A new, uncertain chapter in Afghanistan history

Published August 22, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

Chaos, fear, and uncertainty overwhelmed the Afghan people, following the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan, terminating its mission in the country which lasted 20 years.

In just a few weeks since the pullout of American troops, the Taliban recaptured the capital Kabul, and stormed the presidential palace, without much difficulty.

The Taliban’s blistering seizure of towns and cities across Afghanistan was truly striking, which culminated in the takeover of the capital practically unchallenged. Some observers pointed out that the better equipped Afghan forces seemed to have put up little resistance against the Taliban militants.

The United States itself admitted to being caught off-guard by the speed with which the Taliban seized Kabul.

The fall of the country’s capital led to the pandemonium at the Kabul airport as Afghans scrambled to escape from their country, fearing for their lives and their future. Indeed, it was reminiscent of the frantic scene at the rooftop of a building in Saigon in 1975 as the South Vietnamese people evacuated when the city fell into the hands of the Viet Cong forces.

The Viet Cong, or the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, was an armed movement which fought the South Vietnamese and US forces in the Vietnam War.

A few years before the capture of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), then South Vietnam capital, we served as a 29-year-old minister and economic and press counsellor at the Philippine Embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War, from 1966 to 1969.

The Vietnam War lasted 20 years, from 1955 to 1975.

America’s combat mission in Afghanistan also lasted two decades, from 2001 until its present withdrawal.

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan raised fears of a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Central Asia, with tens of thousands Afghan people wanting to leave their country. Afghanistan is bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and even China.

There are also fears that Afghanistan may once again become a haven for terrorists and violent extremists.

We support calls for continuing negotiations with the Taliban and for persistent, dedicated and creative efforts to build on the advances made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years; achieve national reconciliation and healing in the country; and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven of terrorists and violent extremists.

Like all peace negotiations, it is certainly most difficult but not impossible. We could not, however, give up on the quest for peace as the alternative, war and violence, are immeasurably costly and make all of us losers.

The Taliban have announced that they want peace, that they would not punish those who supported the US and Western forces, and that they would respect the rights of women to work and go to school under the Islamic law. They also said they want to form an inclusive government and establish peaceful relations with other countries.

We believe the Taliban pronouncements should be honored in the meantime and allow a peaceful transition for the sake of Afghanistan and the Afghan people who have suffered immensely from the tremendous devastation and bloodshed for many years.

The Afghan people have lived through foreign invasions, civil wars, insurgencies, and an oppressive Taliban rule from 1996 until 2001, when they were ousted from power and driven out of Kabul by the US forces. Since then, they have been waging war against the US-backed Afghan government and the US and other Western troops.

The unfolding event in Afghanistan is the latest chapter in Afghanistan’s 40-year history of instability, struggle, and conflict.