Where Is Our Apology to Afghanistan?

Picture of By Lea Teigelkötter

By Lea Teigelkötter

Politics is a complicated game. One wrong move and your king is staring at a checkmate with no room to escape. Unfortunately, in real life, we are not talking about knights, rooks, or kings. We are talking about human citizens- mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. Families and friends. So, whomever we pass our nation´s chessboard to, we depend on them to handle it with the utmost care and protect us to their highest ability. But as human individuals fail, so do politicians. And over the past few weeks, we have witnessed one of the greatest failures of Western politics during the 21st century: The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.  

Not only are the mistakes made by both European and American authorities shocking, but the way they fail to own up to their infuriating miscalculations, having led to thousands of deaths and twenty years of effort wasted. 

The Blame Game

How does a president whose decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan causing the Taliban to take over control, face his nation´s despair and disappointment? “But here’s the deal…you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban”, is what Biden thought appropriate to mention during one of his press conferences. No matter how much truth remains within the fact that Trump was one of the worst US presidents in human history, blaming the current situation on his past decisions seems too easy as a way out- especially coming from the man who holds control over one of the most powerful countries in the world. 

Thus, will the relatives of their fallen loved ones find solace in the fact that their sons and husbands died as heroes? Or will they more so question a regime which destroyed its soldiers´ efforts by technically handing over the country within a heartbeat? 

Biden further referred to the fallen soldiers of the Afghanistan war as “heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous selfless mission to save the lives of others”. Fighting a war inevitably entails casualties. However, these can only be tolerated – if one can speak of tolerance in the context of human lives being lost – if the greater purpose of establishing peace can be achieved. Thus, will the relatives of their fallen loved ones find solace in the fact that their sons and husbands died as heroes? Or will they more so question a regime which destroyed its soldiers´ efforts by technically handing over the country within a heartbeat? 

A “Non-Perfect” Decision

Taking responsibility, admitting you were wrong and apologizing are difficult skills to master. More often than not do we like to blame others for our actions or simply talk ourselves out of a situation – a habit which is not admirable in daily life, but especially harmful in the context of political decision-making.

When asked whether Biden was also taking responsibility for the bloodshed happening amid the evacuations, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan claimed to “take responsibility for every decision – good decision, every decision that doesn´t produce perfect outcomes”. 

For starters, should we as citizens, be led to believe by this statement that there exists no such thing as a bad decision, only a “non-perfect” one? Personally, reflecting on the disastrous images from the Kabul airport, parents throwing their babies over fences in a last attempt to offer them a better future than living under the oppression of a human rights denying regime, many words come to my mind. Spoiler alert: “not perfect” is not one of them. 

Germany: Neutrality Over Compassion

Evidently, the US wasn’t the only country to let down Afghan citizens. After her sixteen years of chancellorship in Germany, Angela Merkel could not have possibly chosen a worse end to her career. 

Kabul reports indicate that several warnings from German ambassadors and the army have been ignored. Politicians from oppositional parties like the FDP or the Green party demand resignations from everyone responsible including foreign minister Heiko Maas. Unfortunately, wasting human lives does not appear to be a valid reason for said politicians to withdraw from their positions. 

In general, if there was one word to describe Merkel´s rhetoric in the majority of her speeches, it would be “neutral”. A quality which can be beneficial under specific circumstances, but most certainly not whilst delivering a statement concerning herself and her colleagues´ failure to protect the Afghan population. 

Assessing the current situation at Kabul airport, Merkel emphasized that Germany had been working together with its allies since 2001 and coordinated its actions with theirs- in other words: we only did what everyone else did, so don’t blame us?

“Did the international community sufficiently engage in establishing peace in Afghanistan? Was the willingness to combat the Taliban of the Afghan army overestimated?”, are two examples of the rhetorical questions Merkel asked her audience at the end of one of her speeches. Where the simple and correct way to reply would have been “yes”, the German chancellor drew a different conclusion: “It wouldn’t be right to give a well-reasoned answer at this point.” Why not? Is Germany still looking for others to blame? Is Merkel afraid to leave her position with the detrimental memory of her losing one of the most important wars of the 21st century? From my point of view, that ship has long sailed. 

The Dubious Future of Western Foreign Politics 

Turning towards the future of German politics, one might wonder how the candidates of this year´s election reacted to their government’s failure. CDU candidate Laschet did not offer any satisfying admissions of guilt either: “Together with our international allies, we will have to analyse the mistakes which have been made.” Another empty sentence missing out on one important point: paying tribute to the fallen soldiers and apologizing to the Afghan citizens by owning up to one’s own failure to take action. 

Next to the numerous conclusions that must be drawn in regard to the future of EU and US foreign policies, I am left with two questions:

How long will it take our politicians to bring up the courage to apologize? 

And even more importantly: will the EU manage to develop a strategic plan to welcome new refugees or will they, once again, let the Afghan citizens down? 



Photo: Pixabay von Pexels

Edited By: Pritha Ray

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