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March 14, 2022

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Britain is not the savior of Afghanistan

Common sense tells us that sometimes the one weeping by the side of the victim at a crime scene by and large turns out to be the murderer, whose tears are not for the victim but for himself in an attempt to cover up his crime. That’s why the whole plot sounds extremely familiar when the British government recently said it would co-host a summit to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and especially when British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss boasted that “the UK is determined to lead the global effort.”

Is Britain, for the past and the present, the savior of Afghanistan, or the maker of its problems, the murderer of its people, and the plunderer of its wealth? Straightening out Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan from the very beginning, people could naturally find the answer from the old script of British colonialism with its toxic legacy that lasts until today.

Three Anglo-Afghan wars were started by Britain from the 19th century and the early 20th centuries. Although the attempt to exert influence in Afghanistan ended up with the finale of British fallibility, the seed of conflict and chaos was planted on the South Asian subcontinent in the same way as on the vast lands of other parts of the world. As a result of the colonial wars, parts of southern Afghanistan were incorporated into British India. In 1893, the Durand Agreement was imposed by Britain onto Afghanistan and British India. It was later known as the Durand Line serving as the “boundary” between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. It was Britain’s ambition to seek expansion that led to the border conflict still haunting Pakistan and Afghanistan even today.

If the colonial trauma is not “enough” to leave Afghanistan in need of a savior today, then the turmoil and troubles Britain and its allies caused during the 20-year invasion of Afghanistan played a key role in creating Afghanistan’s current woes. According to Brown University statistics, about 47,245 Afghan civilians were killed in the war, most of them in Helmand province, the main battlefield of British forces. In 2011, in the name of “searching for the Taliban”, British SAS special forces killed 33 Afghan civilians with extremely brutal methods such as “kneeling and shooting.” The British Ministry of Defence was clearly aware of such cases and but attempted to cover them up. Statistics show that only a dozen out of more than 3,400 war-related crimes have been formally investigated, and some 90 percent are not investigated at all. More unfortunately, the families of the victims only received 104 pounds (US$105) as compensation.

Undoubtedly, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has everything to do with the hasty withdraw of the American and British forces and their allies. During the catastrophic retreat in August 2021, Britain deserted thousands of Afghans working for its forces. At a time when the war-torn country is on the brink of collapse, Britain and its allies, in response to the Taliban takeover, imposed a policy of starvation, including suspending financial assistance and imposing heavy economic sanctions, on a country where 75 percent of its funding comes from international aid and 95 percent of its people lack sufficient food.

Is that what Britain calls humanitarianism when it exploits Afghan lives as a political leverage against the Taliban and when its closest ally the US seized half of the US$7 billion of Afghan assets in US banks to compensate families of 9/11 victims?

History shows that for almost 200 years, Britain has never been a savior of Afghan, but the originator of many of its misfortunes. Even today when British officials tout its leadership in offering humanitarian assistance, what it really wants is nothing but a flashback of its good old days of global influence under the new disguise of a grand savior.

The dead cannot speak. But history remembers. Just ask all the people still in the struggle against the colonial legacy: Who would ever wish to be saved by Britain at all?

The author is a Xinhua writer.


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