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The end game for another warlord in Afghanistan: What will happens next?

Afghans have defeated the two world superpowers and warlords of their times in the last forty years. Recent is the evacuation of mighty war machines, the US and the NATO forces from Afghanistan. 

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Afghan Taliban take over the entire country (Afghanistan) so rapidly that even the US defense intelligence officials can’t imagine. 

American intelligence agencies estimated that Kabul will fall into the hands of the Taliban within 90 days when the US speeds up the evacuation of their troops from Afghanistan. 

“Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90 days,…. as the resurgent militants made more advances across the country.” Reuters reported on August 11.

The American Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Taliban took over Afghanistan more quickly than they predicted. 

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“The fact of the matter is we have seen that that force has been unable to defend the country …. and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.” The US Secretary of State admitted the miscalculation by the Pentagon towards the Taliban and the Afghan forces. CNN reported

NATO leaving Afghanistan
Members of the British armed forces 16 Air Assault Brigade walk to the air terminal after disembarking a Royal Airforce Voyager aircraft at Brize Norton, Britain August 28, 2021 (Image: Alastair Grant/ Pool via REUTERS)

History, who are the Afghan Taliban? 

In the 1980s, when the mighty warlord, the Soviets, entered Afghanistan, the Afghan resistance fighters stood up against the outside forces. They were collectively known as Mujahideen at that time. They aimed to implement Islamic law in the country and tried to put the Soviets out. 

The American CIA armed the Afghan Mujahideen with the help of Pakistan to put up a strong resistance against the Russians. They provided the fighters with advanced weapons. 

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The CIA in its recent tweet on Twitter said that they provided the Afghan guerrillas with stinger missiles to enforce their control over Afghanistan. 

Finally, in 1989, the Soviets were unable to stand against the Afghan Mujahideen and left the country. Just after they left, fierce fighting started between the local Afghan fighter groups to take control of the Afghan government. 

Until 1994, the Afghan Mujahideen succeeded in forming the Islamic government in Afghanistan. They were known as the Taliban at that time. Taliban are the Sunni Islamist organization, when came in power they put in the strict Islamic rules (Sharia) in the country. 

Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 11 September 2001. When 19 men hijacked four commercial planes in the United States, crashing two into the towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and another destined for Washington. According to a CNN fact report

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9/11 incident
The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane, September 11, 2001 (Image: REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)

Later on, the US blamed Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden for planting the attacks. The American FBI called it the most lethal terrorist attack in US history which took the lives of 3000 Americans. Al Qaeda, which was held responsible for the attacks, operated from inside of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Within a month, after the 9/11 incident, the US and its allied (NATO) forces invaded Afghanistan. They were aiming to stop the Taliban from providing safe havens to Al-Qaeda. And to stop them from terrorist attacks by operating from Afghanistan. 

On 2 May 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda was killed in an operation led by the team of US commandos in Pakistan. 

What is happening in Afghanistan now? 

The United States had spent trillions of dollars in twenty years in Afghanistan to fight the war on terror. 

In 2017, the Taliban issued an open letter to the newly elected US President Donald Trump, calling on him to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. 

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Finally in 2020, after years of negotiations, the Taliban and the Trump administration signed a peace deal. The deal stipulates that the Taliban will prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to threaten the United States and its allies. In return, the US promised to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan. According to The Diplomat report

According to CNN, the United States also agreed to release some 5000 Taliban prisoners in a peace deal. 

After the 2020 American presidential elections, Joe Biden came into power. He announced the troops’ withdrawal from Afghan soil by September 11, 2021.

Although the Biden administration also came under criticism due to the speedy withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. But Biden defends its decision. 

“One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.” Joe Biden said in a statement

Just after the deadline provided by President Biden of troops withdrawal, the local Taliban groups speed up their efforts to take control of Kabul. 

How did the Taliban take over Afghanistan in months? 

The Taliban’s stunning and rapid takeover of Afghanistan was the result not only of their battlefield strength but also a sustained push to force surrenders and cut deals. France24 reported

As the American and its allied forces began their final withdrawal in May, Washington and Kabul were confident the Afghan military forces would put up a strong fight against the Taliban. 

According to the estimates, there are more than 300,000 Afghan National Army troops. While the number of armed Taliban fighters ranged from 58000 to 100,000. These include 60,000 core fighters. 

According to the report from the CTC (The Combating Terrorism Center) at West Point, over the past five years, the Afghan National Security forces have been funded at around $5-6 billion per year. As a result of tens of billions of dollars of international expenditures, the Afghan forces today have an air force consisting of 174 aircraft (include a mix of attack, transport, and surveillance platforms), some of the region’s best SOF, tactical drones, technical intelligence capabilities, military-grade communication gears, and Western weapons and munitions.

The US has spent billions of dollars on the Afghan National Army to train them and to provide them with modern military equipment. But they did not show any courage to defend their country against the Taliban. 

“Afghan forces, for a long period of time, have had problems with morale and also their willingness to fight the Taliban.” Carter Malkasian, a former senior advisor to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement. 

The Biden administration believed that it could take months before the civilian government in Afghanistan fell. 

Taliban could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90 days. A US defense official cited US intelligence as saying. Reported by Reuters. 

Taliban took control of major Afghan cities
Taliban in control of Afghanistan AFP (Image: France24)

The defense official speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity said earlier this month. The new assessment of how long Kabul could stand was a result of the Taliban’s rapid gains. 

But this is not a final conclusion. The Afghan National Army could reverse the momentum by putting up more resistance. 

Until the start of this August, the Taliban took over 65% of Afghanistan and have taken 11 provincial capitals. According to a senior EU official. 

Taliban captured Jalalabad earlier this month followed by the seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, with no resistance at all. 

All gateways to Kabul, which lies in a valley surrounded by mountains, were choked with civilians fleeing violence. It was hard to tell whether the Taliban were also getting through. According to Reuters. 

America and its allies were shocked by the speed at which the Taliban captured the provinces. 

Mr. Price from the US State Department said the United States was working to forge an international consensus behind the need for a peace accord. The Taliban have captured districts bordering Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, and China, heightening regional security concerns.

On 15 August morning, the Taliban captured the main Jalalabad city near Kabul. And until the end of the day, the Taliban took over Kabul without any bloodshed in the Afghan Capital. Afghan Taliban took the control of Afghan interim government more peacefully than the Western or Americans thought of. 

Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president left Kabul when the Taliban entered the Capital city saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed. 

According to the White House press Secretary, Jen Psaki, the Afghans need to determine…. if they have the political will to fight back and if they have the ability to unite as leaders to fight back. She declined to further comment on the intelligence reports that Kabul could be taken over by the Taliban within 90 days.

The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said about Afghan forces, “They had all the advantages, they had twenty years of training by our coalition forces, a modern air force, good equipment and weapons. But you can’t buy will or you can’t purchase leadership. And that’s really what was missing in this situation.” 

Washington has spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. The cost of lives is much greater. 241,000 people have died as a direct result of this war. According to a report from Watson Institute of Brown University. 

According to the reports from Forbes, there have been 2500 US military deaths in Afghanistan. By 2050, the cost of interest alone on Afghan war debt could reach $6.5 trillion. 

The US President Joe Biden said he did not regret his decision to withdraw and urged Afghan leaders to fight for their homeland. 

Analysis:

The era of Americans ended in the Middle East when the Taliban took Kabul and formed the interim government in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Taliban leaders and negotiators
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader and negotiator, and other delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2021 (Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS)

America’s 20 years of spending in Afghanistan give no fruitful conclusion to them. Now they are leaving the country with millions of internal refugees who have no source to fulfill their basic human needs. No development at all in the country. US President Biden said they did not go to Afghanistan to build a nation. 

But if we talk about the weapons, the United States surrendered $85 billion worth of weapons to the hands of the Taliban. Nikki Haley, an American diplomat, and politician said. 

Current US President Biden said he did not regret his decision to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. He also said an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me. 

But they must have realized this reality much earlier in the years when they were in power and the Taliban were not as strong. 

As the PM of Pakistan Imran Khan said, the US had to come to talks when there were 160,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and the Taliban were not as much stronger. And now the US and some Western countries are blaming Pakistan that the Taliban must accept what they said. Why do they (Taliban) listen to us when they are now in power and the US is leaving Afghanistan. 

Pakistan has played a vital role in the peace talks between the Taliban and the US. The Biden administration also praised the efforts of Pakistan to take the Taliban to the table and to present a peaceful solution for Afghanistan and for the entire region. 

Pakistan and China pushed the Taliban to completely break their ties with terrorist groups including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and all other insurgent groups that pose a direct threat to the region. 

The Afghan Taliban said they will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country. The Uk’s PM said the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not their words.

Sources:

  1. CNN
  2. Reuters
  3. France24
  4. Washington Post
  5. Tribune
  6. Forbes