Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday after fleeing the country that the Taliban had won. As the militants entered Kabul – nearly 20 years after they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion. Mr. Ghani left as the insurgents closed in on the capital. Then ultimately entering the city and taking over the presidential palace. To finally, sealing a nationwide military victory in just 10 days.
The Taliban have carried out a lightning sweep of the country. With government forces collapsing without the support of the US military, is finalizing its withdrawal in alignment with an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden. The insurgents’ imminent takeover triggered fear and panic in Kabul. Moreover, residents are fearful of the group’s hardline brand of Islam, which it imposed during its 1996-2001 rule.
WHAT ASHRAF GHANI SAYS?
“The Taliban have won with the judgment of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honor, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,” Mr Ghani said in a statement posted to Facebook, his first since fleeing. “They are now facing a new historical test. Either they will preserve the name and honor of Afghanistan or they will give priority to other places and networks,” he added, saying he left to prevent a “flood of bloodshed”. Mr. Ghani didn’t say where he had travelled to. However, leading Afghan media group Tolo news suggested he had gone to Tajikistan.
TALIBAN’S UPPER HAND IN NEGOTIATIONS
Diplomatic sources predict Ali Ahmad Jalali, a US-based academic and former interior minister, as the head of an interim administration in Kabul. But it is unclear what kind of an interim set-up the militants want. There is also no guarantee that the talks for a peaceful transition of power will succeed. “The best scenario is that the Taliban and the government reach an agreement and Kabul remains peaceful. That will pave the way for a ceasefire and future steps to resolve the conflict,” Nasrullah Stanakzai, a lecture at the University of Kabul, told DW. However, Raihana Azad, a member of the Afghan parliament, believes that even if negotiations succeed, there is no guarantee that the Taliban will “keep their word.” The Taliban were accused of not holding their end of the bargain after they sealed an agreement with the US in February 2020.
WILL THE US INTERVENE?
US President Joe Biden, faced severe criticism for withdrawing from Afghanistan so quickly, said the Afghan leaders need to defend their country. But if the Taliban attack Kabul, a city of more than 6 million people, there could be massive civilian casualties. Would the US then intervene in the conflict, if only to maintain peace in the Afghan capital?
“I think the US won’t back Ghani because the Afghan government is no longer in a position to defend Kabul,” Saidi said.
The US has come under heavy criticism for leaving Afghanistan in what many believe was a premature move. Without a proper peace deal between all the Afghan stakeholders.
The Taliban succeeded in capturing several territories. This came after Biden announced an unconditional withdrawal of US forces from the country in February.
American officials at the time said that Afghan forces could defend the country from the Taliban.
“We had urged the Afghan government and the international community for months to secure our city, but no one paid attention to our pleas,” Halima Sadaf Karimi, a lawmaker from the northern Jawzjan province, told DW.
How did a government with 350,000 soldiers, trained and equipped by the best armies in the world, collapse so quickly?
The Taliban thought to number about 200,000 soldiers, armed mostly with the equipment they have seized from their enemies. They have taken all of Afghanistan’s urban centers in little more than a week, generally without much resistance.
The answer seems to be that what they lacked in brawn. They made up for in brains, determination and political shrewdness.
For the past year, diplomats in Doha had hoped that the Taliban could be compelled to negotiate with Mr. Ghani’s government. So that they agree to some sort of power-sharing agreement.
The insurgents realized it would be more profitable to negotiate with Mr Ghani’s underlings, city-by-city. Thereby simply pull the rug out from underneath him
Hence in Herat, a jewel of a city near the Iranian border, Ismail Khan, the warlord took the city back from the Taliban in 2001, after fighting for days, surrendered and was filmed, in captivity, pleading for “a peaceful environment”.
In Kandahar, the city at the heart of Afghanistan’s southern breadbasket and the birthplace of the original Taliban, the governor has pictured handing over to his Taliban counterpart. In Jalalabad, in the east, the Taliban marched in without firing a shot, after elders in the city negotiated a surrender.
Mazar-i-Sharif, a northern city that once served as a bastion of anti-Taliban resistance in the 1990s, folded similarly.
WHY AFGHAN FORCES SURRENDERED?
In each case, the militants have made wide-ranging promises, to “forgive” those who served in the American-backed government, in exchange for surrender. In Kandahar, former soldiers who surrendered given laisser passer documents that they can show at checkpoints. There, throughout Friday night the sound of gunfire echoed throughout the city. According to residents, firing was in the air in celebration.
WHAT DOES THE TALIBAN TAKEOVER MEAN?
The Taliban’s political arm in Doha has claimed that they are no longer the bloody theocrats who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Accused criminals publicly executed at Kabul’s football grounds, including women stoned to death for adultery. For example, their negotiators have stressed that there is no rule in Islam against the education of women.
Yet, the disconnect between statements from Qatar and is being done by Taliban commanders in Afghanistan is now canyon-sized. In Herat, where 60% of the students at the university were women, they have reportedly already been ordered back to their homes. Female employees told to give up their jobs to male relatives.
KABUL IN CRISIS
At least five people killed at Kabul airport. Hundreds of people tried to enter planes leaving the Afghan capital on Monday. A horrific video surfaced on social media with a person falling off a loaded plane mid-air in Kabul. Locals said 2-3 people fell on their houses and died an immediate, tragic death.
People have been making desperate attempts to leave the war-torn country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government in Afghanistan. All border crossings seized by Taliban fighters. The only way out of the country is through Kabul airport.
UNITED NATIONS STAND
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday (August 16, 2021) said that he is ‘deeply concerned’ about the situation in Afghanistan. Further, he urged the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint.
“I’m deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and urge the Taliban and all others to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and ensure humanitarian needs can be met. The UN remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement and promote human rights of all Afghans,” Guterres said.
“All abuses must stop,” the UN Chief expressed adding that the international humanitarian law and human rights. Especially, the hard-won gains of women and girls.
JAISHANKAR IN US
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar travelled to New York for a visit from August 16-19 to chair two sessions of the UN Security Council. Subjected on peacekeeping and terrorism.
The visit was scheduled earlier but is expected to see him participate in consultations on the developing situation in Afghanistan as well. He will also have bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of other UNSC members on the sidelines of the two sessions.
Even the best possible outcome, where the Taliban’s leadership decides to show it is serious about reform, looks bleak.
For sure, Afghanistan’s government has made only fitful progress in raising the quality of life for ordinary Afghans. Even in cities, where it has had far more control than in the countryside.
Conclusively, its corruption has been deep and galling, and no doubt part of the reason the Taliban were able to conquer the country so effectively.