Taliban’s lightening sweep in Afghanistan stuns world . The Afghan forces had the upper hand in numbers , Trained by Americans, with huge funding and arms , and brutally defeated by Taliban, afghan forces collapsed like a house of cards .Gains of 20 years vanished in just two weeks . So now the news from every corner is Taliban have won back kabul after 20 yrs and the world is stunned and shocked . After two weeks of Blitz taliban entered kabul and took over the presidential palace . During last two weeks, most of the provincial capitals were handed over to Taliban without any fight .what has shocked the world is the inability of united states – Built afghan military to stop Taliban, in which they miserably failed . The afghan forces instant collapse in the fight against taliban has raised questions over its 2 decade long training and finding by US. Here in this article I argue, how despite the Taliban giving soothing statement promising not to take revenge or kill anyone, and appealing to Afghan forces like police , the military and the civil service to stay in place. They may very well think and can be Taliban’s strategy that it will be safer not to provoke the West to intervene again. But Will it really happen and or they will continue to follow their old strategy, when they were in power 20 years ago.
RISE TO POWER
Kabul, The Capital of Afghanistan was the last major city to fall to the offensive that began months ago but accelerated as the hardline group Taliban gained control of territories.
Having outlasted a superpower , US , through two decades of war, the Taliban group began seizing vast swathes of afghan territory, before once again toppling a government in Kabul in the wake of a foreign power quitting / withdrawing Afghanistan . They swept across Afghanistan in just 10 days, taking their first provincial capital on 6 August . By 15 August, they were at the gates of Kabul.
Their lightning advance which created roar and prompted tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, many arriving in the Afghan capital, others heading for neighbouring countries.
Lets talk about this group who they actually are and how they started ….
WHO ARE TALIBAN : LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM
An well researched report published on Taliban in BBC mentions , The Taliban, or “students” in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan . Taliban have been fighting the government and its allies in Afghanistan for 20 years . Today they seem stronger than ever . The Taliban have adopted the tactic, they have got more brutal and now the American’s are going home. President Biden wants his troops out by September 11 and that could strengthen the Taliban even more . So who exactly are the Taliban group ? how is it that they have so much power and why is it that the people of Afghanistan are worried again ? . In order to understand that you need to know what happened to Afghanistan in 1980s . Afghan guerrillas called mujahedeen fought a soviet occupation for nine years. They even got money and weapons from CIA . In year 1989 the soviets pulled out and the next few years were chaotic and miserable for afghanis . By 1992 there was a full blown and huge civil war with tribal leaders fighting for power .Two yrs later a militia called Taliban started getting attention. Many of its members had studied in conservative religious schools in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan and some of them had also fought as mujahedeen and they had their own plans for the country. According to them , we want to go to Kabul and announce an Islamic emirate there , the people were so frustrated with this lawlessness and the Taliban came marching along from Kandahar to city to city saying we are going to make the cities safe for you . By 1996 the Taliban has seized the capital they declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate and started imposing their own dictation and strict interpretation of Islamic law. Many afghan nationals on various news channels recount the horror stories when Taliban asked them not to watch movies , They were like you cant watch movies you cant listen to music, women cant go to schools and other than doctors they cant go to work . you have to wear a certain type of clothing. you have to have a certain kind of beard it just became more and more restrictive , says Latifi a kabul national in an interview with Aljazeera .
ATTENTION OF THE WORLD TOWARDS TALIBAN : AL- QAIDA SANCTUARY
The attention of the world was drawn to the Taliban in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 2001 attack on world Trade Centre in New York . The US was after Al Qaieda leader Osama bin Laden who was hiding in Afghanistan With the help of Taliban group .The Taliban leadership said they wanted proof that Osama was behind attack and when they refused to hand him over immediately the America led military coalition invaded Afghanistan by launching an attack on October 07 2001 and Within a couple of months the Taliban were forced out of power and many Taliban leaders took refuge pakistan’s Quetta region and started giving sermons and guiding Taliban from there . Soon after Taliban was forced out of power Afghanistan got a new interm govt . three year’s later it got a new constitution. And Hamid karzai was elected to president .while that was going on, the taliban had regrouped they wanted foreigners out and wanted back in. What followed were — years of devastating conflict.
YEARS OF DEVASTATING CONFLICT
According to international media report in 2019 , More than 40 Thousand Afghanistan civilians killed . At least 6o thousand afghan military and police and more than 35 thousand international soldiers dead . As per media reports , The US alone has spent almost a trillion dollars on the war and reconstruction projects. And after all that Afghanistan still deeply unstable. Today Taliban has as many as 85 thousand troops and training camps across the country. According to media reports , till 2019 they controlled one – fifth of afghan districts .
Soon after peace talks in Doha between Afghan Taliban leaders and US . Directly after the US, British and other Western troops began quitting Afghanistan , the Taliban fighters across Afghanistan made their play for power. Reports that brought an atmosphere of blind panic in one district after other until Kabul- the Capital itself succumbed and whole administration, and soldiers were battling their way to the airport to get out.
WHAT SORT OF COUNTRY WILL TALIBAN LED AFGHANISTAN BE THIS TIME ?
Perhaps the Taliban will stick to the terms of their soothing statement promising not to take revenge or kill anyone, and appealing to the security agencies that include police, the military and the civil service to stay in place. They may very well think it’ll be safer not to provoke the West to intervene again. But the question is what sort of country will Taliban-controlled Afghanistan be this time?
The only guide we have is the five-year period from 1996. John Simpson, world affairs editor at BBC who spent a good deal of time in Afghanistan during Taliban power in his report published by BBC writes , I spent a good deal of time in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s period of power, and found it deeply scary. Sharia law in its fiercest forms was in operation everywhere, with public executions, stoning’s and whippings commonplace.
Gangs of vigilantes hung out on street corners, attacking men who showed their ankles or wore any form of Western clothing.
Women only ventured out if they had written permission from men, and of course had to wear the all-encompassing burka.
The Taliban minister of health, Mullah Balouch, complained to me that the International Red Cross refused his request to provide surgeons to cut off the hands and feet of convicted thieves, so he had to do the job personally; though he seemed to quite enjoy it.
Working for television was a nightmare, because taking the image of any living creature was expressly forbidden on religious grounds. Bookshops were regularly ransacked for illustrations, and any guilty bookseller was whipped. Most people fled the city if they could, and most shops were shut .
(article on BBC news titled : Will the Taliban take Afghanistan back to the past? )
TALIBAN ON POSSIBLE NEW REGIME 2021
Ahead of the imminent fall of the Afghanistan government making way for an interim set up, the Taliban group, which has which had set an example of a very bad regime between 1996 and 2001, recently said that they respect women’s rights. Taliban issued many statements saying that Women will be allowed to leave homes alone and they will have access to education and work, but they will have to wear the hijab and follow shariah . A Taliban spokesperson told international news Reuters that Media will be allowed to criticize anyone, but they should not indulge in character assassination…
The main question that will persist till world recognises Taliban and their governing skill is, Will the Taliban follow their instincts and take Afghanistan back to the past as radically as they did before liberation day 20 years ago – or have they learned a lesson?
Sajid Yousuf – CEO The Real Kashmir news and Dar Javed working on peace initiative’s in Kashmir and writes on Polity, Governance, Art and craft.