Sunday August 15, 2021
Last Days in Afghanistan
Q: Your book [“Freedom”] briefly touches on Afghanistan, a country where you've spent considerable time as a reporter and documentary filmmaker. With the Biden administration's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops by Sept. 11, the Taliban are poised to regain power. How do you view their claim to freedom?
I loathe the Taliban like I loathe Franco and Pinochet and anyone who tramples human rights for their own benefit or their own ideology. But this is what's so tricky about the word “freedom.” Who will enjoy freedom under the Taliban? The Taliban. They represent quite a swath of Afghan society – they represent probably the majority of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan – and for them, their definition of freedom is, “We don't want somebody else telling us what to do and how to live and who to worship.” And I can't dispute that with them; I just loathe their human values.
I'm not going to tell Americans what policies they should ascribe to, but as a journalist, I can talk about the benefits and costs of different policies. The benefits of not being in Afghanistan is that there are 2,000 special ops forces that can't possibly be killed because they won't be there. That's the upside, and we also won't provide an easy excuse for the Taliban to justify their violence. The downside, of course, is that we pull out and Afghan society implodes and there's tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and in all likelihood, the Taliban reclaim the country and impose their sharia law and rewind the beginnings of human rights and women's rights. It makes me nauseous to think about it.
-- Sebastian Junger, co-director of “Restrepo,” in conversation with one-time Stars & Stripes reporter Martin Kuz, in The Christian Science Monitor on June 1 of this year. Today, Kabul fell to the Taliban, who once again rule the country after 20 years of U.S. occupation.