A chaotic anniversary
It’s been a year since the Taliban’s hostile takeover of Afghanistan. What comes next?
It’s been a year since the US occupation of Afghanistan came to an end, and the Taliban conquered Kabul in the midnight of August 15, 2021. Nobody could have predicted that the fundamentalist group would retake power and demolish a democratic set-up 20 years after.
One year has gone by, but Afghanistan is still in turmoil. A suicide bomb attack in Kabul airport in August last year killed more than 100 people, including 13 American service members. In September, a blast by the Islamic State Group in a Shia mosque killed more than 40 people in Kandahar.
On the other hand, the presence of other extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda contradicted the Taliban leaders’ assurances in the Doha agreement that they would not permit any armed group to operate from Afghan territory against the interests of the United States and its allies.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda leader, was killed on July 31 in a US drone attack in Kabul, which demonstrates unequivocally that the nation is turning into a refuge for terrorist groups. The presence of Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul indicates the possibility of close connection between the Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda.
This is a clear violation of the Doha agreement by the Taliban.
But the irony is that the Taliban denies that completely, and has put the blame on the US government for violating the agreement by delaying the withdrawal deadline without negotiating with Taliban.
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Taliban leader Anas Haqqani claimed that they have gained a lot when it comes to the area of freedom and development. But in reality the Taliban government imposed many restrictions on the Afghan women since they came into power last year.
As a result of so many impositions, on August 13, Afghan women protested in Kabul for bread, work, and freedom. To scatter the protestors, the Taliban fighters even physically assaulted them and fired shots into the air. The Taliban attacked journalists covering the rally.
In March, the government restricted girl children’s education above 6th grade. The country's highest rate of girls enrolling in school occurred during the international presence. Stalwarts like Fawzia Koofi and others agitated in homeland and abroad for female education.
Over the last one year, what is highly concerning is that women have no place in the Taliban’s government. The situation of the Internally Displaced People is even worse in the country. According to the UNHCR, there are 2.6 million Afghan refugees in the world, and 3.5 million are internally displaced. In order to care for the displaced people or reintegrate these refugees into everyday Afghan life, there is a sheer need for basic necessities like food and drinking water.
Obviously, this is possible only when an efficient government system can be ensured. An inexperienced government along with its scarce source of revenues resulted in an economic crisis and worsened the humanitarian scenario. More than 22 million Afghans, which is more than half of the Afghan population, are facing food insecurity. In many provinces, the humanitarian situation is worsening. Afghans were forced to sell their children and their body parts to satiate their fundamental necessities.
The UNHCR has started constructions of 2,300 earthquake-resilient houses in the earthquake-hit Paktika and Khost. The United Nations seeks to collect $4.4 billion in order to meet the fundamental necessities in Afghanistan.
But unfortunately, sanctions, concerns over rule of law, and Taliban policies keep the aid actors and foreign investors at bay. It is feared by the International Rescue Committee that the current humanitarian crisis could kill more Afghans than the 20 years of war.
Soon after the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, Pakistan's secret agency ISI chief Faiz Hameed's hurricane-visit to Kabul sparked off controversies. Needless to say, not just Pakistan's Haqqani Network but the Pakistan’s military had an upper hand in Taliban’s Afghanistan. In the Troika Plus in Islamabad to OIC summits, Pakistan tried best to support the Taliban to gain legitimacy.
But the Taliban hasn’t shown any progress to reform them as the global community demands. Despite the Taliban having gained success establishing bilateral ties with only a few nations, they have failed to earn the trust of the world, including the west and India. However, Taliban's unreliable and incompetent government could further stall the urgently required international legitimacy.
The Taliban has neither changed, nor reformed. Some sort of understanding between Al-Qaeda and Taliban is still there. Under Taliban rule, over 90% of the Afghan population is struggling to arrange daily meals.
If the unreformed Taliban gains international legitimacy, not only will the crisis worsen, there will be a deadly spillover effect in the immediate neighbourhood.
Ayanangsha Maitra is a foreign affairs journalist from India. Rajarshi Chakraborty is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in Rajasthan, India.