In a report less bad than I feared, suggesting Robertson has recovered from the worst of his ‘dark forces will delight in Scottish independence’ delusion and his warnings that Scotland could not fight aliens without Tom Cruise and Will Smith, he does still suggest:
What then are the consequences of this catastrophe?
First of all, the terror threat increases. Every jihadist will be re-motivated by this retreat.
Second, the standing of the US, the West and NATO has been hugely damaged. Russia and China with Iran and North Korea will get real pleasure from the situation in Afghanistan
Third, the advances in civil society in Afghanistan will be attacked.
Fourth, refugee flows will increase. They will come from Afghanistan – as they already do, but others will also try to find safety.https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/19532516.lord-george-robertson-crisis-afghanistan-catastrophe-something-can-yet-done/
Leaving aside the genuinely concerning but all-too-obvious, point three and the adolescent war games perspective in two, claims one and four suggests he is well out of touch.
He needs to read Prof Paul Rogers, a regular in the excellent Open Democracy: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/
Only 6 days ago, Rogers, as he has done for two decades now, bring real expertise and insight to the complex world of Western interventions in the near east.
On Robertson’s first point:
What counts is what happens now in Afghanistan. But another big issue is how determined paramilitary Islamists elsewhere in the world will respond to the near-instant change of power – with the underlying fear that Afghanistan will once again be an organising centre for the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS.
ISIS certainly has a small presence in the country and is believed responsible for some appalling attacks on religious minorities. Two months ago, a bomb attack on girls at a school for the Hazara people in Kabul killed 85 and injured 147. The Taliban denied responsibility and it did have the hallmarks of an ISIS atrocity, the two-million-strong Hazara community being Afghanistan’s largest Shia group.
According to a recent UN assessment, al-Qaeda has a much wider presence in the country. It operates across at least 15 provinces and has even been operating under Taliban protection in some key areas, including Kandahar and Helmand.
Many fear Afghanistan will once again be an organising centre for the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS
That does not mean that it will thrive under Taliban rule to the point of launching transnational attacks, for three reasons. One is that the main era of al-Qaeda transnational attacks was 2002-06, in the wake of 9/11 and the US assault it faced in Afghanistan, which inspired scores of actions against Western targets as far afield as London, Casablanca, Istanbul, Islamabad, Bali, Djakarta, Mombasa, Paris and Sinai. Now, though, the US and its allies have been defeated and expelled from Afghanistan. They are simply not the enemy they were; they are a busted flush.
Secondly, the al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has moved the movement away from transnational attacks in the past ten years. He is reported to be very ill, but that policy may persist now that a potentially global example of an Islamist caliphate is at last taking shape.https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/or-without-taliban-covid-and-climate-will-inspire-terrorism/
On his fourth point he needs to read another Open Democracy piece by Aziz A Hakimi:
My research shows that, until recently, many Afghans, especially young men, did not necessarily head to Europe to become refugees. Many of the young men I worked with in Afghanistan and Turkey in 2017 and 2018 had other, more mundane motivations for migration. These young Turkmen-speaking men from northern Afghanistan embarked on dangerous journeys through Pakistan and Iran to reach Turkey. There, they found jobs in the country’s construction and service industries, or as cooks, waiters, and cleaners. A few worked in a garment factory, and the clothes they made were exported to markets in the Middle East and Europe.
These men had strong social ties to their communities back home in Afghanistan, meaning hardly any were interested in migrating to Europe. Instead, they worked illegally in Turkey, under exploitative conditions and in constant fear of deportation. They aspired to masculine ideals – wanting to be the breadwinner, to provide for their families, and to achieve the social status and prestige that comes with marriage. An arranged marriage, in which the bride is chosen by the groom’s parents, is still considered the most prestigious route to matrimony and household formation in Afghanistan.
And so they sent remittances home to support their families and saved some money on the side towards a bride price. The marriage market has changed, and Afghan rural household resources, based on land and agriculture, are no longer sufficient – cash is instead required to pay a hefty bride price. Large, expensive weddings have also increasingly become the norm. After five to six years, the men would return to their villages to get married and start families. This circulatory mode of itinerant existence – working in Turkey and providing for families back home in Afghanistan – has come under intense pressure due to the pandemic, closed borders in the region, and armed conflict in Afghanistan.
Wheeling out old guys like Robertson or Blair, to explain current events, often does not work because they’ve been resting on their laurels for decades and, it seems, reading nothing new.