The Taliban insurgents on Sunday stormed across Afghanistan and seized power two weeks before the U.S. was set to complete its troop withdrawal after an expensive two-decade war. Just last week, US intelligence analysts had predicted it would likely take several more weeks before Afghanistan’s civilian government in the capital Kabul fell to Taliban fighters but it has taken just a few days.
Taliban militants stormed across the country, capturing all major cities, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies put up little resistance. The insurgents were two decades ago driven from the capital city by US troops.
Why Afghans are fleeing their country
Afghans have been fleeing for their lives since Monday, with thousands flocking Kabul Airport. The fear of the Taliban is so evident that on Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters saying he did not want to be part of any bloodshed.
Many feeling are worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with the US troops or the government. Many also fear the Taliban will re-impose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that the Taliban relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home; the Taliban also banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left. The Taliban have sought to present themselves as a more moderate force in recent years and say they won’t exact revenge, but many Afghans are skeptical of those claims. A major thing that worries people is that the insurgents want to rename the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is what they called it the last time they ruled.
Speculation on what led to the Taliban take-over
There has been speculation that the Taliban has resurfaced with its fierce take-over because U.S. troops are set to withdraw by the end of the month (August, 2021). The U.S. has been trying to get out of Afghanistan, which is its longest war yet.
American troops in the past ousted the Taliban in a matter of months when they invaded to root out al-Qaida, which orchestrated the 9/11 attacks while being harbored by the Taliban. But it has reportedly proved more difficult to help rebuild a nation battered by constant wars. Last year, former U.S President Donald Trump announced a plan to pull out and signed a deal with the Taliban that limited U.S. military action against them. President Joe Biden not too long ago then announced that the last troops would leave by the end of August. As the U.S troops withdrawal deadline drew close, the Taliban are said to have begun a rapid offensive city after city up to the point where they have now taken over the Capital, Kabul.
Why Afghan security forces collapsed
The U.S. and its NATO allies reportedly spent billions of dollars over two decades to train and equip Afghan security forces. However it is alleged that Western-backed government was rife with corruption. Reports emerged of commanders exaggerating the number of soldiers to siphon off resources, and troops in the field often lacked ammunition, supplies or even food. It is said that the morale of the Western-backed government further dwindled especially with revelations of plans of the withdrawal by the U.S.
What next for Afghanistan?
A metropolis of six million has turned into a slow city without police or traffic controls and with shuttered businesses everywhere.US officials have appeared to admit that they miscalculated the speed at which the Taliban were able to advance across the country, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying:
“The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force (Afghanistan’s national security forces ) has been unable to defend the country … and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”
U.S President Joe Biden says his government does not regret the decision to pull out. Asked why there seemed to be no plans to evacuate Afghans given the pull out of US troops, Biden said many of them had in the past expressed desire to remain hoping there was hope for restoration in their nation.
Many observers worry that a return to Taliban rule is a return to the Afghanistan of two decades ago, when women’s rights were severely restricted. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, in a tweet called for protection of human rights, and urged all countries to accept Afghan refugees and refrain from deportations.
“As the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart, I urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees & refrain from deportations. Afghans have known generations of war & hardship. They deserve our full support. Now is the time for solidarity.”
The Taliban say they want to form an “inclusive, Islamic government” with other factions, and that they are holding negotiations with senior politicians, including leaders in the former government. They also say that they have pledged to enforce Islamic law but will provide a secure environment for the return of normal life, however many Afghans do not trust the Taliban and fear that their rule will be oppressive.