US hasty pullout from Afghanistan left technology and data the Taliban could use to hunt down its enemies

The US not only abandoned Afghans in general but also exposed those who worked with them to the danger of reprisal and execution by the Taliban government. It did not bother to destroy the database containing sensitive information about Afghan Army regulars and members of the national police, not to mention ordinary citizens whose files also reflected their political sympathies. The Taliban can now hunt these individuals down with ease if they don’t have the means to leave the country or go into hiding which presents the most difficult circumstances for their ordinary existence. An MIT Technology Review report cites the US-funded Afghan Personnel and Pay System (APPS) the database of which holds detailed personal data about hundreds of thousands of Afghan military and police personnel who served under the former US-backed Afghan government recently deposed by the Taliban.

A presentation on the police recruitment process from NATO’s Combined Security Training Command–Afghanistan shows that just one of the application forms alone collected 36 data points. Our sources say that each profile in APPS holds at least 40 data fields.

These include obvious personal information such as name, date, and place of birth, as well as a unique ID number that connects each profile to a biometric profile kept by the Afghan Ministry of Interior.

But it also contains details on the individuals’ military specialty and career trajectory, as well as sensitive relational data such as the names of their father, uncles, and grandfathers, as well as the names of the two tribal elders per recruit who served as guarantors for their enlistment.

The Taliban has promised that they will abide by Sharia’h Law but their past behavior during the time when they ruled Afghanistan before the US invasion doesn’t offer much optimism for those who are affected by this act of betrayal. The haste with which America withdrew from Afghanistan has wasted what gains they made during their twenty-year occupation. It does not help that the US government condoned the corruption of their puppet Presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani but also did not make inroads in curbing the pervasive corruption which was also another reason for ordinary Afghans to sympathize with the Taliban. This is evident in the quick manner with which the Taliban were able to control key regions and cities after the American withdrawal. It took less than fifteen days for the Taliban to be in Kabul.

There was clearly no sincere effort to evacuate Afghans who worked with the Americans. The same is true of the NATO countries that colluded with the Americans in their occupation. The American actions in Afghanistan are reminiscent of its “support” for the Philippines against China during the Scarborough Standoff which was triggered by the belligerent attitude the administration of then President Noynoy Aquino took against China in compliance with American wishes. The Philippines lost sovereign territory that had been under its control even before the Spanish period. The US State Department could not do anything after China reneged on the terms of the State Department brokered compromise. The Philippines spent more than a billion pesos in an arbitral award which was not practicably enforceable. It also did not receive substantial military aid to at least patrol the South China Sea in a manner which constitutes actual deterrence of encroachment.

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The US has lost much of its credibility following its botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. It stands to reason that the Taiwanese are now also wary of what to expect in the event that China decides to forcibly take back what they consider a renegade province. US President Joe Biden may yet become the Jimmy Carter of his time who wasn’t even selected to run for a second term against his Republican opponent. The Democrats may lose seats in the Senate and the House during the upcoming midterm elections. The implications of the withdrawal continue to be felt and it will haunt Biden throughout his term.

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About Ramon Ortoll

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