The Fall of Afghanistan
Just a month ago, intelligence agencies abroad began predicting a countdown until the inevitable rise of the Taliban, following the withdrawal of United States armed forces from Afghan bases. Seeing the quick takeover of multiple districts, 90 days was the original estimate of time left before Kabul, the Afghan capital, would topple at the hands of extremists. On August 15, 2021, history came full circle as the Taliban conquered Kabul in not several months, but in the span of a single day. Democratically-elected president Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, now in Oman after being denied entry in Tajikistan. Afghan civilians are now at their limit, seeking refuge by fleeing from the plights of their home country. A fascist militia with scant regard for fundamental rights is at the helm, and the world has been thrown out of balance.
The current Taliban insurgence does not differ much from the rebellion in 1996, apart from the sheer speed at which the Taliban captured land. Initially, warlords in the Northern Alliance battled against the Taliban, but in the 21st century, many tribal leaders are in cahoots with the Taliban. Political fragmentation has taken place among leaders and the Taliban made inroads beyond Pashtun ethnic lines in the north. Ashraf Ghani’s political and electoral battle with Abdullah Abdullah further divided the north. "In addition to well-chronicled corruption, the government’s heavy-handedness along with perceptions of ethnic and regional favouritism undermined trust in Kabul. This opened the fertile ground for the anti-government insurgency to grow in the north," Scholar Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili writes.
With the formation of a new government, questions remain over what a Taliban reign would look like. The Associated Press cited an anonymous official on August 17 claiming that Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi is in the Afghan capital developing negotiations with Kabul’s original leaders. Notable people include former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who headed the country’s negotiating council. They aim to come to an agreement where, as Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has claimed, Afghanistan will have an “inclusive” interim government. Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Satar Mirzakwal mentioned in a Tweet posted on Sunday that the Taliban is no longer looking to take power by force, and instead urged Afghan citizens to stay within city boundaries. Having no trust in the terrorist group, the majority of commoners understand the Taliban’s promises to be empty bluffing.
Global leaders around the world, from India to the United States, have condemned the Taliban stating that they refuse to recognise the legitimacy of terrorism. However, American President Joe Biden is leading with an increasing amount of backlash. The USA's decision to accept defeat in the war is associated with directly causing the human catastrophe, calling into question the US’s credibility. America's national focus is on protecting the military and those within their borders, not on international aid. Even on Sunday, the US lifted airlift personnel out of the country, and within hours Afghanistan’s prison near the Bagram Air Base surrendered to insurgence. European troops fought alongside the US, but they breathe in anger and consternation as they watch the fall of Afghanistan. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron implied the blame was on the US and they sought to distance themselves from the conflict, despite also contributing to Afghan destruction. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) proclaims the debacle to be the largest since inception.
Democracies around the world with intelligence establishments believe the Taliban victory was additionally fuelled by assistance from Pakistan. Former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, Gautam Mukhopadhaya described the crisis to be a “Pakistani invasion with an Afghan face”, writing in the Indian Express on Monday. From giving the Taliban ground support in 1994 to a thumbs-up for Taliban rule in 1996, Pakistan was integral in the rise of the Taliban, and throughout the years, advocated for peace talks with them. Currently, the Pakistani political establishment is somewhat celebratory of the Taliban victory — leaders of the Northern Alliance landed in Pakistan on Sunday for talks with the foreign minister. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, on August 16, declared the Taliban to be “friends”, asserting they will now have friendly faces in Kabul. He verbally admitted Afghanistan had “broken the shackles of slavery”. Cooperation of the Taliban with neighbouring powers is apparent, nonetheless, no actions have been taken against them by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Also read: Terrorism, Imperialism, and the Afghan Quagmire
In the past, a mere mention of the Taliban could invoke images of terror, torture, and lack of basic necessities. The Taliban in the 1990s immediately established a reputation for brutal ruling tactics. Public execution was carried out by stoning citizens at a football stadium, and all digital media was banned. If men did not pray five times a day, they were beaten. Women were not allowed to show faces and most girls could not go to school. While the Taliban alleges they have changed, or care about their social image now, they have no proof. Their fundamentalist, strict interpretation of Sharia law is oppressive. Most of the world is raising concern for the status of women and children under impending Taliban rule. Religious schools run by the Taliban teach girls about their role under Islamic law — essentially domestic duties. They screech through loudspeakers that women must wear a burqa in public and travel with a male chaperone. Public schools and libraries have been burned. Afghan women pray history won’t be repeated.
Afghan civilians have lost their livelihoods. The burning candle of hope of a better life is dimming. With no other option, mass immigration remains their only choice. The Kabul International Airport has become a hotbed for fleeing Afghans. Extraordinary video footage was released on Monday showing Afghans clambering over each other for a chance to board an aircraft. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has counted over 550,000 Afghans leaving their homes, with about 10,000 people displaced since July. Nearby countries such as Albania, Iran, Qatar, Turkey and India have offered a place for refuge. The United States seemed to ignore the situation for the majority of the time it was manageable, despite playing a large part in it. Data from the US State Department shows under 500 Afghans admitted to the country since January. Only now has the US began offering asylum, with 600 refugees cramming into a plane on August 17, as reported by the Washington Post. The numbers are not sustainable. Countries must open their doors to Afghan citizens, otherwise, death tolls will worsen. Afghanistan is no longer a probable option. All civilians are searching for opportunities to depart. Human rights organisations must step in and help Afghans, who have no one else left. The UNSC has urged all countries to unite and make sure Afghanistan is never again used as a platform for a murderous regime. The people of Afghanistan must not be abandoned.
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