Taliban, along with allied militant groups, launched a series of offensives against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan earlier this year. The offensive started with the control of countryside districts and began to advance towards provincial capitals at the beginning of August. On 15 August, the Taliban finally manage to take control of Kabul, the country’s capital city, while the incumbent President, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country with reportedly four cars and a helicopter full of cash. With the fall of Kabul, the Taliban-run Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is now the de facto government. After a long-dominant presence of American troops, the Taliban finally delivered the biggest win of taking control of the authority of all Afghanistan.
This catastrophic situation occurred due to the withdrawal of the United States Army as well as allied troops from Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of Kabul, Biden stated in his 8th July remarks on the drawdown of U.S. Forces that Taliban takeover is not inevitable due to the fact that the Afghan army has numbers, well-equipped, and an air force to be mobilized against 75.000 Taliban, significantly smaller in number than the Afghan troops. However, the Taliban “faced little to no resistance” as they conquered the capital city by entering through multiple directions on the 15th of August. The day after, the Taliban announced that war is over in Afghanistan and the group has achieved its objective.
During the same period, U.S. personnel had been relocated to the airport, where the American troops are still the ones in control. Thousands of Afghan nationals were also sprawling into the airport as they desperately look for a flight to take them out of the fallen country. The speed of the Taliban offensive has surprised many governments and raised questions on why the Afghan forces quickly fell apart despite years of training and billions of dollars spent by the U.S.
One of the answers to the question is that the Afghan military is considered by many as a corrupt body with a low willingness to fight. There are ghost battalions within the Afghan forces, whereas their officers earn salaries of ghost soldiers, soldiers who are listed on paper yet do not exist in real life. A former NATO supreme allied commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, argues that a lot of Afghan soldiers fight for the money instead of the cause, it is also an old Afghan trick to side with the winners and avoid being on the losing side, hence the quick disintegration of the military.
Numbers of things are feared to occur as the Taliban, known as unpredictable and has a long history of brutality, took over the country. Thousands of people are trying to flee the country, including more than 300.000 Afghan nationals who worked for the U.S. government. Such retaliation is something that is expected to occur despite the Taliban’s statement that there would be “no revenge”.
Despite the Taliban has stated in the February 2020 agreement that they would not allow individuals or groups such as Al-Qaeda to use Afghanistan soil to threaten the U.S., Western intelligence still fears the risk of Al-Qaeda exploiting the whole situation as a momentum to regroup and rebuild the area as the hotbed of Islamist extremists. The spillover could go anywhere not only to the West but also to India and the whole neighborhood.
The Taliban has committed a number of war crimes both before and after the U.S. invaded the country. The group is widely known for the killings of civilians allegedly supporting the Afghan government as well as journalists. Since the 2021 Taliban offensive began, the group is reportedly responsible for the killings of more than 690 civilians as well as lootings and destruction of private homes and other infrastructures. Surrendering Afghan soldiers and civil servants are also included in the list of victims in this year’s offensive.
The lives of the Hazara people are also at risk to be subjected to attacks by the Taliban. The ethnic group has faced years of discrimination and prosecution, including in modern Afghanistan. In the recent conflict, UNAMA reported that there has been a “resurgence of deliberate sectarian-motivated attacks against the Shi’a Muslim religious minority, most of whom also belong to the Hazara ethnic minority,” whereas 500 Shia Muslims/Hazaras are killed or injured, done by the Taliban as well as other groups.
The Taliban has also dispersed protests with force. There have been several protests since the 17th of August that took place in Kabul, Jalalabad, Khost, and Asadabad in which the Taliban opened fire to disperse almost all of them that resulted in killings and dozens of injured protesters.
A hurried exodus of people has occurred since the Taliban takeover that includes Afghan nationals, Western staff, and NGO workers. It is reported that 12.000 people, including foreign nationals, have been safely evacuated via the Kabul airport.
Biden promised on August 19th to evacuate Americans who are still trapped in Afghanistan along with the vulnerable Afghans who helpfully assisted in the 20 years’ war effort. The United States has a visa program specifically for those who had helped the U.S. government as well as their relatives. The UK stated that the country had evacuated 1.200 people on Wednesday and announced a settlement scheme for 20.000 Afghan refugees specifically the women, children, and religious minorities. Germany’s defense minister said that 1.700 people had been taken to safety while it is said that Merkel has told her party that 10.000 at-risk Afghan people are needed to be taken into the country, yet emphasizes the importance of having the neighboring countries offer sanctuary to most of the refugees. Other Western countries are also involved in the evacuation programs while some of them being reluctant to accept more refugees except the ones collaborating with them back in the days.
A new mass movement of people is inevitable, despite it might be harder for the Afghans to get out of their country due to the Taliban closing the borders and Pakistan’s recent border fortification. Therefore, it is crucial for the neighboring countries to offer sanctuary to these people. Tajikistan, one of the neighboring countries, said last month that the Central Asian country was ready to welcome 100.000 people from Afghanistan.
P.C : Foreign Policy