Analysis: Taliban Seated in Kabul. What Can The US Do?

Published August 16th, 2021 - 08:07 GMT
Taliban leaders in the presidential Palace in Kabul
Taliban leaders in the presidential Palace in Kabul (

It’s like nothing ventured nothing gained. The Taliban’s are back in Afghanistan; they swept over the country, controlling its major cities and then taking over the Kabul presidential palace in as little as few weeks.

Its leaders say they were especially surprised of how quickly they took over their prize possession Kabul, a capital they were kicked out off in 2001 once the Americans decided to militarily intervene in the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Their quick takeover of the country must show the deep malaise inside the American administration, the US military and of their NATO allies who literally spent billions of dollars over the last 20 years to prop up a government of their choosing with its usual democratic trappings of elections, institutions, assembly, police and armed forces.

It’s truly a sad day also, not so much because of the Taliban officials entering and taking over the presidential palace and Kabul but because of the fleeing of the Afghani president and his top aides first to neighboring Tajikistan – but he was denied entry – and then accepted in Oman while leaving the bride at the alter so to speak. It is suggested Oman is just another stop, a bridge to the United States.

Regardless of whatever reasons he gave about the need to avoid bloodshed his move was seen as a cowardice act especially since some of his top compatriots in cabinet like Abdullah Abdullah who heads the National Reconciliation Council have stayed behind and according to reports has formed a three-man council with Ex-President Hamid Karazi and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to negotiate the smooth transfer of power to the Taliban.

When news was heard the Taliban took Kabul a nationwide panic took hold especially in the city with people and their families hurriedly packing up and heading towards the Hamid Karazi International Airport in a bid to find a flight to take them out of the country. Thousands of people surrounded the parameters of the airport. And it is reported few hundreds of them stormed the runaway and forced themselves on planes.

Pictures speak louder than words. Some of them tried to grab the airplanes’ wings and some held onto the tires of the carriers with a few of them remaining till they fell on people’s house in the capital city and killed themselves as reported by the social media.

The airport is currently being managed by American troops currently there to help evacuate diplomatic foreign staff, including those from the American Embassy in Kabul. However, they couldn’t stop the deluge of Afghanis trying to board the scarce amount of flights leaving Afghanistan.

Most international airlines have currently halted travels to the country and this is likely to continue until stability returns to the country. Appeal for calm from the new Taliban rulers has not done much good. People remember their rule between 1996 and 2001 and cringe at the form of archaic fundamentalist Islam they imposed on the country.  The fact is its spokesman Mohammad Naeem appealed for calm and that everything will be alright is still yet to sink in because people still remember the harsh treatment under their rule and the way they treated both women and men.

However, he did say the war is over and thanked God for that. While he had stern words for foreign powers and the fact that the Taliban “will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone,” he reiterated Afghans should resume daily activity and that civilians should be afraid of nothing. But amongst the chaos this may be hard to do with Kabul looking like a ghost town with people are either hiding in their homes or making their way to the airport.

In some ways Afghanistan is turning into an incredible story. It would be wrong to suggest nobody thought the Taliban was coming back. The ongoing talks now in Doha and last year emphasized by the Afghan Agreement made under US auspices paved the way for their return under a power-sharing agreement with the existing government in Kabul which is now in tatters.

Taliban officials already said that they will not work with Ashraf Ghani and want him gone, which he did, but they may be still susceptible to working with people like Abdullah and come to some kind of an arrangement, but with their swift takeover, nobody is quite sure that will now happen.

American president Joe Biden is now under the stick too for committing to US troop withdrawal by 31 August. He has recently been criticized by former president Donald Trump for the current deteriorating security situation. But Biden says he is only implementing the agreement agreed to by the previous Trump administration who committed America to withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Thus whose blame is neither here nor there but what is important is both leaders agree the US must end its “forever wars” which it got itself into first in Afghanistan, then Iraq and other places around the world.

However, it’s still touch and go. Starting July America had only 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and 1000 of these had been reallocated to the Kabul Airport to help evacuate American and other foreign citizens. However, these were quickly boosted to 6500 troops within just 48 hours depending on the gravity of the situation. This surely points out to the fact that America could very quickly boost its military presence in the area, which it had previously said it can do.

But up till now Biden and the military establishments are holding their nerve and sticking to the end of August deadline and waiting for the different Afghan factions – both existing politicians and the Taliban to see what they will do. Can they rescue the country and bring stability or will the Taliban ride roughshod over Kabul and re-establish one-movement rule in Kabul or will they share with the other parties?

Both the Islamic faction and the Americans are still playing for time and how much they can get out of the current situation. This is not 1996, the Taliban want to be rehabilitated in the world and establish relations as they say with many and different countries and they can’t do that unless they unite Afghanistan.

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