After years and years of violent civil strife, a major shift appeared to be underway in the winter of 1995 in the nation of Afghanistan. More than 40% of the country was swiftly taken over by a new organisation of proclaimed Islamic Purists and Patriots of Afghan who literally drew their name from the word "students" and called themselves The Taliban.
Here we are, a quarter-century later, where after defeating a worldwide military alliance in a conflict that claimed the lives of tons of thousands of people, the once-student-proclaimed organisation are now the new rulers of the land of Afghanistan.
Introduction to the Saga of Taliban in Afghanistan
From 1996 until 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist organization dominated by Pashtuns. The organization was founded in the beginning of 1990s by Afghan mujahideen who had fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with the help of the CIA and Pakistan's ISI Directorate. Subsequently, it was reinforced by younger Pashtuns, students, and Pakistani ethnic groups. As it gained territorial authority, the Taliban administered a harsh form of justice based on the Pashtuns' pre-Islamic local law and sharia views. It involved prohibitive behavior such as requiring women to wear the head-to-toe burqa, banning multimedia, imprisoning men etc.
In 2001, however, a US-led intervention for sheltering Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the masterminds of the September 11 attacks destroyed the regime of Taliban. The group swiftly relinquished command of the country and retreated to southern Afghanistan and over the Pakistani border. They have since waged a nearly two-decade insurgency against Kabul's USA-backed administration, international coalition soldiers, and Afghan national military forces.
Peace Agreement between Taliban and USA
On February 29, 2020, the US administration and Talibani organization inked a peace agreement which aims at setting out for departure of the forces of the United States from Afghanistan after the due process of a year of bilateral negotiations. The terms of the agreement further entail that the USA shall undertake to reduce its troops in Afghanistan as well as execute a full pullout in 14 months. In exchange of which, the Talibani organization has agreed to prevent any terror organization from making use of the area under their command as well as to initiate talks with the Afghan administration in March 2020.
In addition, the Taliban and the Afghan State began talks on power-sharing. However, intra-Afghan discussions have made little headway. In the meantime, as part of the pact, the US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban started an attack having tripled the number of Afghan districts under their control.
The Uproaring Concern and Recent Events
After outlasting a superpower in two decades of war, the Taliban began taking enormous swaths of land, threatening to destabilize the government in Kabul once more in the aftermath of a foreign power's withdrawal. The Taliban has managed to gather control over major cities without fighting in many cases since government soldiers have retreated to spare civilian losses. According to reports from US intelligence assessment, the Afghan government may fall within six months of US military withdrawal.
The chaos has increased multifold in August 2021 with the massive withdrawal of US troops ordered by President Joe Biden. The situation in Afghanistan remains grim as thousands of people are desperately trying to flee the war-torn country after the Taliban seized the national capital, Kabul. Afghan people, as well as other nationals living in the country, are pleading for assistance, with armed rebels purportedly controlling more than two-thirds of the country. In addition, after taking full control of Kabul and capturing the presidential palace in capitol, a meeting of Taliban leaders is to be held in Doha to discuss future government plans.
Passing the Buck of Fault
It is certain that the situation of Afghanistan is the culmination of failure at the parts of both the Afghanistan Administration as well as the Government of the United States. The sheer lack of initiative by the US regarding the execution of the issued peace agreement has led to widespread violence in Afghanistan. The US administration has been accused by critics of undertaking a hasty, haphazard and disorderly withdrawal. Furthermore, as a response to the criticism about the execution of the withdrawal by President Biden, there has been a game of passing the buck to shift blame to the Afghan Government as well as the citizens stating that they have to fight for themselves.
The minuscule resistance from the Afghan Authorities, Government as well as Afghan National Defence Security Forces has left no stone unturned in this swift and chaotic takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. The Government and the Army comprises multiple units which are systematically corrupt and do not even contain efficient command and control. This complete dysfunctional force has played a major role in the downfall of the nation. The speedy takeover is a result of the US intelligence failure of the highest order as well as the collapse in the will to fight of the native Afghanis.
The Plight for Indian Authorities
The whole scenario is not a mere problem for Afghanistan, rather a total chaotic situation for the whole world, including India. The plight of India in the Afghan-Taliban issue comprises multiple facets. A meeting between the Cabinet, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs is to be conducted in order to include a series of briefings regarding the circumstances which arose in Afghanistan and to devise plans for the future.
Bringing home Indian nationals is the main tight spot for our nation to focus upon. In furtherance of this, a rescue operation via an Air India flight was conducted recently to fly back 129 passengers from Kabul to Delhi. Although successful, since then no commercial flight has taken off due to the havoc created in Kabul's International Airport. The Indian Air Force is charged to bring back diplomats, security personnel as well as the remainder of Indian citizens stuck in Kabul through C-17 aircraft.
The second major concern for India is to aid those Afghan citizens who had earlier allied with the government and are seeking to leave the nation. The Afghan citizens who have various ties to India such as training, education, families etc. have applied through the Indian Embassy for visas to come to India. The government has announced a statement to facilitate the Hindu and Sikh minorities of Afghanistan. However, no such statement has been officially made by the Government to provide refuge to the said thousands of refugees from Afghanistan in general.
Thirdly, the decision regarding the recognition of the Talibani regime is crucial for India since it had earlier supported the Afghan Government and had aided to build a democratic and constitutional mechanism in Afghanistan. Talibani regime poses a greater question towards India who has not only signed, along with 11 other countries, a statement stating that it will not recognise any government that has been imposed via the application of military forces but is also the UN Security Council President of August 2021. India has to take major decisions such as the possible sanctions towards the issues in Afghanistan as well as chairing committees on Talibani sanctions.
Even though the question regarding India's recognition of Talibani regime remains unanswered, it is important for the Indian government to establish and maintain channels of communication in order to engage the Taliban. Multiple ties including security officials and diplomats have been initiated to further strengthen the communication in order to protect Indian citizens and members of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. This furthermore aims at strengthening the logistical considerations of India in Afghanistan such as the use of Afghan airspace, humanitarian assistance as well as transit trade. The aim of the Government to do so was to avoid any situation like that of IC-814 hijacking, wherein India had no scope of contacting the Taliban and had to pay the consequences through casualties.
Lastly, the greater concerns of the Indian Government lies with making 'strategic choices' with Afghanistan since it houses Taliban's proximity to the establishment of Pakistan which might aid any anti-India terror organisation in Afghanistan for carrying out terrorist activities against India. The earlier-made strategic considerations such as Iran's Chabahar port for future connectivity shall be re-examined for the long run. Considering the stronghold of Pakistan's influence over the Taliban regime, it can be concluded that India's leverage with the new administration is most certainly to be severely limited.
The downfall in Afghanistan can be attributed to multiple aspects, may it be poor execution and withdrawal by the US administration or the corrupt and inefficient Afghan Government and Army. However, the cost has to be born by the citizens entrapped in the Taliban rigged state. The situation in Afghanistan has further become grim with various countries sending rescue teams to bring back their citizens from Kabul and other regions, while native people try to futilely cling to the rescue aircrafts and drop to their deaths from hundreds of feet. This combined with multiple acts of violence and terrorism by the Taliban has made the situation in Afghanistan a living Devil’s lair.