RFI Executive Vice President on EWTN News Nightly Commenting on Taliban’s Dramatic Advances in Afghanistan

August 13, 2021

In an interview yesterday with EWTN News Nightly, RFI Executive Vice President Eric Patterson addressed the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan as Taliban forces move to takeover increasing portions of the country. Patterson made the following remarks in the course of the interview.

The rate of the Taliban’s advance has been swift and unexpected. According to the BBC, the Taliban took 30 new districts in just 30 days (out of 400). The government of Afghanistan lost ten provincial capitals in just weeks, including major regional centers such as Herat in the west and Kunduz in the north, and they are close to taking Kandahar in the south.

Regionally, the departure of U.S. troops means the near-end of stabilizing activities that U.S., Coalition, and UN-sponsored peacekeeping capabilities provided. To the west, Iran will be further emboldened to spread its acts of insecurity, as there are no longer major U.S. forces to its west (Iraq) and east (Afghanistan). Pakistan may find a flood of refugees to be destabilizing, but it may also cut a deal with the Taliban, which allows Islamabad to look the other way at the atrocities against minorities and former government officials.

For the United States, the country will be left with questions. However, a good faith effort was made over 20 years to take the fight to the enemy, disrupt terrorist networks, and forestall another 9/11 event. We have not had another major attack on the U.S. homeland and, interestingly, we lost about the same number of troops in Afghanistan (about 2,300) as the total number of those who died on 9/11 (2,977). Sadly, due to the ongoing violence perpetrated by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other rogue groups, tens of thousands of Afghans died at the hands of other Afghans or violent Islamist insurgents.

When it comes to religious and ethnic minorities, the last Jew exited Kabul in June 2021, closing Kabul’s small synagogue. Christians will certainly face oppression and persecution, but alongside other religious minorities, they only make up about .3% of the population.

The groups most likely to feel the wrath of the Taliban are literate, empowered women and the Hazara minority, which are largely Shia and who faced tremendous violence under the Sunni, ethnic Pashtun Taliban.

The United States and our allies in the West should consider responding to this rapidly emerging crisis in at least two ways. First, given the resolve of the Trump and Biden administrations to depart Afghanistan, we should take our allies with us. Unfortunately, the interpreters and public servants who worked closely with the West to build a new Afghanistan are now under dire threat. The Biden administration has told them to go to third countries and wait up to a year to come to the United States. This is a betrayal, and we should fast-track their passage to the West.

Second, the United States should deny the Taliban the fruits of licit and illicit trade if they do not live up to international human rights standards. That means sanctioning legitimate commerce, such as mineral trading with China and elsewhere. It also means putting an end to a crop that we could never come to terms with while on the ground in Afghanistan: opium. Shutting down the conduits for the Taliban’s economic livelihood is the most likely way to narrow their choices for nefarious activity.

Should the Taliban choose, however, a path of law and order, to include protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens, there should over time be a path toward the normalization of relations. After watching the Taliban rule in the 1990s, it is hard to imagine such a path is possible for them.

More RFI commentary on the crisis in Afghanistan: