Nearly 20 years after the Taliban (a movement banned in the Russian Federation) were expelled by the Americans who wanted to punish it for harboring al-Qaeda (terrorist organization, aslo banned in Russia), the movement’s commanders pose for cameramen in the presidential palace of Afghanistan and in front of the imposing former CIA regional headquarters. Washington’s protégé Ashraf Ghani fled abroad with the looted money, leaving nothing but a message on Facebook: “The Taliban won.”
On the evening of August 16, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Office of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, Qatar, stated that “the war in Afghanistan is over.” According to him, a stable political system will be formed in the country with no further confrontation. The statement is quite ambitious, considering that Afghanistan has been “feverish” for decades. Few people expect stability here. At the same time, it has been admitted that the Taliban have gone through a challenging period of war and sanctions and want Afghanistan’s situation to stabilize, so their statements are quite credible. Although to implement one’s desires in real life, one often has to travel along a winding and challenging road.
It should be noted that the Taliban itself is very fragmented, there is no unified and clear command there, and there are several quite active other armed groups in the country that may not want to submit to the Taliban: as you know, most of the Taliban are Pashtuns, but in other groups, the Uzbeks and Tajiks make up the most of the fighting force. In addition, the remnants of al-Qaeda have not been eliminated across the country and can recover very quickly, and so can sleeping cells of DAESH (a terrorist group also banned in Russia), The possible actions of the US and its Western allies on the armed intervention in Afghanistan, which ended so miserably for them on August 16, as well as certain regional powers, which will undoubtedly continue to play on any internal Afghan contradictions, should not be excluded either. All this does not bode well for peaceful developments in this country in the near future.
According to the latest statements, power in the country has shifted to a governing council that includes former President Hamid Karzai and former Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who oversees the work of the National Reconciliation Council. The Taliban has announced that they will have direct control of the state, and there will be no transitional government in Afghanistan. Representatives of the radical movement are negotiating a peaceful transfer of power.
Speaking on a YouTube channel, the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov, who remained in Kabul among the few leading foreign officials after the US and its Western allies fled, said that on the morning of August 16, the Taliban entered the capital “unarmed” and told the police: “Please surrender your weapons.” As a result, “law enforcement agencies dissolved themselves.” At the same time, the Taliban “waited, did not want there to be any disturbances, bloodshed or armed clashes” and “accepted the surrender of the Afghan security forces,” the Ambassador stressed. Members of the Taliban (banned in Russia) “are taking Kabul as an asset,” they came “as masters, not as invaders,” Dmitry Zhirnov said. He said that the unarmed Taliban, “when they came in, got down on their knees and kissed the ground.” Zhirnov specifically pointed out that “that’s not what invaders will do, they will loot, but none of that is happening.” He expressed the hope that “that’s the way it’s going to go from here.”
For the record, since the beginning of the spring-summer offensive, Taliban militants have resorted to a “carrot and stick” approach. There are many reports in various Western media about massacres carried out by the Taliban in their territories. Still, the political office of the movement, based in Doha, has denied these allegations. It should also be recognized that there were many reports of Taliban attempts to appease the population simultaneously. In any case, it is reliably known, and even according to official reports of the Afghan army, that when they stormed cities, they usually gave two or three days to evacuate everyone who wished to, trying to solve problems with food supplies, electricity, etc.
There is a rich spectrum of political forces in Afghanistan today. It would make sense for the Taliban to maintain power in the country to have some social and political backing to provide them with the broadest possible support for the future. The returning Taliban have already named Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar the new leader of Afghanistan. Most recently, he was in a Pakistani prison, from which he was released at the request of the US less than three years ago. In the Taliban hierarchy, Mullah Baradar, whom the Western press calls not only a representative of the “moderate” camp, but the most public face of the radical movement, formally holds the position of political deputy to the leader of the “Emir of the Faithful” Movement, Hibatullah Akhundzada. Speaking of Baradar, the British Guardian points out that his possible accession to power embodies “Afghanistan’s inability to break free from the bloody shackles of its past,” and his biography mirrors the history of the ongoing bloody conflict.
Abdul Ghani Baradar was born in 1968. As a very young man in the 1980s, he fought in the Afghan Mujahideen detachments against the pro-Soviet government forces in the Kandahar area. Then he was at the origins of the Taliban movement, led by young Islamic theologians and committed to the idea of religious purification of Afghanistan. Baradar proved to be a very effective strategist and the key architect of the Taliban’s military victories against US occupation forces; during the rule of the radicals’ proclaimed “Islamic Emirate,” Mullah Baradar held several military and administrative posts. When the Taliban regime was overthrown by the Americans and their Afghan allies in the Northern Alliance, Mullah was Deputy Minister of Defense. Because various factions of the Taliban respected Baradar, he was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, where he negotiated with the Americans for the strict withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
According to the provisional program of speakers for the high-level week of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan will be represented by the head of state on September 22, but his name is not yet known.
Right now, everyone is watching developments in Afghanistan and the actions of the Taliban with particular attention.
After a very long pause in assessing the political situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian authorities decided to comment. Although these comments were more than restrained, they nevertheless drew attention. According to a statement by an official representative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Tehran called the Taliban an “Islamic Emirate,” an interpretation used by the Taliban themselves. Until recently, official Tehran referred to the Taliban as nothing other than a terrorist organization. In this regard, one can assume that the Iranian authorities’ position on the Taliban has changed significantly.
Pakistan’s religious parties hailed the Taliban’s August 16 victory, as reported by Dawn on August 17.
Despite the continuing wariness of the Taliban’s actions, many states are already trying to determine their prospects in their first official diplomatic contacts. Now Afghanistan is entering a period of Stockholm syndrome – there will be no resistance to the Taliban, everyone is trying to adapt to the new situation. For the first six months, the Taliban are likely to blame all their problems on the corrupt regime of military occupation that has ruined the country. However, when the Afghans recover from the shock and start demanding socio-economic results from the Taliban, they will have no choice but to tighten the screws again. Another round of civil war cannot be ruled out. However, today the Taliban are actively seeking to assert their peace-loving goals in the international arena, not forgetting that for the international community to recognize the new Afghan authorities, they must first get rid of the “terrorist legacy” as defined by the relevant UN Security Council resolution.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.