What next for Afghanistan?
Before we delve into how the future looks for Afganistan today, we must look at the events of history which brought Afghanistan in the state it is today.
After the withdrawal of Soviet Troops in 1989, the country was thrown in state of civil war. From this civil war, emerged the a group better known as ‘Taliban’ now. After a long and bloody civil war of 10 years, Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1998. They vowed to fight corruption and improve security, but also followed an austere form of Islam.
They enforced their own hard line version of Sharia, or Islamic law, and introduced brutal punishments. Men were made to grow beards and women had to wear the all-covering burka. TV, music and cinema were banned. During this time, several fundamental Islamic organizations like Al Qaeda found safe haven in Afghanistan.
In 2001, Al Qaeda, conducted biggest terrorist attack on US in which nearly 3000 people were killed. Officials identified Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, and its leader Osama Bin Laden, as responsible. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban. When they refused to hand him over, the US intervened militarily, quickly removing the Taliban and vowing to support democracy and eliminate the terrorist threat.
In 2004, with help of US, a democratic government was established in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai became first president of the country. Taliban and other Islamic groups regrouped and Taliban attacks continued.
In 2014, at the end of what was the bloodiest year since 2001, Nato’s international forces ended their combat mission, leaving responsibility for security to the Afghan army. That gave the Taliban momentum and they seized more territory.
Peace talks between the US and the Taliban started tentatively, and the agreement on a withdrawal came in February 2020 in Qatar. The US-Taliban deal did not stop the Taliban attacks – they switched their focus instead to Afghan security forces and civilians, and targeted assassinations. Their areas of control grew.
US president Joe Biden announces that all US troops will leave Afghanistan by 11 September 2021. In just over a month, the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, taking control of towns and cities all over the country, including Kabul. Afghan security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance.
A couple of months after US withdrawal, Afghanistan’s future appears grim.
It faces severe economic stress and humanitarian crisis. Experts warn Afghanistan could soon become the world’s worst, and a relentless threat of terrorism.
The current semblance of government in Afghanistan is led by brutal Taliban organization. And this time, all the terrorist groups like Haqqani Network et al, have become part of the government.
What is expected?
Predictions about what the future holds for Afghanistan must take into account a complex mix of political, social, religious, economic, and cultural issues.
The international aid enjoyed by Afghanistan has been scaled back which has resulted into acute economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Taliban are struggling to address these complex challenges.
Even though the Taliban regime vows to give shelter and prevent any group from using Afghan soil as a base for terrorists attacks on any country. It will be difficult to ensure this, since many of the militant organizations are now part of Afghanistan government.
Taliban is moving towards imposing strict Sharia laws in the country which means human rights of the citizens will be severely affected, especially those of women.
Emergence of the regional branch of the Islamic State group – ISKP (Khorasan Province) which the Taliban oppose may lead to another civil war like situation in the country.
Taliban is a Sunni group and comes mostly from the Southern part of the country. They are against the Shias and other thnic communities like Hazaras. These communities are expected to face brutal backlash from Taliban.
Education, Media and Cultural arts like music and dancing are not allowed by Taliban.
The Taliban’s takeover may encourage other extremist groups to copy the Taliban model. Jihadist groups that operate in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya believe that their resilience may lead to victory against the governments they have fought.
Afghanistan has been one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Taliban government in Afghanistan is likely to behave the same way. They use Islamic laws to legitimize their corrupt activities.
Afghans weary of persecution by the Taliban will be desperate to leave the country, creating more opportunities for human-smuggling networks. Human-smuggling networks will thrive in the region.
Overall Afghanistan is going to remain flux. Most likely, Afghanistan will become a haven again for salafi-jihadist terrorist groups, the government will continue to grapple with difficult political and economic issues, the drug trade will flourish, and Afghans will be persecuted under Taliban’s twisted version of sharia law.