defended one of Lee Rigby's killers, who acted to avenge the killing of Muslims by British armed forces. Akunjee's response to pictures of the Taliban taking over the presidential palace? To claim 'the boys are back in town.'
— Akunjee 🖋 (@mohammedakunjee) August 15, 2021
The boys are back in town pic.twitter.com/Mvlne6ry0X
The controversial editor of Muslim news website 5 Pillars argued that the 'sooner Taliban win the better' and that 'peace gives everyone a chance to build a better society' – something the movement's opponents might disagree on. He subsequently added: 'I think the Taliban would be preferable to the current Tory govt' on the grounds that 'don't think the Taliban would've handled the pandemic worse.'
Britain's Foreign Secretary delayed returning from his holiday until Sunday morning, just hours before the Taliban advanced into the capital Kabul. Questions are being asked as to why the UK's top minister delayed a return from abroad even as the situation was clearly falling apart throughout the whole of last week.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that the UK did not speak to British ambassadors in seven nearby countries, nor did he talk to Pakistan’s foreign minister, until the day Kabul fell. Quite a contrast with 'our man on the spot' Laurie Bristow who has remained in Afghanistan to personally process visa applications for staff trying to flee.
There has been much impotent hand-wringing over the carnage in Afghanistan these past few days. But no one managed to combine craven party loyalty with virtue-signalling waffle like the US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. The octogenarian Democrat claimed Joe Biden – who is refusing to break off his holiday to Camp David – is 'to be commended for the clarity of purpose of his statement' and warned 'the Taliban must know the world is watching its actions.' Mr S suspects the Taliban doesn't especially care about that.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 15, 2021
The President is to be commended for the clarity of purpose of his statement on Afghanistan and his action. The Taliban must know the world is watching its actions. We are concerned about reports regarding the Taliban’s brutal treatment of all Afghans, especially women and girls.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 13, 2021
Continued Taliban attacks are causing suffering to Afghans. Taliban must resume substantive & structured talks & halt the ongoing violence. An Islamic Emirate re-established by force would lead to isolation. Gains made by women and girls must be preserved. https://t.co/rGIzJyxYBc
LBC loudmouth James O'Brien – author of the book 'How to Be Right' – meanwhile saw the crisis as validation for European integration, declaring 'not for the first time, I wonder what was so awful about the idea of an EU army.' For context, the response of the European External Action Service has been to issue statements such as the 'Taliban must resume substantive and structured talks.' Good luck with that one.
German defence ministry
Not all Western spokesmen have opted for blather in their statements on Afghanistan. One such representative for the German Defense Ministry plumped instead for cynical self-interest by claiming that Berlin has no responsibility to help Afghan support staff and translators escape the country. A spokesperson was quoted yesterday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper saying: 'It's not like we forced them to cooperate with us.' Cold.
— Matti Meta (@matt_meeta) August 15, 2021
A German Defense Ministry spokesperson on its responsibility to get local Afghan support staff and translators out of the country: "It's not like we forced them to cooperate with us." Utter moral depravity.(h/t @gruschkin) pic.twitter.com/rGA86DAnab
New Zealand's Prime Minister has 'implored' Taliban leaders to uphold human rights, telling a press conference 'What we want to see is women and girls being able to access work and education' which she insightfully noted 'are things that have traditionally not been available to them where there has been governance by Taliban.' The Taliban's response is as yet unknown.