Noam Chomsky reflects on the crisis in Afghanistan and Taliban takeover

By Daniel Ben-David


NOAM Chomsky has called for the international community to recognise the Taliban’s new government in Afghanistan in an appearance at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

The American linguist and philosopher argued that instead of isolating the new regime Western countries should recognise the Taliban, as Western countries already do this for many “hideous” regimes.

He also reasserted his historic opposition to US imperialism and asserted that the Afghan War was not justified from the outset.

Asked whether he believes that Afghanistan is a lost cause, Chomsky replied: “Lost for whom? For the Afghans?

“From the reports on the ground it seems there is general relief that maybe, finally, after all this time we’ll be freed from violence, from soldiers smashing into our house at midnight and from drones constantly overhead.

“It’s for the Afghans to figure out and determine whether it’s a lost cause or a safe cause and we should be as supportive as we can in their efforts.

“That means working with the governing authorities and doing what we can to moderate their behaviour.”

Chomsky also gave wholehearted support to China’s approach, backing the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban.

“We should alleviate the very serious humanitarian crisis,” he said, “that’s the position China takes.”

Human rights activists have expressed alarm over China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, which are well documented despite the region being effectively closed off to international scrutiny.

The Taliban’s dealings with China may see Uyghurs living in Afghanistan deported to China, where they could face genocidal persecution in so-called “re-education centres”, though the Chinese government denies their full horror.

Nonetheless, Chomsky remained wholly critical of “The West”, saying: “The United States’ position is we must punish the Taliban. Don’t deal with them. Pressure the international financial institutions not to give them loans.

“Punish them as much as possible. Europe is mostly going along with the United States, as it usually does. Europe is much too cowardly to act on its own.

“I think the China-based regional system is following the correct position. Like it or not the Taliban are running the place.”

Chomsky has been critical of American imperialism since his youth, and reiterated his belief that the war was not justified and failed in its aims.

“The fact that the government immediately collapsed and ran away was no surprise,” he said. “It was just a morass of corruption.

“What did surprise me was the way the warlords of the Tajik and Uzbek sectors quickly capitulated to the Taliban. They had resisted them before strongly.”

The academic also highlighted the need to diversify the Afghan economy and to “moderate” the Taliban’s extremist positions.

“We should try to moderate the Taliban’s positions to be more inclusive, to shift their economy from an opium-based economy and towards an economy based on their mineral resources.”

Positions the Taliban take which may need moderating include the death penalty for homosexuality and denying women and girls the right to an education.

Accounts have also surfaced of sexual slavery, with women and girls being treated as the spoils of war for Taliban soldiers.

“We should deal with the Taliban,” said Chomsky. “We can’t just let millions of people starve to death because we don’t like their government.

“I think that’s the policy that Europe, UK should shift to.”

He added: “Recognition has nothing to do with being a nice guy.

“We [the West] recognise governments that are so hideous that it’s almost impossible to describe them.

“Take Saudi Arabia for example – one of the most harsh, brutal governments in the world. Take Al-Sisi’s Egypt, a brutal dictatorship. Sixty thousand political prisoners. Probably the worst dictatorship in Egypt’s pretty ugly history. We recognise those.

“I don’t like the governments of most, maybe all countries- I can’t think of one I like. But we recognise them.

“There are things that the United States does that are hideous, shocking, disgraceful, but countries recognise it.”

Despite the chaotic scenes from Kabul airport, the possible deportation of Uyghurs to persecution, and the deadly reprisals against opponents who did not make it out in time, Chomsky speculated that without the West present Afghans might now find some “peace”.

“Now there’s been over 45 years where Afghans have been suffering constant violent attack,” he said.

“Maybe they can have a few moments of peace. Maybe they can resurrect something out of the wreckage. We should be helping them.

“Taliban are there and they’re in charge. If you care about the Afghan people – which is who we should be caring about – then we have to recognise their government and deal with it. It’s the only way of helping the people of Afghanistan.”

On July 23, CNN reported the chilling account of Afghan interpreter Sohail Pardis, who was dragged from his car and beheaded by Taliban soldiers according to eye witness accounts.

Many people like Sohail who did not get out in time now live in fear of similar reprisals as the Taliban consolidate their power over the country.

Amnesty International has also highlighted the “formidable obstacles” people seeking to flee the country now face.

The event Chomsky spoke at was organised remotely by Influencing the Corridors of Power (ICOP), a group based within the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS).


Featured Image: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation @Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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