What has happened in Afghanistan?

Dr. Daoud Nassimi

Date published: Fri, 20 August 21

The recent events in Afghanistan have become the headlines of the national and international news in the last few days. As the US was trying to complete the withdrawal of its forces in the last 3 months from Afghanistan, the fight between the US-supported government and Taliban was intensified. While fighting was severe in a few provinces, the Taliban took over more than 200 governmental districts of the country during the month of July, mostly without fighting. In early August, the Taliban started taking over the bigger cities and provincial capitals. By August 14th, they took over almost all of the provinces and they reached the gates of Kabul from many sides.

On August 14th, the Taliban made a public announcement that while they are around Kabul, they would not enter Kabul with their forces, but they would wait until a peaceful transfer of power takes place in the government. However, the next day on August 15th, Ashraf Ghani the President of Afghanistan fled the country with many of his close aids which resulted in a vacuum in power and a potential for all kinds of chaos in Kabul. To fill this vacuum, the Taliban sent some of their representatives to the presidential palace in the evening followed by some more forces to take full control of the city by the next day without any resistance from the military and security forces.

One of the main questions that have been asked by many people is “how come the Afghan military of over 300,000 soldiers that the US had built and trained in the last 20 years did not fight with the Taliban, and instead surrendered to the Taliban”. Three factors have played a major role in this lack of fighting:

1. The military was not happy with the extremely corrupted government of Afghanistan. It has been reported that often they were not receiving their salaries while the government was receiving all of their salaries from Americans on a regular basis.

2. They were convinced that they could not win this war. They knew that if they could not win the war with all of NATO forces behind them, how could they win the war after the withdrawal of all American troops.

3. They simply did not want to fight with their own countrymen, especially after the pressure was off of their shoulders.

Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001. While they were popular for establishing security in the country during that period, their strict and extremist religious approach to certain things was not liked by many Afghans. When they were removed from power by American forces after the events of 9/11, they started fighting with Americans. In addition to combat fighting, the Taliban used suicide bombings to target Americans and other foreign forces inside the cities which resulted in lots of civilian casualties that made the Taliban very unpopular. Further, the Afghan government and its supporters did all kinds of publicity and propaganda against them in the last 20 years which made the Taliban appear very scary people in the eyes of an average person and worried about their return to power.

However, the Taliban have done certain things in the last few days of their rule that have surprised many Afghans and most of the people around the world. For example:

1. Taliban announced a general amnesty for everyone regardless of what they had done against them in the last 20 years. As part of this amnesty, no one would be chased, no one would enter anyone’s house, no one would be arrested or punished. They keep announcing that the lives and property of people are protected. They provided phone numbers to the public for reporting any violations of this amnesty.

2. They announced that all of the government employees and NGOs should return to their jobs and resume their positions and work. Many of the people have resumed their jobs.

3. They announced the freedom of speech and media and asked the media channels to resume their programs. As such, major tv channels, such as ToloNews, Ariana, KabulNews, National TV, and others have been operating with all kinds of programs and news.

4. Regarding women, they announced that all women can return to their jobs and classes, and can get out of the house for their needs. They did not stop women from reporting, reading the news, being interviewed on the streets and sharing their thoughts, etc.

5. Another surprise is that the Taliban has announced that they are planning to form a new inclusive government representing different groups and ethnicities.

6. The Shi’a communities freely commemorated the 10th of Muharram in many major cities while the Taliban ensured their security.

With such announcements and actions, the Taliban has truly surprised many people inside Afghanistan and in the international arena. Many people wonder what could have led to such changes and surprises. Some of the factors can be:

1. Taliban are saying that they have learned lessons from their past, and they do not want to repeat them.

2. The new generation of Taliban is different from the generation that ruled 20 years ago. They are more in touch with the modern world and international affairs. The political affairs members of the Taliban who have been stationed in the last 10 years in Qatar are reported to have studied and interacted with many Islamic scholars from different countries.

3. Taliban have realized that any of their mistakes cannot go unnoticed anymore due to the free press and access of people to technology, the internet, and social media.

Since the takeover of the country by the Taliban, one of the chaotic and heartbreaking scenes of Afghanistan has been the situation in Kabul airport where thousands of people have packed the airport and even its runways waiting to fly out of the country. The American government sent thousands of new soldiers to help evacuate its citizens and Afghans who had supported the American military and worked with Americans in the last 20 years. While the Taliban repeatedly assured everyone of their safety, some Afghans were still rushing to the airport from the fear of being persecuted. The airport has been under the strict control of American troops and the Taliban has no access and control of it. The American troops are expected to complete the evacuations by end of August.

Now everyone is anxiously waiting to hear about the structure and makeup of the new government of the Taliban since a real inclusive government can make a big difference to believe in the assertions of the Taliban. In the meantime, it is obvious that the new government is expected to face all of the kinds of challenges and issues due to the lack of financial resources on one hand, and the international microscopic lenses on them on the other hand for violation of any of their promises and mistakes to blame them.

In spite of all kinds of issues and uncertainties, the suffering Afghan nation is thanking Allah for the bounty of peace, at least. After 43 years of war, people are saying that for the first time, there has not been a single shot of war fired in the last few days anywhere in the country, Al-Hamdulillah.