Taliban in Kabul cast a shadow over Iraq’s future, says Chaldean priest

For many Iraqis, the Afghan tragedy is a remake of Mosul’s in the summer of 2014. The pull-out of Iraqi troops leaving weapons behind was decisive for the jihadi victory. Public opinion and social media are abuzz about “US betrayal” and the politics of a country that sows “confusion”. Upcoming elections in October hang in the balance.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – The withdrawal of US troops, the fall of Kabul, and the rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan “reminded many Iraqis of the tragic fate of Mosul in the summer of 2014", when the city was seized “by the Islamic State (IS),” said Fr Paul Thabit Mekko, speaking to AsiaNews.

Head of the Christian community in Karamles (Nineveh Plain), Fr Mekko was appointed last week as coadjutor bishop of Alqosh (Iraqi Kurdistan) at the Chaldean synod.

"At the time, Iraqi troops pulled back and Daesh (IS) took over the area and collected abandoned weapons,” explained the clergyman, who has been actively involved in caring for Christian, Muslim and Yazidi refugees who fled the jihadis.

The international community, NGOs, and other activist groups are currently focused on the fate of the Afghan population, especially women, who are at risk under Taliban rule. 

Many Afghans are desperately seeking a way out, while those who remain fear retaliation from the Islamist group, whose goal is to impose an Islamic emirate in which women’s “rights” are subordinate to “Sharia, Islamic law”.

What is happening in Kabul at present resembles what happened in Mosul, the Nineveh plain, and northern Iraq in the summer of seven years ago, when the forces of the self-styled Caliph al-Baghdadi took control of the area.

During their point of maximum expansion, jihadis ruled over half of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. 

Now many fear that, should the international coalition (US troops in particular) leave, Iraq’s regular army might break up and the country fall into the hands of extremist groups. The latter are still active and responsible for attacks against civilians.

“Lately, there have been rumours about a possible withdrawal of US troops,” Fr Paul said. “This if fuelling fear and concern in people because what happened in Afghanistan could happen here if they suddenly leave.”

At present, the situation “is not quiet”. In fact, “now and then, attacks are reported in cities and against sensitive targets" including local US bases. “The Islamic State is behind them, or forces (militias and paramilitary groups) who are interested in sowing confusion.”

The “mindset that will rule in Kabul” is cause for concern. The Taliban’s worldview is “similar to that of the Islamic State, of dark and gloomy domination”.

Of course, “today's Iraq is not Afghanistan, but it is clear that if coalition forces leave, these groups will have a stronger grip on the country”.

Meanwhile, Iraqi public opinion and social media users are slamming the Americans for their betrayal and the politics of a nation “that does and undoes, and then leaves behind confusion”.

In a context of uncertainty, “the key step is represented by the next elections in October, which are still hanging in the balance with the risk that they might be cancelled”.