Credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

Taoiseach warns Taliban: Obey International Law, or else

Kidding, obviously. He didn’t add the “or else”. But who, exactly, is this statement targeted at?

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has called on the Taliban to show restraint and to uphold international law as it emerged Ireland is to accept between 100-150 Afghan refugees in the coming days.

In a statement released this afternoon, Martin said he was “deeply concerned” by the ongoing situation in the country and that the pace of developments there has taken many by surprise.

 ”I fully endorse the call from UN Secretary General António Guterres for the Taliban to exercise the utmost restraint.  Protecting lives, meeting humanitarian needs and respecting people’s human rights are paramount.

“All parties, including the Taliban, are obliged to, and must, respect international humanitarian law.”

The Taliban, it goes without saying, are not going to “respect international humanitarian law”. And they are not “obliged” to, either. If you are “obliged” to do something, it implies there will be consequences if you do not. You are “obliged”, for example, to tax your car, and if you do not, you can be prosecuted. What’s Micheál proposing to do if and when (let’s be honest: when) the Taliban ignore him? Take them to court?

One of the consequences of this disaster is that the Taliban are as close to untouchable as it gets in the world, these days. For some reason, there is zero international appetite, at least in the west, to take them on militarily again. Perhaps, you might say, we could isolate them diplomatically? Well, first, that’s exactly what they want, and have always wanted. Unlike Mr. Martin, they have absolutely no interest in a nice day out at the United Nations, or being represented on the IPCC panel on Climate Change. Second, if they want friends, they will have no shortage of people willing to deal with them, in return for access to Afghanistan’s wealth of rare-earth minerals.

Second, they are militarily far stronger today than they were, last time they controlled Afghanistan, back in 2001. That’s because in their haste to flee the country, the Americans have left behind armadas of armoured vehicles, and enormous arsenals of weaponry. That is in addition, of course, to all the American equipment the Taliban will have captured from the hapless Afghan Army. Some of that stuff – like Blackhawk helicopters, for example – they won’t have the technology to operate. But in 2001, they were armed with 80’s era kit robbed from the Soviets. They’ve just received a huge upgrade.

Third, there are no votes in doing anything about Afghanistan – for Martin, or anybody else. Just the small gesture, for example, of accepting Afghanistani refugees will be politically controversial. It shouldn’t be – but that’s the price of Ireland having a dysfunctional asylum system that seems to do more for lobbyists, lawyers, and private sector hoteliers than it does for refugees: When genuine refugees come along, people are sceptical, even when they should not be.

So what, exactly, is the point in a statement like this? The Taliban will not listen. Bleating warnings to them just makes Mr. Martin (and the rest of the western leaders who do the same) look and sound impotent. Since Ireland cannot, and will not, do anything other than bleat, we could at least retain our dignity and offer a condemnation, without the futile pleading.

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