Afghanistan’s prolonged Fragile government collapsed on August 15, 2021, after 20 years of conflict, and the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul. Soon after the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, fled, Taliban fighters stormed the presidential palace and declared the war is over. After a few days, the ousted president took to Facebook to justify his decision to abandon his countrymen, explaining that he did so to avoid bloodshed in the country. He further said that the Taliban have won with the judgment of their swords and guns and are now responsible for their countrymen’s honor, property, and self-preservation. Following the Taliban takeover and amid the chaos in the capital city, thousands rushed to Kabul Airport in an attempt to flee.
There were horrific scenes at the airport, with videos going viral of people collapsing to death after the plane took off. According to witnesses, at least five people died at the airport for unknown reasons. Following the deaths of so many people, a Taliban official urged people to return home if they do not have legal travel rights. Many countries have evacuated their embassy personnel, excluding Russia and China. Amid a massive evacuation of Americans, the US deployed armed F-18 fighter jets over Kabul to avoid casualties. Protesters took to the streets and rallied to protest against the ongoing Taliban tyranny. At an Independence Day rally in Afghanistan, Taliban militants opened fire on people waving the national flag, killing several people. As the Taliban prepares to overrun the country, more people began to demonstrate.
A Taliban spokesperson told a media source that the Taliban intends to maintain law and order. There is no need to be concerned because they want peace in Afghanistan. They will not harm or persecute citizens or former political leaders and diplomats. They have not decided who will be in charge of which portfolio. He stated that women would be permitted to work within sharia laws and rules.
Afghanistan (which means “Land of Afghans or Pashtuns”) has been dubbed the “Graveyard of Empires” due to its long history of foreign intervention.
To comprehend Afghanistan’s history in the context of the current Afghanistan-Taliban Crisis, we need to go back to the 1800s. There was the Russian Empire in the north, and in the south, there was the British Indian Empire. Afghanistan served as a buffer zone in between. The rivalry between the British and Russian empires had a significant impact on Afghanistan in the 19th century. Two Anglo-Afghan wars were fought as a result of British concern over growing Russian influence. During the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839), a king named Emir Dost Mohammad Khan of the Barakzai Dynasty brutally destroyed the British Army.
During the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1878, the British occupied some territory, and the New Emir, Abdul Rahman, also known as the “Iron Emir,” sat on the Afghan throne. During his reign, the British and Russians agreed to establish the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, later recognized as Durand Line. Kabul’s foreign affairs came under British power.
Afghans celebrated August 19 as Independence Day after the British relinquished control of foreign affairs. King Amanullah Khan launched the Constitutional Monarchy and declared himself king in 1926. He developed many foreign relations and ushered in a new era of revolution for women. He campaigned against polygamy, abolished strict female dress codes, and established the right to divorce. Mohammed Zahir Shah ascended to the throne in 1933 and reigned for the next 40 years. He prompted great modernization and established many diplomatic ties.
Later, two ideologies were born; PDPA (The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) and Islamic Ideology. In 1967, the PDPA split into two significant ideologies: KHALQ and PARCHAM. In 1973, Daoud Khan carried out a non-violent coup in the absence of Zahir Shah. He abolished the monarchy and declared himself as the first president of the Republic of Afghanistan. In 1978, the PDPA, led by Mohammed Taraki, overthrew the government of Daoud Khan and named the country the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The PDPA was nearly the same ideological line as the Communist Party in China. The PDPA ended the powers of Islamic extremists and replaced religious laws with secular ones. The PDPA sought assistance from the Soviet Union to improve its economic infrastructure. At the same time, the PDPA murdered thousands of religious people.
In 1979, Islamic extremists and Mujahideen declared a civil war against the communists (PDPA). In Dec 1979, the Soviet Union intervened and sent forces before Islamic extremists could take over Afghanistan and declared war on the mujahideen.
After the Intervention of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the United States started to fund and supply arms to the opposing ideology, the Mujahideen. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched the Cyclone operation. They began funding Mujahideen with a whopping $700,000 under this. Initially, the Mujahideen were guerrilla fighters with no professional fighting training and no modern weapons. The US supplied Stinger Antiaircraft missiles which allowed the mujahideen to defend against Soviet helicopter landings. The CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, and the UK’s secret agency MI6 also supported the Mujahideen.
In 1988, Afghanistan’s president, Mohammad Najibullah, signed the Geneva Accords with Pakistan, with the USA and the Soviet Union serving as the Guarantors. In 1989, after nine years, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan with its troops. Even after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, the US continued to supply weapons to the Mujahideen. New parliamentary elections took place; the Mujahideen boycotted the election. The civil war continued.
In 1992, the Mujahideen conquered the civil war after three years of engagement with communists. The Mujahideen were an Islamist group comprised of people of different ethnicities. Internal disputes arose in the group because of the greed for power. In the same year, Burhanuddin Rabbani became the new leader of the Islamic State of Afghanistan.
In 1994, the Taliban Movement led by Mullah Omar started in Kandahar. Who is the Taliban? From where did they originate? The Taliban (in the Pashto language, the Taliban (a group of students) believed in Pashtun ideology, Islamic fundamentalism, and Ultra Conservative politics. They were primarily students (Afghan Refugees) trained in Madrasahs in the Pashtun area of Afghanistan. In 1996, the Taliban removed Burhanuddin from power and captured Kabul with military support from Pakistan and financial support from Saudi Arabia. For a time, the Taliban attempted to maintain peace.
With time, they began to take a more conservative stance, banning (Cinema, Television, Music, Football, Clean Shave, Foreigners, United Nations offices, etc.), prohibiting girls over the age of ten from attending school mandating women to wear burqas. The Taliban killed thousands of non-Pashtun Muslims and even destroyed the Buddha statues, Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. The Taliban were responsible for sheltering Islamic militants from all over the world. The Taliban also provided safe passage for Al-QAEDA leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attack on the United States.
After the Refusal to Deport Osama Bin Laden, it sent its military forces to Afghanistan and conducted airstrikes in many parts of Afghanistan (reportedly base camps of the Taliban). With the support of the Mujahideen’s Northern Alliance, the United States succeeded in overthrowing the Taliban from power in 2001. Though this alliance could not eliminate the Taliban, they continued to carry out shootouts and bombings in neighboring countries for many years. In 2011, US forces killed Osama bin Laden.
During the 20-year deployment in Afghanistan, the United States spent approximately $2 trillion on Afghan wars.
In Feb 2020, US President Donald Trump signed a deal to bring peace with the Taliban. If they cut off relations with terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, the USA will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.
In July 2021, Joe Biden, the President of the USA, decided to withdraw forces from Afghanistan. In a press conference, he said Afghanistan has more than 300,000 soldiers in the army against 85,000 Taliban fighters. The objective of former US leaders has been to establish peace, support a democratic government and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a rendezvous for Global Terrorism. But this historic decision by Joe Biden left Afghanistan in a cloud of disarray.
This Illustration is for representational purposes only | Credits- Andy Davey
In the year 2020, 47.3 percent of Afghanistan’s population lived below the poverty line. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita annual income of roughly $2100. Foreign aid accounts for 75% of the government budget and 43% of the country’s GDP. The biggest challenge lies ahead of the Taliban. How would they manage the economy of Afghanistan? Do these renegades have experts who can run the finance ministry and the central bank? The Taliban’s primary sources of funds are the drug trade, illegal mining, foreign donations, and taxes. In the current situation, foreign investors are not interested in investing in Taliban-led Afghanistan.
The USA has already seized worth 9.5 billion dollars of Afghan central bank assets and suspended cash flow in the country with immediate effect. The International Monetary Fund has ceased Afghanistan’s special drawing rights to access. How would they pay the salaries of government officers without dollars? Dollars are needed to pay for imports as the country suffers from a trade deficit. The currency would start depreciating, resulting in inflation; food prices would rise, and poverty would reach the horizon.
As the USA reduces its military forces, a source suggests that it must pledge support for regional investment in Afghanistan.
As the United States decides to withdraw from Afghanistan, other countries will be eager to fill the political voids to increase their regional influence. Each country has its reasons for engaging in this region. After the Taliban takeover, there is a high probability of a rise in terror activities, human trafficking, drug cartels, and refugee arrivals across the border. India is a significant investor in the peace establishment and has already invested around three billion USD in Afghanistan’s aid and reconstruction process. It was beneficial for India as the USA remains in Afghanistan. As the Taliban captured Kabul, Indian diplomatic influence will worsen. Experts claim the Taliban takeover could be a victory for Pakistan as they wanted a government they could easily influence.
The power now resides in the hands of Islamic Militants. Inimical groups to India like Jaish-e-Mohamed and Lashkar-e-Toiba will exploit this situation to bolster the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. The Taliban’s alleged links with Al-Qaeda put high chances of terror attacks in India. The Pakistan army has always been a threat to Indian borders. It will enable more proxy operations in the Kashmir Area. After the US withdrawal, the deteriorating relationship between the USA and Iran will harm India-Afghanistan as Chabahar Port is the lifeline of India’s gateway to Central Asia and Afghanistan’s heart of rejuvenation of trade potential. India has never been a strong candidate in Afghanistan like the USA, Russia, or Pakistan, but it always has structured peace and security. The biggest question India will have to face is whether they will acknowledge the Taliban government or not. It is not going to be easy considering India’s past relations with the Taliban.
While the rest of the world is striving to become superpowers, Afghanistan is still struggling to coexist after many years of independence. Whether it has been the Taliban, Mujahideen, Islamic extremists, communists, former leaders, the United States, or the Soviet Union, the Afghan people have always suffered and faced bloodshed occasionally. Afghans have endured a heinous history. Generations have waited for peace, but all that has existed is chaos, anarchy, dictatorships, and foreign intervention. All the superpowers have treated Afghanistan as an opportunity to acquire a geopolitical and strategic advantage.
Now, as Afghanistan is collapsing, the United States has decided to withdraw its forces as well (completely failing the objective for which they deployed their troops nearly 20 years ago and spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan). The Taliban are now more powerful than ever, controlling almost all of Afghanistan. People in the country are being tortured, killed, and kidnapped; the country as a whole is in disarray. The Taliban are about to form a new government at the time this article is published. Days after vowing to protect women’s rights, Taliban officials issued the first ‘Fatwa,’ outlawing co-education in government and private universities in Herat province, claiming that “education is the root of all evils.” What are the chances that the Taliban will not repeat their atrocities?
The Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse, with billions of dollars held abroad are being seized, and international investors cannot rely on the Taliban, given the Taliban’s history. There has been a debate that China and Russia will fill the financial void left by the departure of the United States, but this is highly unlikely. Foreign donors, narcotics taxes, and illegal mining are its primary sources of Taliban revenue. Is it enough to run a country with a population of 31.4 million people? According to some experts, “India should be ready to open its doors to talk with the Taliban, but clearly, it’s a diplomatic quandary for India.” It is a watershed moment for Afghans. Several people have already died, and many more have lost their identities as they try to flee. The coming days will be critical, as decisions will have global geopolitical ramifications.