On July 2, 2021, the US and its allies left the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, home of the foreign troops, officially ending their 20-year long war in the country. Since their departure, Taliban has captured the southern Kandahar province, one of their most prominent and former stronghold territories in Afghanistan. These developments are being seen as a result of US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan after nearly a two-decade war against “Islamic jihad”. Over the past few months, since the US President Joe Biden ordered its military personnel to leave the war-zone country, the Taliban has seized more than 100 districts, many of which were governed by the government.
Since February 2020, several talks took place between the Taliban and the US authorities in Doha, Qatar to establish peace in Afghanistan. However, the violence continues to rage across the country. Large areas near Kabul, the government’s stronghold and one of the safest cities of the country, have been taken under control by the Taliban.
Many experts and even the US’ intelligence agencies believe that the democratic government of Afghanistan will collapse within months after the American and NATO military’s withdrawal from the field. The report highlights that the Taliban forces have been strengthened, capturing many districts and crucial areas of Afghanistan faster than expected. The report also said that many Afghan forces have surrendered before the Taliban without a fight against the militant groups, leaving the local people afraid.
On July 4, the Taliban officially claimed that they have seized the Kuf Ab and Raghistan districts of northeastern Badakhshan Province and forced pro-government forces to leave the areas.
The Biden administration had set the deadline of the withdrawal of the entire army from the region as September 11, 2021 i.e., the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
Taliban Is Now More Powerful Than In The 90s
Many experts believe that the Taliban has become more powerful now than it was in the 90s. The terrorist group started working on regaining and capturing the lands ever since NATO announced its intention to end the Afghanistan mission in 2014. Over the past months, the Taliban has successfully grabbed massive lands and re-gained dozens of districts that they had lost during the war.
According to the FDD’s Long War Journal’s report this year, at least 19 percent districts of the country are under the control of the Taliban. The report also claimed that many Taliban-ruled districts are running under Islamic laws including imposition of radical rules and regulations. The militant group reportedly has more than 11,500,000 people under control. Since May 2021, the Taliban has captured at least a quarter of the country.
Currently, they have more than 85,000 full-time fighters in the country with high-level war equipment, fighting to gain more territories within Afghanistan.
The threat of the radical militant group al-Qaeda will remain a major concern for the US and the entire world under the Taliban rule. Many experts believe that the Taliban could target the US and its Western allies in the near future to take revenge for the assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was gunned by the US Army in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in 2011.
What Does The Taliban Want?
A little progress can be seen since the Afghan government and the Taliban came to the table for peace talks backed by the US in Doha. The world community has welcomed the ‘power sharing deal’ between the government and the militant group, but many experts believe that it would be complicated to see any progress on ground level.
Taliban wants an ‘Islamic emirate’ and believes that Islamic rule is the only solution to every problem of the country. The latest news also tells that large areas are being occupied and tough instructions are being issued to implement the Sharia law immediately. According to various reports, radical orders have been issued in Taliban-ruled districts such as that men must keep beards and women should not leave the house alone.
Speaking at the Wilson Center, Dr. Orzala Nemat, Director, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, says that the Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan will bring hardship for the Afghan people, especially for women. According to her, the Taliban will not only curtail the freedom of the people but will also impose many restrictions on women’s participation in every field. Dr. Nemat claims that the group does not like women which is why they did not allow women’s representation during peace negotiations.
What Do The Afghans Want?
Various reports suggest that there is a mixed response among the people with the US troops leaving their country after an unending two-decade war. Many Afghans believe that the US and its allies invaded the country for their purpose and that they are happy to see them depart.
Many women feel that the Taliban will take over the country and their rights will be taken away under Islamic rules. They feel that America is handing them over to the Taliban and feel betrayed.
According to the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, more than 68 percent people of the country have rejected the Taliban’s demand for an Islamic emirate and choose to support the post-2001 democratic government even after seeing a huge instability in the last 20 years. Over 80 percent of them said that the country must go through the constitution and have an updated electoral system. The last survey was conducted in the 34 provinces of Afghanistan in October 2020.
The Taliban’s growing influence in Afghanistan can create tensions for India. New Delhi has changed its strategy towards Afghanistan’s radical group and opened the communication channels for peace talks. Experts say that it’s a major shift in India’s foreign policy after decades of holding a tough stance against the Taliban.
India has been heavily investing in Afghanistan since the US-led allies toppled the Taliban in 2001. Over the past decades, many nurses, doctors, engineers and labourers have been deployed by the Indian government to support the Afghan government’s welfare programmes.
However, it is a bit early to get an idea of the impact of direct and indirect control of the Taliban’s rise back to power. For the time being, there should be no doubt that their growing power in Afghanistan and extremist Islamic ideas could pose a threat for the world in general and possibly alter the situation in Kashmir in particular eventually.