Taliban 2.0: The Trajectory of Events After One Year in Power
The reemergence of the Taliban as the de facto rulers of Afghanistan on August 15, 21 took the entire world by surprise. A year later, the repressive group is spreading rhetoric of exclusion, fear and most importantly turning Afghanistan yet again into a safe sanctuary for foreign-born terrorists. In hindsight, the group is not willing to show any sign of indulging in civil political engagements with the resident political opposition; contrary, increasingly implements policies of regression and repulsive nature.
The singlehanded military takeover by the Taliban was a clear violation of the Doha agreement that vividly insisted in a power sharing setup with the former Afghan government in return for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. Regretfully, the rapidly changing status quo pertaining to the fall of capital in August seriously harmed the validity of this agreement, and halted its implementation. A year on, Taliban are yet to address the main elephant in the room, that is of girls schooling, cutting ties with infamous terrorist organizations; as well as abiding by globally adhered human rights practices
The latter episode of Taliban autocracy in Afghanistan was marred with protection for foreign terrorists, depriving women of basic human rights and an absolute isolation from the rest of the world. Transnational Jihadists and religious extremists were granted an open pass to practice radical ideology and threaten the world security under the de facto regime. As we speak the modus operandi of the Taliban’s structural ideology has not changed its essence, and it is still fundamentally based on a distorted political agenda with no endorsement from the Muslim world or sacred Islamic scriptures. The Taliban 2.0 seems ignorantly clueless in handling an Afghanistan with a pluralistic society and diverse political fronts. Today’s Afghanistan is astoundingly different than the Afghanistan in 1990s, when Taliban the group ruled for about five years; the transformation in spite of crucial opportunities missed and valuable resources wasted is rather immense and tangible to write off.
Pakistan is the only country that has achieved a long sought strategic victory in Afghanistan. Right from the very beginning a permanent stability in Afghanistan and a non-friendly regime in Kabul was the gravest concern to the policy makers in Pakistan; therefore, the reincarnation of the Taliban movement in 2003 and the facilitation of the breeding ground for its next generation fighters in Pakistani Madrasas were eagerly put in Taliban’s disposal. Taliban in return delivered hastily on promises, that of dismantling the Afghan army, diminishing Indian presence and most importantly rolling back the Afghan socio/economic progress for decades to come to Pakistani handlers.
With great distaste, Pakistan is intentionally pushing Afghanistan towards a devastating civil war and a proxy buffer for foreign-born terrorists to congregate and destabilize the region, using Taliban as a conduit for that matter. On the national level Taliban lack the know how in governance and the required expertise for meaningful international engagements. Besides, the apparent link ups with neighboring intelligence agencies are driving the group to adopt policies in total odd to the public’s aspirations, and wittingly creating obstacles for further isolations and diminishing chances of international recognition at least with the current status quo in effect.
The United States is not impressed by the turn of events in Afghanistan. The intelligence community and the White House are alarmingly concerned about credible futuristic threats emanating from Afghanistan if not in the magnitude of 9/11. The FBI director and senior intelligence officials recently shared their respective concerns to the senate intelligence committee, calling for increased reconnaissance missions, and drone surveillance, to keep a close watch on Taliban activities.
Based on the Doha agreement in 2020, Taliban were not supposed to harbor international fugitives and maintain ties with Al Qaeda and other radical extremists. Nevertheless, the killing of Ayman Al Zawahiri, the U.S. top wanted terrorist, under the naked eye of the regime in Kabul is growing suspicions on that commitment and proves the proximity of sympathetic relations between the Taliban, Al Qaeda and many other terrorist organizations including the TTP. Taliban is unwittingly dragged into a catastrophic game of throne between the regional powers and international rivals. China and Pakistan for instance, aiming to use Taliban against archrival India to boost Islamic Jihad morality in India’s Jammu and Kashmir while gaining exclusivity on exploiting the vast cache of underground natural resources of Afghanistan, estimated at USD 3 trillion dollars.
Meanwhile, the regime’s exclusivity policy to appoint its fighters to key government positions sans having the merit required for that particular undertaking, and simultaneously indulging in explicit discrimination towards the former government employees, is causing an exodus of brain drain and dysfunctional public services. Unfortunately, the initial rhetoric of inclusivity under the Islamic Emirate is rapidly fading away, and this in turn will capitalize into formidable public displeasure and emerging armed resistance against the regime across the country in the foreseeable future.
Taliban should realize that governing through barrels of gun and policy of intimidation has an expiry; rethink and immediately seize its irrational behavior with the Afghan public for the sake of its own regime survival. They should come up with tangible long term economic policy, feasible attitude towards a political coherency to stay relevant and maintain the status quo, regretfully Taliban so far are preoccupied with this false fallacy of wishful thinking and not taking any concrete step to put in use the indigenous expertise in achieving these goals, they rather alienate and suppress this potential capital with repressive decrees and restrictive policies.
The regime should let go its suppression of women’s rights undertakings that it is negating its scarce resources to reach out to an array of critical problems with greater importance and heavier weights to gain acceptance to the world community. The initiation of meaningful dialogue with opponents, the adherence of an open-minded policy towards inclusivity, finally yet importantly the restoration of a constitution and governing laws, in compliance with national and international standards are a few examples to mention. Taliban are in total denial of accepting the fact that unless the lifeline from the United Nations did not exist, reaching out to an overwhelming number of vulnerable citizens to paying the salaries of government employees, particularly the education sector would be a catastrophe and impossible, There is no contingency plan if the assistance seizes to continue and the prevailing status quo forces the already limited number of UN NGOs active in the country to evacuate, and leave the country permanently.
It is vaguely unknown what the Taliban are really up to with this rhetoric of stubbornness and sticking to the old strategy of isolation that failed the litmus test in the 1990s, during their first rodeo in power, resulting in the collapse of their rule in 2001. The Taliban 2.0 are visibly splintered into intergroup fractions each catering different audiences within and outside Afghanistan. For instance, the Haqqanis are following regular guidelines from handlers in Pakistan military and the ISI, while the Kandahari Taliban who are considered the actual flag bearer of the last 20 years of armed insurgency against the Americans are wary of this growing influence of Pakistani establishment in Afghan affairs. As the remaining venues of opportunity gradually drying out on Taliban, it is high time to adopt a conclusive policy of engagement, cooperation and most importantly acceptance of the ground realties that of pluralistic society and fulfilling the prerequisites to reintegrate into the world community.
Naser Koshan is a former Fulbright Graduate Scholar.