Domestic Terrorism to Armed Revolution
Danish Siddiqui, a photojournalist, was killed in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on Friday while covering the region’s escalating conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan forces. A truly tragic event. But what is actually happening in Afghanistan?
Who is the Taliban and why is there a conflict between them and the government?
The Taliban and their Rise: The Late 1900s
The problem traces back to 1979 when the Soviet invaded Afghanistan with the aim to suppress the rebellions rising against the government. The insurgencies were led by afghan guerrillas known as the mujahideen; financed and backed by the USA to fight off Soviet dominance on the pretext of the Cold War.
Popularly known as the Taliban, They emerged as a sweeping force; claiming military victories one after the other. In 1994 they captured Kandhar and by 1996 they captured Kabul.
Initially welcomed as the bearers of reform, they soon started imposing their strict
interpretation of the sharia law; denying women the right to education and work, banning public music, public execution without fair judicial trial and systematic destruction of non-Islamic symbols and jailed men with short beards declaring these as un-Islamic.
United States invades Afghanistan
Although their rule in Afghanistan was regressive and disapproved by most of the world, The United States seemed mostly indifferent to the group’s oppressive rule. But that changed in 2001, when Al Qaeda leaders taking shelter in Afghanistan carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on American soil.
As a response to the attacks, A US led coalition launched an invasion of Afghanistan; with the aim to ‘disrupt Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and attack the military capability of the Taliban regime’
They seized control from the Taliban and set up an interim government with Hamid Karzai as the Head of the State. 3 years later they got a new constitution, elections were conducted and Karzai was elected President.
With Taliban now out of the picture, the focus then shifted to rebuilding the state and on
reconstruction projects to ensure that Afghanistan does not, in the future, become the host of more terrorist activities. But with rampant corruption pulling them back, the benefits of the spending barely extended beyond Kabul and other major cities. With the United States shifting focus to Iraq, the works of development were then left to other members of the coalition.
Fall and the rise, again
Despite having to flee out of the country, Taliban leadership regrouped in safe havens provided by Pakistan’s military from where they planned a longer war of attrition against the American and NATO troops, against foreign domination; as they see it.
With the war reaching a stalemate and peace talks in a deadlock, American and NATO troops formally ended their combat mission, and switched to an “advise and assist” role in June 2014, Taliban attempts to gain control saw a drastic surge. They widened their territories, began serious territorial assaults, revived old funding networks, set up alternate, almost parallel regimes in areas under their control and refined the blueprint the United States had funded against the Soviets; but this time against the US.
US withdrawal: Is the problem solved?
Mr. Biden announced in April the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, declaring that the United States had long accomplished its mission of denying terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan and claiming that they did not go into Afghanistan to nation-build and what the future holds is in the hands of the Afghan people.
He made it clear that "it's highly unlikely" there will be a unified government, and not much the US could do, or should do, if Kabul collapses. That's up to Afghans - and the countries next door although he has ensured that aid will continue.
The Taliban: a force to reckon with
The last time an occupying power left Afghanistan, guerrillas toppled the remaining government and then fought each other over its remains, with the Taliban coming out on top. What the state holds for the citizens now is still uncertain; but the effects of the withdrawal can already be felt in the country.
In the recent months, afghan forces have been forced to abandon dozens of checkpoints in the face of Taliban assaults. In April this year, Taliban controlled about 10% of the country but the number has now sprung up to almost 75%. This is close to what it had in 2001 before the US invaded Afghanistan.
Official estimates suggest that within 6 months, Afghanistan is likely to collapse into the hands of the Taliban which could open the doors for increased terrorist activities in the country defeating the very purpose of the 20 year long invasion: Afghanistan is never again used to plan and launch terrorist attacks.
A return to Taliban power is also likely to produce a humanitarian disaster; a return to their 1996 ideology and perhaps a revenge plot against those who supported the US backed government. They want to turn Afghanistan into an Islamic emirate headed by a religious leader.
The country has been seethed under turmoil for more than 40 years now and the afghan people continue to remain at the receiving end. The US withdrawal could either unfold as a chance for the afghan government to rise or perhaps be an open invite to a Taliban takeover, but this only time will tell.
~ Noor Sehgal