The Taliban made a rapid advance in the country after the United States and allied forces withdrew their troops. The Taliban took Kabul in just 11 days after the country’s then-president Ashraf Ghani fled the country citing that he did so to “avoid bloodshed”. Afghan military forces literally gave up and fled as the Taliban advanced leading the militant group to take over the country. Afghanistan is today witnessing a mass exodus of tens of thousands flocking its main airport in an effort to leave the country. It is so shocking to see a group that was categorized as a terrorist organization take the seat of power in the country’s presidential palace. Many Afghans are set to flee after the Taliban takes over Afghanistan.
President Ashraf Ghani Flees
The former president Ashraf Ghani was said to have fled with millions in cash and has been blamed for the Afghan military’s lack of a will to fight. Afghanistan has been at war for the better part of the last four decades and its people are tired of constant battles and the unending resurgence of the Taliban. The Taliban are ruthless and in their rule from 1996 to 2001, the militant group imposed a heavily strict version of Sharia law that barred women from getting an education. The Taliban had also imposed a deadly justice system that saw offenders stoned to death and women who were suspected of infidelity killed. The group also conducted beatings and would heavily punish anyone for breaching the ‘dress code’. Today, similar scenes are being witnessed where there have been reports of women who have been suspected of infidelity being whipped.
The U.S Invested Upwards of $1 Trillion and Lost Thousands of Soldiers
The fall of Afghanistan is a very painful reality given that the United States invested over $1 trillion and sent thousands of troops to the country after the 9/11 attacks. After 20 years of fighting and losing thousands of soldiers with thousands more injured, the U.S decided it is time to withdraw. The idea is that the country accomplished what it had gone there to do, and that is to take down Al Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden. President Joe Biden denied that the U.S was in Afghanistan nation-building saying that the sole purpose of the last 20 years of the Afghan war was to ensure that it does not become a breeding ground for terrorists. However, as now the Taliban is in control, that could well be what happens if it is in the Taliban’s interest to facilitate such activities.
An Exodus to Flee Taliban Rule
Tens of thousands of people are flocking the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in efforts to leave the country, fearing reprisals and a reiteration from the Taliban. The United States government vowed to evacuate thousands of Afghans who helped its military and diplomatic efforts in the last twenty years. These include its embassy staff and Afghan translators. The country has been offering special visas to those who worked with its campaign in Afghanistan and President Joe Biden vowed to evacuate all of them by the 31st of August 2021.
Together with evacuations being conducted by other countries, the exodus has now been touted as one of the biggest airlifts in history. To ensure safe evacuations, the U.S deployed 6,000 troops to secure the airport in Kabul leading to unbelievable scenes of U.S military personnel just meters away from Taliban fighters. The U.S is currently securing the Hamid Karzai airport while the Taliban is ‘securing’ the outside of the airport.
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Third Country Temporary Destinations for Evacuees
According to President Biden, the Taliban has so far kept their word and ensured safe passage to evacuees. The United States began its pull-out during the Trump government and has been conducting ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. The Qatari government has been lauded for assisting in evacuation efforts and is one of the locations where evacuees will first be sent as they await the processing of their visas and facilitation to enter the United States.
The use of such third locations including others like U.S military bases and European nations such as Germany have been instrumental in ensuring that the U.S evacuates as many people as possible before the August 31 deadline. President Joe Biden had promised to evacuate all those who helped the United States and U.S citizens and personnel before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and thus the August 31 deadline. The Taliban also made a statement talking tough and saying that all foreign forces must leave the country by the 31st of August deadline.
Taliban Organization Revealed
In shocking scenes to the world, individuals who are on the terror watchlist and those that have been sanctioned due to affiliation with the Taliban are now crisscrossing the country acting as diplomats. In just the last week or so, there have been appearances from numerous Taliban members and officials in what has revealed a lot about the Taliban and those in power in the organization. For anti-terror forces and international security apparatus such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, and the National Security Agency, NSA, there have been more opportunities for intel and to unravel the structure of the Taliban organization in the last two weeks than there has been in decades. The same goes for international security organizations such as Interpol.
Taking Over an Already Fractured Afghanistan
Experts say that the Taliban are taking over a fractured economy and a society that is heavily traumatized by the war and numerous attacks by the Taliban. The Taliban cut their teeth with funds from collections of ‘tax’ and even crime-affiliated coffers such as money from the sale of illegal drugs. Afghanistan is notorious for growing Opium and the Taliban gets a good piece of the action. With that said, the freezing of the country’s finances by the U.S and the recent move by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to bar Afghanistan from accessing loans may not really impact the Taliban itself.
Analysts say that it is the people who will suffer as the rich will survive. There is also the notion that as long as the Taliban has enough to support its own, as it has done and even managed to wage a war against the U.S and allied forces in the country, then it could do without huge sums of money. There are also rumors that the group is sitting on a trillion dollars that it has managed to consolidate from mining. Whether this is true or not, there are concerns that the U.S and the international community may not have that much leverage in terms of sanctions or restricting or holding back funds for Afghanistan. Essentially, money may not be effective as a bargaining chip. Moreover, nations such as China and Russia may come in and provide what is needed to facilitate prosperity under Taliban rule.
Taliban Promises to Respect Women’s Rights
In its first press conference, the Taliban has indicated that it will respect human rights and the rights of women with a huge caveat “as per Sharia law”. The Taliban insisted that its government will be inclusive but was clear that it is not interested in elections or exercising democracy. A lot of the information coming out of the country is that there already have been efforts to infringe on the rights of women, a major concern for the international community.
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The Taliban have been known to attack schools, especially those where girls are getting an education, including universities in the capital. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that they will just take a completely different stance on women’s education and the role of women in society. In their previous rule, the Taliban did not allow women to work alongside men in offices. This time, it says that women will be allowed to work, alongside men, and even be included in its government. However, reports indicate that women who recently turned up to work were turned back.
Taliban’s Crackdown on the Freedom of the Press
A good part of those fleeing Afghanistan are journalists. The Taliban has a record of attacking and killing journalists, especially those from international media. That is not to say that it has not killed dozens of local journalists, with women journalists bearing the brunt. Just last week, the Taliban shot and killed a DW journalist’s relative. It is believed that international and even local journalists, especially women, are at risk of being attacked or killed by the Taliban, prompting them to leave the country. The Taliban is ruthless and relentless. The militant group is notorious for conducting suicide bombings, car bombings, and sending assassins to kill journalists or those who decry and condemn its insurgence. There are fears that the Taliban will use violence to censor the media.
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The Fear of an Upsurge in Terrorism
Afghanistan is undergoing a terrible plight. There are concerns that terrorist groups such as ISIS could re-emerge and the Taliban have been known to ally themselves with Al-Qaeda. One may then ask themselves, was there a point to fight a two-decade-long war only to leave the nation to its devices? Only the U.S can answer. Afghanistan will need a lot of aid and will take generations to recover from the brain drain that is currently going on with thousands fleeing the country and Taliban rule. The UN has been asked to step up with countries such as Qatar encouraged to lead efforts to negotiate the terms of Taliban rule, especially on issues pertaining to human rights.