After 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, the summer of 2021 saw one of the most impactful events on the international scene, when the withdrawal of American troops gave way to a lightning advance by the Taliban, with the point of organ the capture of the capital. A bitter diplomatic failure for the West, which should serve as a lesson in humility, experts say.
Quebec health guidelines advocating staying at home have a sad air of déjà vu for Shoaib Shamsi, who landed here at the beginning of December. Fearing for his life, the 23-year-old Afghan boy spent nearly four months locked up in his residence after the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15. “We were afraid that they would find me, because I worked three years for the American embassy”, tells the young man, met in a park of Sherbrooke by freezing cold.
Shoaib Shamsi vividly remembers when Kabul fell. He was sleeping after a night shift and was awakened in a panic. “My family told me that the Taliban had just entered Kabul. We were afraid of attacks, ”he said, describing the crowd he observed during a brief outing in the streets. “Everyone wanted to go to the airport. But there were Taliban everywhere. “
Impossible to forget, the images of Afghans clinging to the wings of an airplane had sown fear around the globe. They reminded us that the democratization mission carried out for 20 years by the West has been a “resounding failure”, as Jonathan Paquin, professor in the Department of Political Science at Laval University, emphasizes. “It was a huge defeat which shows us to what extent the missions of nation buildingThe idea that it is possible to overthrow a hostile and undemocratic regime and replace those regimes with governments more inclined to our interests does not work. It’s a great lesson in humility, in fact. “
“More than a major event in 2021, the fall of Kabul will have been the failure of a generation,” he continues, recalling that at the height of NATO’s mission, 140,000 soldiers had been deployed on Afghan territory.
Triggered after September 11, 2001 to dismantle a terrorist network by attacking its leader, Osama bin Laden, the intervention will have continued well beyond the latter’s death, which occurred in 2011. It was carried out at high cost, in billions of dollars and thousands of loss of life. “We stayed to stabilize the country and continue to win, but it was all useless. There was no way to establish democracy in the heart of Central Asia. It’s a crazy idea that shows how presumptuous we are in the West, ”argues the political scientist.
When Kabul fell, 10,000 km from her husband, Alina Mirzai, an Afghan refugee who has been living in Sherbrooke with her family since 2015, was in ink. Especially since she had no news of her request for family reunification, filed in March 2020. “I called immigration, but I was told that there was nothing to do”, recounts the one who finally got a positive response at the beginning of October.
If the Canadian government was quick to announce the evacuation of Afghans, and in priority of those who had worked for the Canadian government, we have to admit that it is struggling to keep its promise. More than four months later, of the 40,000 or so refugees he wanted to welcome, barely 5,000 have arrived. “It’s a drop of water,” says humanitarian worker and director of the Montreal Institute of International Studies, François Audet. “At this rate, it will take years to bring in these refugees. “
He said he was asking serious questions about the strategy of this evacuation, which may seem arbitrary. “Based on what choices and what vulnerability do we welcome people? He recalls that at the time of the reception of the Syrians, in 2015, the choice of the refugees could be made according to their capacity of integration, but the best-off and educated families had priority. “Is Canada doing this political instrumentalisation with the Afghans? […] I don’t know the ratios, but I know from a reliable source that a good number of them are not among the most vulnerable. “
According to Jonathan Paquin, Canada especially reacted too late, even though it knew that American troops would have left the country on August 31. The soldiers were gone, but a good number of civilians connected to Canada still remained in the country. “When you agree to be an ally to bring down a regime, you have to think about the possibilities of failure. And when you enter a porcelain store and break a third of the objects, you are responsible, ”says the political scientist, saying he takes this analogy from Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State.
According to François Audet, Afghanistan will have been a test laboratory in terms of humanitarian and strategic development. “There will have been a before- and an after-Afghanistan. And when it comes to humanitarian standards and practices, that has not only influenced Canada, but the entire planet. […] Because if humanitarian aid organizations wanted money for their project, we had to go through it, ”he says. Afghanistan is one of the countries that has received the most aid money in the past 20 years. According to Canadian estimates, in 2022, 24 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance, or 6 million more than in 2021.
Shoaib Shamsi hopes more than anything to be able, whatever the means, to bring to him his mother, his stepfather and all his siblings. “They are caught there. It is not easy for them, there is no job, “laments the young man, who seems steeped in concerns for his relatives. Concerns which, for the moment, seem momentarily numbed by the coldness of December, but above all the happiness of having finally found his beloved.