Ben Lowry: The collapse of Kabul to the Taliban will be seen as a sign of western weakness

In the 1990s I worked on a breaking news website in London.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Saturday, 14th August 2021, 2:39 pm
Members of Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) deploying to Afghanistan to assist in the draw down of troops from the area. Boris Johnson has said the sacrifices made by British troops in Afghanistan have not been "in vain", but warned there was no "military solution" to stop the Taliban. Photo: LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

I did the early shift which meant that I was typically seeing news that came in from the east, where the day was already advanced.

By 1997 I was increasingly aware of the Taliban, and it shaped my politics, particularly the western naivete about Islamic extremists (which somehow persists to this day, almost 25 years later).

I read about the stoning to death of women for adultery and remember one report about young men who admitted homosexual acts, perhaps expecting mercy, but were made to stand in front of a wall which was bulldozed on top of them (an execution for which there is, apparently, justification in the Koran).

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In that job I also watched the rise of Osama Bin Laden, and his 1998 African bombings.

Thus, by 2001, the murderous intent of September 11 was no surprise to me, even if the method of flying into both of the Twin Towers of course was.

It is with great sadness therefore that I watch the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban again.

The war there had very broad support in western countries, unlike the 2003 Iraq invasion, precisely because of 911.

I visited Afghanistan in 2008 and spoke to young soldiers from Northern Ireland who had been in fierce gun battles. I had by then begun to fear that the ‘war’ was being lost. After that time, however, the western presence became more of a peace-keeping mission.

The looming collapse of Kabul will be a tragedy because the last 20 years will seem to have been futile.

And because it will be read by our enemies as western weakness.

Ben Lowry (@Benlowry2) is News Letter acting editor

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Ben Lowry

Acting Editor