Thirteen years ago, Shinkai Karokhail became a deputy in the Afghan Parliament, the only power where the presence of women was allowed. “The time of the Taliban is over. Now is the time for equality,” she said at the time, referring to the reforms of the Hamid Karzai government to end decades of discrimination and mistreatment of women.
Today Karokhail, one of the promoters of the Law to Eliminate Gender Violence, has not only lost her seat in the chamber but also her house and the possibility of living in her hometown. The former deputy was evacuated in early September by the Americans.
On a journey that took her from the Kabul airport to Kuwait, from there to Bahrain and later to the United States, once in Washington she moved to the border with Canada, where she has been posted for a time as her country’s ambassador. and where he has applied for asylum since his three children reside there.
From her new refuge in the city of Toronto, the former deputy talks to elDiario.es about the situation in her country under the new Taliban government, Pakistani interference and the role of China in the “new reality” of Central Asia.
You were a direct witness to the fall of the taliban 20 years ago. Did you ever imagine that you would see them again at the presidential palace?
The threat was always there, but no, I did not imagine that being on the verge of retirement I would have to see how in half a year we have lost all the progress we had made, how the work that we started with the formation of the new ones has gone to ruin generations. Nor did I think that I would have to leave my country or my home in Kabul. It is the worst disappointment of my life.
How do you analyze the moment when the final withdrawal of US and NATO troops began?
What I still can’t believe is how the United States was followed so quickly by the rest of the international community. Before Biden’s announcement in April, Germany had said it would extend its mission for another year. However, when the American president said that they would leave before September 11, the Germans, and everyone else, lacked time to follow them. It was very surprising to observe how the situation changed overnight. My group visited up to 20 parliaments around the world, warning precisely of the possible collapse of the Afghan government if it did not receive support from the international community. In the end is what has happened.
The Chief of Staff of the United States, General Mark Milley, mentioned “the depth of the corruption and poor leadership “of the Afghan armed forces. What do you think of his words?
It is true that the level of corruption among the military was high. Some, not all, had been unpaid for three, four or five months. But there were others who were really committed, as was shown in the Taliban offensive in places like Kandahar or Helmand where the fighting was terrible. Those soldiers belonged to the special forces, which consisted of about 10,000 men. They did receive good training from the Americans and NATO. They demonstrated their commitment by traveling for years without rest from province to province fighting the Taliban. And, of course, let us not forget that in the last two decades of war the bulk of casualties have occurred in the ranks of the Afghan army and police.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said his country provided the Afghan Army with equipment and training but what it was unable to facilitate was “the will to win.” What do you think?
In my opinion, everything was sold, I do not know if in the agreement between the Trump Administration and the Taliban, in the Security Council or where. It is a difficult question to answer, nobody explains it. What I can assure you, despite what the Americans may say, is that most common soldiers, unlike members of the special forces, only received training for a few months and often on battlefields. classics. However, in Afghanistan there were car bombs, suicide bombings for which there was no possible preparation.
On the other hand, morale was effectively low in the security sector, especially since international forces, especially the North American ones, began to suspend hundreds of contracts with providers of logistics, intelligence, supplies, and so on. They did not fill the training gap that the Afghan Army had, which would have allowed it to continue only in the medium term. That significantly undermined their morale, so tell me how in these circumstances the provincial governors are going to resist the entry of the Taliban if there was no army to defend them.
Almost two months have passed since the Taliban took control of Kabul. What is the balance?
They continue to terrorize people, entering houses in search of former collaborators with international forces, searching for weapons, threatening to kidnap and marry women, requisitioning cars that do not belong to them. This means that his leadership has no real control over his lower-ranking militiamen and that lack of authority is very worrying.
But there is an authority de jure with dozens of his soldiers in the streets.
Yes, of course, they know well how to use weapons, arrest, terrorize, kill. Another question is how to govern or even communicate. In our retina is that image of the presenter giving a statement while surrounded by armed Taliban. Those are the kinds of things you should avoid if you want to have any kind of credibility with the international community.
Nor do they seem to have much credibility if half of the Taliban cabinet members are on the UN sanctioned list.
Exactly. There are the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defense. By including these people in the government they isolate themselves even more and what is worse, they isolate Afghanistan. It is the Pakistanis who are advising them and they do not understand that Pakistan has always had its own agenda. What Islamabad wants is to have a weak Afghan government, under pressure, whether it is led by the Taliban or not. They believe that from their ministries they can govern the country, they even talk about using the Pakistani rupee in trade with Afghanistan. It’s hilarious. The Taliban should understand that at any moment Pakistani intelligence will turn its back on them and betray them. And be careful, I am not talking about the Pakistani people, who have shown themselves in great solidarity with us, but about their government and who actually leads it, the Army.
In your opinion, what are the objectives of this Pakistani agenda?
Pakistan has two fundamental concerns: the first, the disputed land that exists on the border with Afghanistan, a demarcation that it does not recognize: the second, the desire for independence in the Balochistan region and the northern Pashtun communities, which have always supposed a deep headache.
Also, Pakistan has historically been concerned that Afghanistan has good relations with India, which is why they have always wanted to destabilize the country. They already did so in the 70s by extending their support to the Islamist dissidents who opposed the Republican government of Sardar Daud and also after the Soviet invasion, allying with the United States to organize a religious resistance against the Soviets.
That same religious resistance is the one that governs your country today …
Yes, it is a paradox, but that’s the way it is and its sponsor is once again the neighboring country. The other day during an interview for the North American network VOA (Voice of America) they asked me if the United States was safer today than it was 20 years ago. I replied that not as long as Pakistan continues its policy of supporting terrorism just to be able to control Afghanistan and India. Groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS will continue to do harm unless Pakistan is held accountable for what it does. At this point many new Osama Bin Laden have already been born and it is likely that they have a lot to do with it.
However, despite constant crises, Pakistan continues to be an ally of the United States. A relationship that intensified precisely as a result of the September 11 attacks.
Of course they cooperate with the Americans. Thanks to that they can carry out their drone attacks on Afghan soil, but this was not always the case. Despite past relationships, for years the Pakistani military did not cooperate with the Americans. Does anyone believe that they did not know where Osama Bin Laden was when his hiding place was just over a kilometer from the main Pakistani military academy? Only when they wanted the United States knew where it was hiding.
The shadow of doubt has always been there and the mistrust of the last American administrations.
With the Americans, the Pakistanis play a double game because they do not want to lose their relationship with them, but their real commitment is with China. The cooperation is very intense. I don’t know what Beijing will have promised the Taliban, but, like everyone else, they will try to profit from the country. The question is how and to what degree it will be tolerable for Americans and Russians. Right now the position of the new Taliban government is not easy. In addition, to all the aforementioned we must add the constant scrutiny to which they will be subjected, especially on the question of women.
Do you have any hope that your situation can improve?
I want to think so, especially since we are not in the 90s (the radical Islamist movement already ruled Afghanistan between 1991 and 1996). We have social networks, the Internet and, above all, women are no longer willing to go back. The Taliban should begin to respect this reality, which is that of half the country’s population, and not violate their right to work, education and political affiliation.
A few former Afghan MPs have managed, like you, to get out of Afghanistan but others are still trying. What do you know about your situation?
They worry me a lot. In my case, I was a privileged person. When the government collapsed, my name was on the Americans’ list. We tried the airport but we couldn’t. They made me wait two nights and one day until they came to pick me up and we could enter through another access.
They even called me from the Foreign Ministry of their country, Spain, to tell me if I wanted to be evacuated, but I was already in the American group. I hope that that hole was taken advantage of by someone else. However, your government can still help other Afghan MPs. I hope this can be transferred and understood in your country.
I ask him the same question as other of his compatriots. From your new residence in Canada and after your departure from Afghanistan, what do you ask of the future?
I ask that the Taliban government correct the course it has taken because there is an entire generation at stake. I wish that one day we can govern regardless of the countries that control us because we are paying a tremendous price for our great economic and financial dependence. I long to be part of a movement that can work from exile to build a nation where rights and progress prevail. In short, that we can be masters of our own destiny. I trust that sooner or later it will come.