Ronie Berggren writes about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and what the United States could learn from Sweden about mass migration when welcoming Afghan refugees.
When the United States and its coalition partners entered Afghanistan twenty years ago the mission was, to quote former U.S. President George W. Bush, ”to defeat the enemy where they live and plan, so we do not have to face them here at home”.
After some time it became quite apparent that defeating Al Qaida and the Taliban wouldn’t be enough. If America just left and turned its back on Afghanistan the terrorists would return and the cycle start all over again. Therefore the mission turned into nation-building. Building a stable society on former enemy soil would help Afghans and keep Americans safe in the long run.
No matter your opinion concerning the success of this ambition, that was the logic behind the mission. And for a while, it worked. Al Qaida was defeated. The Taliban was driven to Pakistan. Afghanistan slowly progressed, embracing Democracy and human rights. And the United States did not open its doors to mass migration.
President Biden has changed this drastically.
Tired of nation-building foreign nations when there is so much work to do back home, he hastily withdrew the last 2,500 forces from Afghanistan.
However, Biden didn’t just cut and run. He also brought over some 100,000 Afghan refugees back to American soil. More are probably expected to arrive if they can escape the Taliban regime. Many Afghans do deserve a better life in the United States. Afghan translators, soldiers, human rights advocates and young women whose profession in music, science or sport are now prohibited by the Taliban has been abandoned by the West and deserves another chance. Many of them will also contribute greatly to their new societies and should indeed be welcomed. In the current situation, they don’t have an option.
That said, from a strict policy perspective, a change of paradigm has taken place. A shift that must not go unnoticed. The doctrine of helping many in their own native country has now changed to the doctrine of helping a few by helping them flee their native country.
This is a change from a mentality of strength to a mentality of weakness. Also, it sends a simple message to the world: America is not what it used to be. Its allied can no longer feel trust and its enemies do no longer need to feel fear. The United States whose policy was never to negotiate with terrorists has just surrendered a whole country to terrorist hands. Not because of a military defeat but because of a change in the state of mind.
But this change is real and cannot easily be undone. Therefore America would do good to learn some lessons from Europe and in particular my home country Sweden. We have from the beginning had the attitude that helping a few refugees here on our soil is better than helping many in their home countries. Both methods can be, as well as feel, morally justified. But the big advantage of the former strategy is that it only costs money, not soldiers dying on battlefields in foreign lands.
As far as Sweden goes, which hasn’t been in a war since 1814, this option is the instinctively natural action. In practice, this strategy might save Swedish soldiers from dying in foreign countries. But the price will instead be paid by the citizens of Sweden. Looking back, this price has not only come in the Swedish currency ”kronor”, but also in the cost of ruined human lives.
Sweden, with a population of 10 million people, has 60,000 afghans. Many Afghan refugees have committed severe crimes. This summer one afghan and one Bangladeshi immigrant raped a disabled 14-year-old Swedish girl. They were only sentenced to five years in prison.
In 2017 two afghan immigrants and a Swedish-Iranian citizen raped a 30-year-old Swedish woman and live-streamed it on Facebook. The two main culprits were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
The extremely lenient sentences are a consequence of a Swedish justice system unable to handle these kinds of grave crimes that Sweden is not used to. A system based upon the Marxist idea that criminals are the victims of their own criminality rather than responsible for their own actions. Nothing exemplifies this upside-down worldview better than when a 15-year-old Somali asylum-seeker stabbed a 22-year-old female asylum center worker to death in 2016. Swedens now-former National Police Commissioner Dan Eliasson said on state television that it was a tragedy for both parts, and asked with pity what the culprit ”had been through” to do such a thing.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Statistics from The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet, BRÅ) show that almost 60 percent of rape convictions between the years 2000 and 2015 were committed by non-Swedes.
America used to believe that helping the people of Afghanistan to build their own functioning societies with a step-by-step approach to social progress was the best way forward. This might take time but the problems of Afghanistan would eventually be solved on their soil, not in America. This was the rationale for ignoring when Afghan soldiers used Afghan boys for their own sexual pleasure. This was not the Taliban raping children, it was the same Afghan soldiers now looking for a way out of Afghanistan.
President Biden has changed that strategy for a Swedish one, where American civilians, not soldiers, must solve Afghan problems, Afghan religious ideas, Afghan views on sexuality, and Afghan views on women, right on American soil. This obviously does not mean that every Afghan immigrant is a potential rapist. As I stated before many of those fleeing deserve another chance in the West. During the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul, many brave American veterans chose to risk everything one more time, to save their Afghan interpreters and fellow Afghan soldiers from falling into the hands of the Taliban. Afghans, such as now American citizen Janis Shenwary, fought bravely and often saved the lives of their fellow Americans. They truly became brothers in arms. If the vetting process of Afghan refugees were run by these veterans I have no doubt that the people allowed to enter the United States would be the people deserving it.
But a matter of fact remains: Problems rooted in the soil of Afghanistan will soon take root in the soil of America. This is a consequence of mass immigration, a u-turn in strategy and not what the United States set out to accomplish twenty years ago.
Is the present strategy better than the former one? My personal guess is that not even the brave Afghans believe that it was.
But take a look at Sweden and reach your conclusion.