Afghanistan: Important lessons for Nigeria – Etim Etim

The invasion of Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, by the Taliban over the weekend marked the takeover of the country by the Islamic terrorist group 20 years after they were driven out by the American military. There were chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport as the Americans, other foreign nationals and Afghansthemselves struggled to flee the besieged country. Hundreds of people flooded the tarmac, chasing a taxing plane, all in desperation to escape. The commotion and pandemonium followed the unexpected departure of the country’s leader, President Ashraf Ghani late Saturday night. Ministers and senior government officials were heartbroken and they felt betrayed that the President had fled without giving them a hint. “How could he run away without informing us’’, Education Minister Ragina Hamidi told BBC, sobbing. President Ghani fled after the Taliban fighters entered Kabul. He is said to be taking refuge in Tajikistan. When a President flees his country in the middle of a war, it signifies the ultimate capitulation and surrender. Six weeks ago, President Joe Biden had assured his country that the withdrawal of the US troops will not lead to the return of the Taliban, a group notorious for marginalization of women and religious minorities. But the sudden overrun of the capital, the seizure of the Presidential villa and the mass movement of people out of the country must be very embarrassing to the Biden administration.

In Washington, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken rushed through the early talk shows on Sunday morning to explain such a terrible foreign policy debacle. The image of helicopters picking US diplomats from the US embassy compound to the airport to scramble out of town reminds older Americans of such a jostle out of Hanoi, Vietnam about 50 years. President Joe Biden himself hunkered down at Camp David, watching developments in Afghanistan and getting briefings from officials. The world seems to have been caught off guard. The United Nations is contemplating a special sessionon Afghanistan. NATO is providing security at Kabul airport while airlineshave suspended flights into and out of the airport. Biden is planning to address his nation later in the week. This is what war looks and feels like, and this particular mess is the worst and most humiliating foreign policy failure for the US since April 1980 when President Jimmy Carter failed to rescue American hostages in Iran. The failed attemptresulted in the death of one Iranian civilian and eight American servicemen. It’s one of the reasons Carter lost his reelection later that year to Ronald Reagan that year. I wonder how President Biden and his party will fare in the midterm elections next year.

As I watched the dramatic events unfold in Kabul, I pondered Nigeria, my beloved country, and how the country has been fighting another deadly war with another set of Islamic terrorists and fundamentalists. Our country has spent billions of Naira and lost thousands of lives (both civilians and servicemen and women) in the last 12 years in the fight against Boko Haram and ISWAP and their various variants. First of all, I am grateful to our military for defending the nation against our own Taliban for the last 12 years with valor, bravery and a sense of patriotism. Never for once have our troops surrendered, given up or shown any form of fatigue or cowardice even in the face of poor funding and difficult challenges. There have been cases of internal sabotage and betrayals by some unscrupulous soldiers, but overall, our troops have been patriotic, heroic and loyal to the Constitution, civilian authorities and the nation. I stand in total salute to them for their sacrifice and service, and I commend our military families across the country for their loss and sacrifice.

There are a few lessons for Nigeria and Nigerians in the unfolding drama in Kabul. I should note that the United States has its own National Interest which it pursues with so much fervor all the time, no matter who is affected. The US is also very protective of its National Security. If you read memoires of Henry Kissinger, Colin Powel, Condoleezza Rice and other diplomats, you’ll have insights into how dearly the US holds its National Interest and National Security. The withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan is all in line with its National Interest and National security. The US has no friend or enemies. It has Interests. If those interests are compromised by the Taliban, the US will not hesitate to return to that country. Nigeria should develop its strategic national interest and pursue it vigorously in the context of its foreign policy. This should be a big lesson to Nigeria. It is therefore important that the Nigerian government should prosecute the war against terrorists in Northern Nigeria with a single-minded fervor; and we should not expect any help from any foreign power. No foreign power will help us. This is our cross; we should bear it with equanimity, courage and pride. The government and military should not expect any help from any foreign power. Nigerians should support our troops materially and psychologically. Corporate organizations should reach out to the military authorities and offer support. Our senators, governors and even artistesshould visit our troops at the frontlines and offer succor and encouragement. I commend our neighbors (Chad, Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Benin) for their help.

The ease with which the Taliban captured Kabul and seized the presidential palace without firing a shot has confounded analysts. Did Afghantroops surrender because they haboured hidden support for the Taliban? Or did they just melt away to avoid bloodshed and civilian casualties? Whatever the reasons for the quick advancementof the terrorists, many Nigerians are now speculating that Boko Haram fighters in the North East could be emboldened by the good fortune and audacity of the Taliban to launch an offensive against our troops. This should also be another lesson for Nigerians. Islamic terrorists are the most dangerous and destructive set of criminals. They are resilient, and because theirs is an ideological war, they typically fight to their death. The people of North East Nigeria, and indeed all Nigerians, must all stand with our military and support our troops with intelligence. We cannot afford to surrender our country to terrorists, kidnappers and rapists. This is not about Buhari or APC or PDP. This is about our homeland. Another interesting lesson for us is how quickly the Afghan President and his family fled the country. He didn’t even bother to inform his Ministers. You can trust that all other politicians will vamoose in the next few days. The Americans themselves are scampering away like cowards. Americans go to other countries, create a mess and scamper away in their helicopters. See what they did to Libya! The other day, Pastor Paul Adefarasin was boasting that he had already created Plan B for himself and his family. You can be sure that he was speaking the mind of all the politicians and and rich businessmen. But what of the ordinary folks like you and I? Where do we run to if, God forbid, this country goes up in flames? This is the reason I am against IPOB and all the ruffians trying to create problems. The federal government must crush these troublemakers (they are mostly drug addicts) with all the will it can muster. Nigerians who talk flippantly about waging war against their country should learn a big lesson from Afghanistan. The leaders and the rich ones will easily run away, leaving a huge mass of 200 million people as refugees. Who will accommodateus? Who will feed us? Where shall we run to? The chaos and commotion in Kabul in the past few days show just how terrible war is.

Once again, I thank our military and the brave men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice. They stay awake, fight and die just to keep us safe. May God continue to bless and protect our troops and keep our country safe.

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