If Dante was correct when he wrote the eighth circle of hell was reserved for those guilty of pious hypocrisy, a lot of the world leaders who have persisted with embargoes and sanctions against Afghanistan could be in for a very bad time indeed.
While it is true the Taliban is an odious, abhorrently intolerant, manifestly incompetent, corrupt, and arguably illegitimate regime, it is also the closest thing that long suffering country, the plaything of imperialists for centuries, has to a civil government right now.
It is also a nation in crisis. Even before this week's deadly earthquake, which has claimed well over a thousand lives, injured at least 1500 and left tens of thousands homeless, more than half the population was on the verge of starvation. According to the aid agencies more than 60 per cent of Afghanistan's 38 million people rely on international aid from day to day.
The winter that followed the precipitate collapse of the previous government last year was deadly due to food and fuel shortages. Nobody can say with certainty how many people died either trying to seek refuge abroad or just from want.
Cut off from access to Afghanistan's $US7 billion international financial reserves, there has been little the new regime can do. Efforts to support the population by working with international aid providers, and bodies such as UNICEF, have been complicated by the complex maze of embargoes and sanctions placed on the regime.
Western governments, including Australia, who stepped out leaving a failing state devoid of almost any form of international recognition, have chosen to look the other way. The argument is the Taliban, whom they don't recognise and won't do business with, are now in charge and it is no longer their problem. The reality is the West suffered a humiliating defeat, losing thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars in a 20-year campaign to impose democracy.
Now, in what appears to be a fit of pique, the champions of civilisation have gone home leaving the Afghan people, no strangers to seeing foreign armies come and go, to shift for themselves after their country has been trashed by almost half a century of proxy wars.
President Joe Biden even used the excuse that Americans - and their allies - shouldn't be expected to fight for people who wouldn't fight for themselves. Really? A total of 2448 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
A further US 3846 contractors and 1144 soldiers from other countries - including Australia - were also killed. Contrast this with the 66,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan police who gave their lives. The major reason the Afghan forces stopped fighting was because the western-backed and corrupt government cut and ran.
This brings us to the alternative argument that the West must bear some responsibility for putting this shattered country back together.
It is a hypothesis that highlights the hypocrisy inherent in the ongoing refusal to ease sanctions and release Afghan's foreign reserves. It is best summed up by the small sign often seen in china shops: "breakages must be paid for".
If, as is so often said to be the case, the sanctions and embargoes are a reaction to the Taliban's appalling treatment of women then it would be right and consistent to take similar action against countries such as Saudi Arabia, where women and girls are second-class citizens.
The current policies do not punish the leaders of the Taliban who would undoubtedly get the best of everything since coming to power. Instead, they punish a stricken population whose suffering has already gone on far too long.
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