Can the Taliban Deal With The Afghan Crisis?

Published June 28th, 2022 - 06:29 GMT
A Taliban guard
A Taliban guard. (AFP/ File Photo)

Last summer, a new chapter in the Afghanistan crisis began with the presence of the Taliban in Kabul and the escape of Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani. Although various reasons led to the winning of the Taliban and its achieving a significant military victory, the course of developments and the crisis showed that the crisis in Afghanistan will remain. In fact, the continuation of the crisis in Afghanistan is due to various ideological, cultural, political, economic, domestic, and foreign factors.

Regional and international factors: 

Regional and international actors over the past few decades have always played an important role in perpetuating the crisis or stabilizing the situation and achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. In the current situation, regional and international factors in several important dimensions affect the continuation of the crisis in the country.

On the one hand, the position of countries and the lack of international recognition of the Taliban by regional and international actors play an important role in perpetuating the crisis and leaving ambiguity in future interactions with the Taliban.

There are various obstacles to that way of recognizing the Taliban. Despite the desire of some countries to formally recognize the Taliban government, major and influential actors in Afghanistan such as the United States, China, Russia, the European Union, Iran, and India have different conditions such as the formation of an inclusive government, human rights and the fight against terrorism to identify the Taliban. Even Pakistan has certain concerns about Afghanistan. So far, no country has recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, which has perpetuated and reduced the Taliban's power in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, despite the neutral, critical attitudes and widespread regional and global opposition of actors and international organizations towards the Taliban, there has been very little multilateral and pervasive political and economic pressure on the Taliban. In fact, the continuation of the current situation or the global non-acceptance of the Taliban, the lack of widespread pressure on the group’s leaders, and the lack of widespread support for the Taliban’s opponents have practically provided a good platform for the continuation of the crisis in Afghanistan.

Global geopolitical competition and Afghanistan: Another major reason for the continuing crisis has been the deviation of the foreign policy of the ruling governments from the policy of positive balance. In recent decades, this shift in foreign policy has provided the necessary impetus for foreign intervention and increased the scope of the crisis by generating sensitivity on the part of the foreign party or parties.

Internal political and military factors

Historical potentials of the crisis: Being in a barrier position between South and Central Asia, the confluence of several cultural and civilizational realms, and its landlocked position; having a competitive atmosphere for actors; The potential of guerrilla warfare; The influence of Afghan political actors on the geopolitical rivalry of foreign actors, etc., have led to a suitable space for reproducing and continuing security and political crises.

Military fluid status and the growing power of the Taliban's political and military opponents: Since the beginning of the Taliban's presence in Kabul on August 15, 2021, several military and political groups have been active against the Taliban.

The most important of them, the National Resistance Front led by Ahmad Massoud, with about 8,000 to 30,000 troops (former military, local militias, and volunteer civilians), has played an important role in putting pressure on the Taliban.

Although the Taliban are now trying to prevent opposition groups from gaining strength by building an army of 100,000 and having a dominant hand on the battlefield, the history of military developments in Afghanistan shows that the situation is extremely shaky and fluid. In fact, the Taliban's inability to fully dominate all parts of Afghanistan has opened the door to a continuing crisis in the country.

In addition, in recent months, with the increase of domestic and foreign political groups and opponents of the Taliban, the amount of political and military opposition to the Taliban has practically increased. This is expanding the scope of the crisis in Afghanistan.

The Taliban's Internal Gaps and Challenges:

The further divergence of disgruntled commanders and non-Pashtun Taliban members (35,000 fighters) could also play a negative role in the Taliban’s power. Three main factions of the Taliban have different views. The relationship between the three factions of the non-Pashtun Taliban, extremists, and moderates is unclear. In recent months, the level of opposition, secession, and even military conflict between non-Pashtun Taliban and moderates and extremists has increased. In the current situation, the Taliban's inability to form a practical alliance and the risk of the opposition from middle-ranking commanders have played an important role in perpetuating the crisis in Afghanistan.

Presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan: Afghanistan has been home to many other groups, including the Islamic Party of Turkestan, al-Qaeda, and others. Despite the Taliban's promises to suppress and expel other terrorist groups, their presence in practice has helped perpetuate the crisis in Afghanistan. The presence of ISIS-K and other terrorist training camps in Afghanistan has led to a lack of sufficient confidence in various countries in the Taliban. In fact, turning Afghanistan into a "terrorist base" and reproducing international terrorists and exporting them to the world could add to the country's multiple crises.

Taliban dictatorship and disregard for the issue of inclusive government and inter-Afghan talks: Popular support for the Taliban has declined significantly, and most Taliban factions want a centralized system. In the last 10 months, there has been virtually no significant progress in the Taliban's focus on the inclusive government, the separation of powers, people’s participation, the role of the opposition and minorities, and inter-Afghan dialogue.

This kind of uniaxial is exacerbating the crisis in Afghanistan. The Taliban dictatorship and its indifference to the issue of the inclusive government, inter-Afghan dialogue, and the demands of women and civil society, practically encourage the anti-Taliban sentiments of the people and further reduce the legitimacy of the Taliban. Increasing reports of human rights abuses, torture and killings, forced migration, reduced employment, women's education, and participation, war crimes, etc. in Afghanistan have called into question the Taliban's rule and authority and fueled the crisis in the country.

Internal economic and social factors

Pan-Pashtunism and Ethnic Divergence in Afghanistan:  Ethnic prejudice is one of the most fundamental problems of governance, sovereignty and national authority in Afghanistan. Pan-Pashtunism has historically sought to conceal opposition to repression, but the ethnic and cultural reality of the country is something different.

In the current situation, the Taliban's attitude toward religious tyranny and Pan-Pashtunism strengthen the xenophobia of the country's citizens and lead to further crisis. In addition, the political instability of political alliances and the weakness of inclusive national identity have further exacerbated social and political crises in the country. The main problem of military-political opposition groups is the lack of practical unity. 

The collapse of the economy and the cycle of poverty and the human and food crisis: The reduction of foreign aid, the freezing of billions of dollars, the arbitrary actions of Taliban officials, the worsening economic crisis, famine, humanitarian and food crisis, and its consequences can pave the way for further economic, security and political crises in the country. If the Taliban's ability to provide services and reduce poverty and various economic crises in Afghanistan is not proven, it will face a drop in forces and an increased risk of insurgency and the continuation of political and security crises.

Opium planting and drug transit: Income from opiates in Afghanistan amounted to some $1.8-$2.7 billion in 2021. Drug financial turnover can encourage the crisis in the country, corruption, the strengthening of terrorist groups, and chaos.

Internally Displaced People and Afghan Refugees: About 3-4 million people have been displaced inside Afghanistan, in the last ten months. Nearly 1 million Afghans have also fled the country. In fact, the presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants in Europe and neighboring countries exacerbates the country's social and economic crisis. The intensification of people leaving Afghanistan also affects the type of intervention of foreign actors inside the country.

Risk Assessment:

Looking at the variables and factors affecting the causes of the crisis in Afghanistan, it should be said that although there are a variety of reasons to increase and perpetuate crises in the country, but the type of future choices of foreign actors, the opposition, and the Taliban (as the dominant power) in Afghanistan can be very important in reducing or increasing crises. This could lead to a full-blown civil war with the multiplicity of crises, or to the dissolution of a single-ethnic cabinet and the creation of a "united government." In the meantime, reducing the scope of crises in the current situation requires the international consensus of regional and international actors, the national convergence of domestic actors, retreating from the goals, and reaching a win-win agreement.

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