• Kavyaa Kannan

Afghanistan: The Fall of the Republic

In the early hours of Sunday, the radical Islamist group Taliban seized control of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan and declared the end of their decades-long war by taking over complete control from the existing government and declaring the state of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" under their rule.

What is happening in Afghanistan?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on August 15, soon after the Taliban entered the capital city and announced their intent to control the palace, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed. Apart from the president, several other top Afghan leaders have reportedly fled to neighbouring regions as well, marking the complete fall of the republic government.

The Taliban took hold of all borders and now control the state. They have declared that they will act in the interests of the citizens and ensure their safety. However, based on their objectives and goals for the nation, the freedom and fundamental rights of the people are hugely threatened.

US-led forces and several other nations are trying to evacuate their citizens as well in this uncertain situation. Hundreds of citizens have been trying to flee the nation since Sunday and the refugee crisis is at its peak. The Kabul international airport has been closed to commercial flights, cutting off the desperate resorts of Afghan citizens to flee Taliban rule.

What led to the fall of the government?

The Taliban is a militant organisation established in 1994, with the objective of enforcing their own version of the Islamic law, Sharia in Afghanistan and the departure of Western forces from the country. Motivated by the struggles of the Afghan people, they believed that if the law adhered to the moral code of Islam, the way they interpreted it, the people would lead a better life.

In 1996, the Taliban gained power and began their 5 year long regime in Afghanistan. Consisting of a small circle of former rebels who had played vital roles in removing Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 80s, the Taliban stuck to their principles and implemented the Sharia law. However, they were unable to obtain international legitimacy and soon after the Taliban's human rights violations had come to light, they were quickly ousted from power and a new, US backed government came to power. However, in the years between 2001 and 2021, the group has reconfigured itself into a much more powerful force, more open to external influence, than it had been in its first regime, making their return to power seem inevitable.

In May 2021, US led military troops began withdrawing their forces from following the U.S government's policy which promised to remove all forces from Afghanistan by September.

The U.S. intelligence, which had earlier concluded that Kabul could fall within six months, revised its assessment that the Taliban could capture the capital within 90 days, and true to that judgement, the Taliban managed to completely oust the existing government within the predicted period.

Former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has blamed Ashraf Ghani's government for the fall of Kabul, adding that the Afghan government hesitated to end the fighting.

The aftermath

The Taliban have been internationally condemned for their harsh enforcement of their interpretation of the Sharia law. Their objectives for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan include withholding women from receiving education, bans of painting, music and photography, restricting women from working in jobs outside of healthcare and required that a male relative always accompanied a woman while outside her residence. Citizens who break the law would be subject to public execution or corporal punishment such as whipping.

During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they caused massacres, denied food supplies to starving civilians and destroyed thousands of homes.

As of August 16, at least 5 civilians have been killed in Kabul airport as people forcibly tried to enter planes. The airport has been the main source of conflict, and several sources have reported that the rest of the city is relatively peaceful. U.S troops opened fire in the air to prevent civilians from running onto the tarmac.

The Taliban have reportedly set up checkpoints at every street with their special forces and continue to patrol regions for signs of potential conflict.

What are world governments doing to help?

Foreign embassies have been evacuating their citizens from Afghanistan. New Zealand, U.S.A, Australia and several other nations relocated their embassies to the airport and are using military support to airlift their citizens.

US President Joe Biden has been under fire for his handling of the situation and the wrongly timed pulling out of American troops from the region. White House advisors have stated that they are discussing how the president must address the situation. British PM Boris Johnson remarked that it was essential to not recognise the Taliban as a legitimate government to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into a breeding ground of terror. However Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stated soon after, that the Taliban are in full control and that Britain would not be sending troops back to fight them.

China stated that they are willing to develop friendly relations with the Afghan government.

Pakistan's foreign minister is meeting with a delegation of Afghan leaders who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday to discuss stability in Afghanistan as it was a shared interest for the neighbouring nations. Afghan students who were promised scholarships in UK universities had their admissions revoked and were denied visas. Afghan students in India are pleading for visa extensions and scholarships. Stuck in the midst of a crisis, the youth of Afghanistan are fighting a battle for education away from their homeland.

The future of Afghanistan

In a Facebook post late on Sunday, Ashraf Ghani stated,

"Taliban have won judgment of sword and guns and now they're responsible for protecting countrymen's honour, wealth and self-esteem...Never in history has dry power given legitimacy to anyone and won't give it to them. Necessary for the Taliban to assure all people, nations, different sectors, sisters and women of Afghanistan to win legitimacy and the hearts of people. Make a clear plan to do and share it with the public. I'll always continue to serve my nation with intellectual moments and a plan to develop".

A Taliban coup was earlier thought to be years away, but now, we all witness it is possible within a matter of months. Although the government was the major target of the Taliban, it is the civilians who suffer the most at their hands. Reports of forced marriages, assassinations of leaders and journalists and harsh punishment for minor issues such as immodest clothing are not alien things to Afghanistan. Even if power is recaptured and the Taliban are ousted, the damage they cause is irreversible. The time it takes to forge stability is enough time to cause massive ruin to a country.

For now, stability seems a distant dream for Afghanistan and despite the vast majority of civilians being unwilling to live under the barbaric rule of the Taliban, there is no clear way out. Despite foreign involvement and intervention, a counter-revolution by the group seems inevitable.

Denying legitimacy and ensuring that civilians receive international aid must be the primary goal of the rest of the world for now. Intra-Afghan talks and aid from neighbouring countries could eventually topple the Taliban regime. However the key to peace lies in the long-term plans for political stability, which cannot be laid out unless Afghanistan gains its autonomy and takes in just the right amount of external influence.


~ Kavyaa Kannan

Sources: Al Jazeera (live updates), India Today, The Hindu, The Washington Post, TOI