Afghanistan, dry landlocked land in Western Asia, sadly today is known in the world mostly as an opium nation and haven for different designated terrorist organizations and extremist groups like Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Haqqani Network, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and many more. But unfortunately, like many other states with turmoil, lost the chance to show the world its charm, beauty, culture, and art in the name of superpowers fighting for their might using proxy wars.
Afghanistan is one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world but dare even one to go and explore the country without any fear. Today not even the native Afghans feel safe to travel to their own country as the whole of Afghanistan is divided on different ideologies and the extremists spare no chance to show that to anyone opposed.
What’s happening in Afghanistan?
Presently the country is struggling even to preserve its identity. The common people are so devastated by the conflict that they have even now adopted it as their faith. Afghanistan is burning today in the flames of the war between the civilian government and Taliban, even many other extremist groups are trying to emerge and cut their share of power. There is a continuous tussle for the rule in the country, both the civilian government and Taliban are fighting like ancient monarchs and conquering districts controlled by the opposite. And the normal people are just grinding between the tussles. There is no protection of the rights of civilians, both parties are just imposing their rule over them, there is no certainty about the future of the children living in one of the most dangerous battlegrounds.
The Taliban is fighting to obtain power and rule the whole of Afghanistan with their strict Islamic laws known as Sharia’s, which is based on their interpretation of the Koran. These Islamic laws are a hard blow to basic human rights and mainly women’s rights. Taliban is strictly imposing their way of life on the common, who are even tortured and executed for not following the same. The Taliban wants to control all of Afghanistan and uproot the Islamic Republic civilian government. Taliban wants to govern the land on ancient Islamic laws and doesn’t believe in the slightest idea of liberalization. As of June 2021, the country is in a constant state of war between the Ashraf Ghani-led government and the Taliban.
Why is it happening?
The US declaration of removal of its military from Afghanistan has proved as the fuel to the crises in Afghanistan. Former US president Donald Trump in a political move declared the withdrawal of the military from the Afghan land by May 1st, 2021, and later the decision was confirmed by new president Joe Biden, who later extended the date to September 11th,2021. The US forces were the backbone of the civilian government in Afghanistan. The US forces, UN forces, The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – a NATO-led military mission and other military forces are the reason Ashraf Ghani is still the president and is in power. Otherwise, it would be no surprise that the Taliban was ruling the country or the state would be burning in the flames of the civil war.
Who is the Taliban?
Taliban, meaning ‘student’ in the Pashto language, is a religious extremist group that emerged in the 1990s. They are considered to be the refugee Afghan students of Madrasahs in Northern Pakistan learning a hard-line form of Sunni Islam. They emerged after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, started the movement by 1994, and captured the capital Kabul in 1996; by 1998 they controlled almost 90% of the country. Mullah Omar is considered the founder of the Group.
Initially, local Afghans welcomed the Taliban expecting a stable rule in the country. But the excitement didn’t last long as the Taliban believed only in their interpretation of Islamic laws which they imposed on all the Afghans. The Taliban’s laws are barbaric in the context of modern liberal ideas, which include that women and girls have no right to education and they can’t even go outside without any close male relatives. Women were also not allowed to do makeup and talk to unknown men and the same applies to the young girls. The males also had to follow the Islamic laws which made them compulsory to have a beard and refrain from wearing any western clothes. Both the male and female don’t have control over their appearance. The non-muslims have to wear any sort of yellow clothing every time to distinguish them. In short, traditional Afghan clothing was compulsory.
If any of the persons were found breaking the Taliban law, they were severely punished. The punishments were inhumane and were so far from any human right. In the name of punishment, people were beaten and even executed in the middle of the street. The punishment for stealing was to cut off the limbs of the guilty and death for adulteration. But things changed later with the 9/11 attack on the US and the later US retaliation on the Afghan soil.
Is the civilian government really that weak?
Currently, the Ashraf Ghani government is in power but they are struggling to govern the state properly and the Taliban is the greatest huddle. The continuous attacks of the Taliban on the civilians, the so often bomb blast have shaken the trust of people in the Afghan Armed Forces and government for their safety. Many a time the locals especially the remote one also complain of torture and harassment by Afghan forces in name of search and security. It is being speculated throughout the world that it’s a matter of time Taliban again seizing the power after the withdrawal of US forces. The need for the government is to maintain air superiority even after the US withdrawal, as the government has an edge over the Taliban in airpower as the Taliban has no air support or any new age effective air defence. The next most important thing is to assure the people of peace, development, and security. Without their support, it’s almost impossible to maintain the government. The Afghan government receives a handsome amount from the world for the development, the government uses most of it in the urban areas only neglecting the rural which then results in rural inclining towards the Taliban and their promises. So the Rural areas should be the concern for the government if they really want to have a hold in the Afghan governance.
A glance in Afghan history.
With the establishment of the Durrani Empire by Ahmad Shah Durrani, the modern state of Afghanistan came into existence. Ahmad Shah Durrani is often called the “Founding Father Afghanistan.” And after that the timeline for the key events in the Afghanistan are:
1838-42 – British forces invade, install King Shah Shujah. He was assassinated in 1842. British and Indian troops are massacred during retreat from Kabul.
1878-80 – Second Anglo-Afghan War. A treaty gives Britain control of Afghan foreign affairs.
1919 – Emir Amanullah Khan declares independence from British influence.
1926-29 – Amanullah tries to introduce social reforms, which however stir civil unrest. He flees.
1933 – Zahir Shah becomes king and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for next four decades.
1953 – General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister. Turns to Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. Introduces social reforms, such as abolition of purdah (practice of secluding women from public view).
1963 – Mohammed Daud forced to resign as prime minister.
1964 – Constitutional monarchy introduced – but leads to political polarisation and power struggles.
1973 – Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic. Tries to play off USSR against Western powers.
1978 – General Daud is overthrown and killed in a pro-Soviet coup. The People’s Democratic Party comes to power but is paralysed by violent infighting and faces opposition by US-backed mujahideen groups.
1979 December – Soviet Army invades and props up communist government.
1980 – Babrak Karmal installed as ruler, backed by Soviet troops. But opposition intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces. US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms to the mujahideen.
1986 – US begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Babrak Karmal replaced by Najibullah as head of Soviet-backed regime.
1988 – Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign peace accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.
1989 – Last Soviet troops leave, but civil war continues as mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah.
1992 – Najibullah’s government toppled, but a devastating civil war follows.
1996 – Taliban seize control of Kabul and introduce hard-line version of Islam, banning women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments, which include stoning to death and amputations.
1997 – Taliban recognised as legitimate rulers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They now control about two-thirds of the country.
2001 September – Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the main opposition to the Taliban – the Northern Alliance – is assassinated.
2001 September 11th (9/11) – Al Qaeda attack on US
2001 October – US-led bombing of Afghanistan begins following the September 11 attacks on the United States. Anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul shortly afterwards.
2001 December – Afghan groups agree deal in Bonn, Germany for interim government. Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of an interim power-sharing government.
2002 January – Deployment of the first contingent of foreign peacekeepers – the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – marking the start of a protracted fight against the Taliban.
2002 June – Loya Jirga, or grand council, elects Hamid Karzai as interim head of state. Karzai picked members of his administration to serve until 2004.
2003 August – Nato takes control of security in Kabul, its first-ever operational commitment outside Europe.
2004 January – Loya Jirga adopts a new constitution which provides for a strong presidency.
2004 October-November – Presidential elections. Hamid Karzai is declared winner.
2005 September – Afghans vote in first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.
What is the present scenario?
A peace deal was signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29th, 2020 in Doha which called for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in return Taliban has assured that it will not allow any of its members and the other groups to use it’s soil to threaten the security of US and its allies. The interesting fact is that the Afghan government was not a part of this deal. The Taliban became offensive after the US deal and attacked the Afghan security forces and civilian areas.
The Intra-Afghan talks began on September 12th, 2020; when the Taliban and Afghan government met for talks at Doha, Qatar. Afghan government included women rights activists in the talks too. The US has decided to withdraw all it’s troops by September 11th, 2021 from Afghanistan.
Why is Afghanistan important?
It is no surprise that Afghanistan is called the ‘graveyard of the empires’, In the recent times we can see that even the two superpowers- The USA and USSR haven’t been successful in controlling and commanding the Afghan territory , no matter what the arms you bring or the money you spend, nothing can overcome the challenge of the Afghan land. The reason is due to the remote settlements and the harsh terrain. The Taliban and the warlords in Afghanistan find their safe haven in the remote villages and the Afghans in remote areas are far from any sort of development, they are still way behind the modern time and do find the western or modern ideologies alien. They still believe in their old traditions and learning and put their faith in the Taliban’s Sharia laws.
After a long continuous battle and millions of lives sacrificed, the world has managed to bring equality and liberty in the lives of people.Women have fought for centuries to get their basic rights in society. And now when the world is progressing and society is bridging the gender gap, putting their greater faith in humanity rather than caste, creed and religion; we are probably going to witness a country go back centuries and all the humanitarian progress is going to be destroyed in the land. Unless the Taliban gives some leverage it is not possible for the common people to live with equality and harmony, especially the women, LGBTQ+ and religious minorities are going to suffer a lot. The whole world is going to witness the Afghans live in terror and disgrace.
The Taliban coming in power will also be an encouragement for other extremist groups throughout the world,This could bring instability in the developing and underdeveloped countries. When even other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia are slowly giving women their basic rights another Isalmic one is going to take the few Afghan women enjoys under the Islamic Republic Afghanistan. Women may be debarred from even the basic rights of education and healthcare under Taliban’s Sharia laws. The world discussed the mental health problems of people during the quarantine and lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic but the question is who will discuss the mental health of the Afghan women living in quarantine throughout their life under Taliban regime?
No matter the reason, the US withdrawal is no solution for long lasting peace in Afghanistan. The coming time is definitely going to be challenging for Afghanistan and the toll will be paid by the innocent lives. Unless the Afghan government and the Taliban somehow resolve the issues, the country is going to be unstable. The two parties can come to any peace deal for now but it is very unlikely that the peace will last long enough. There could be three possible outcomes then: first the Islamic Republic government using force and air superiority overpower Taliban militia and capture the area, second the Taliban using their guerilla warfare topple the government and regain control and the third civil war break out the country and the whole world and intergovernmental organizations like UN witness one more failure in burning Afghanistan.
No matter the outcome, one thing is certain: the world failed to restore peace and harmony in a country even after many years. The ideological and proxy wars between two nations resulted in pushing a country into a state of misery and continuous war. The credibility of the US is also in question as this is the second country after Vietnam where they failed. Whatever the situation or outcome be in Afghanistan in coming years, one thing is certain that Afghanistan is going to need the support of the international community. The neighboring countries like Pakistan, Russia, China and Russia have to provide assistance. And the world has to remember the quotation of Martin Luther King Jr. – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
About the Author
Aman Bora, Post Graduate (Silver Medalist) in Political Science from Kumaun University, Nainital. His primary interest areas are National Security, International relations, Defence Research and Development, and Military Affairs.
The author has made the above analysis after going through sources like; BBC, Vox, CNBC, and etc.