The only surprise about the Taliban retaking Kabul is the speed with which it has happened

News Letter editorial of Tuesday August 17 2021:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Not infrequently, developments at the United Nations raise fundamental questions about the legitimacy of the intergovernmental forum.

Membership of the UN Human Rights Council, for example, is often a soruce of controversy.

In 2018 countries such as Bahrain and Cameroon caused concern among rights activists. In 2020 the election of China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan to the same sparked fresh alarm.

And all the while, a UN which is frequently scathing about Israel seems, at best ineffectual in criticising other countries.

Amid the current crisis in Afghanistan, the UN Security Council — its most powerful body — has urged the government to be “united, inclusive and representative — including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women”.

This is all very well, but what will or even can the UN do?

The security council is frequently in effective deadlock, given the wildly diverging geopolitical views of its members, such the UK and China.

A grim reality of Afghanistan, learned over the last 20 years, is that there are essentially two options: either a semi permanent western presence to maintain stability in Kabul and the key cities and make a Taliban takeover almost impossible; or a western withdrawal, leading to a Taliban return.

The only surprise about the Taliban’s triumph in taking the capital of Afghanistan is that it happened so quickly.

It is wrong to blame any one side of the American political spectrum given that presidents as different as Donald Trump and Joe Biden both wanted US forces to quit.

Boris Johnson says there is no military solution to the problems in Afghanistan. Were all the humanitarian projects, for example to help women, which the Taliban are likely do dismantle, rooted in naivete or were they cosmetic?

Today we publish pictures of 10 Northern Ireland service personnel who gave their lives for Afghanistan.

We pay tribute to their bravery in the line of duty, and hope their sacrifice will yet be seen by Afghans to have contributed to a better society for them.

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