Factors Influencing the Escalation of the Civil War in Afghanistan

Published September 14th, 2021 - 08:37 GMT
growing concerns about the Taliban's approach and security in Afghanistan, have raised the threat of civil war in the country
With arms at ease for the moment, a militiaman attached to Afghan army relaxes atop armoured personnel carrier on April 23, 1992 in Jalalabad road 20 kilometers south of Afghan capital. / AFP / Douglas E. CURRAN
Growing concerns about the Taliban's approach and security in Afghanistan, have raised the threat of civil war in the country.

By Farzad Ramezani Bonesh & Zahra Darbandsari

Senior researchers and analysts of international affairs

The senior US general's recent warning (Mark Milley,) about the outbreak of civil war in Afghanistan, as well as growing concerns about the Taliban's approach and security in Afghanistan, have raised the threat of civil war in the country. Following the rapid advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the fall of the Kabul, a front of resistance against the Taliban was formed in the Panjshir Valley, northeast of Kabul, with Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, becoming its main figure. In the last few weeks, the Taliban attacked Panjshir and put a lot of pressure on it, but the Taliban failed to achieve major success.

The role of army survivors

The reasons for the defeat of the Afghan army are various. According to an interview with Yasin Zia, the former chief of staff of the Afghan army, on the Afghan International TV Network, the Taliban’s overcome was not a military defeat for the army, but was primarily rooted in political defeat and the betrayal of politicians.

However, some of the army forces are hiding in different areas and are still preparing to determine the situation. Redeploying Afghan Army Forces and returning of some Air Force survivors may increase leadership against Taliban. Meanwhile, the settlement of army survivors by the Taliban could also play an important role in increasing opposition to the Taliban and helping to escalate the civil war.

About 40 aircraft and operational helicopters have been taken over by the Taliban, but ,The threat of civil war will be heavy if the fugitives change their orientation or return to their ethnic and tribal affiliations and take over the leadership of local militias.

Strengthening the opposition and the National Resistance Front

But there were several obstacles in the way of the peace that led to the frailer of the talks, such as the Taliban's lack of extensive concessions, lack of mutual distrust, the lack of guarantees, and the lack of a powerful mediator.

The Panjshir Valley is militarily difficult to access. The area did not fall to the Taliban’s hand in the 1990s and had not been occupied by Soviet troops before. Even now, there is guerrilla resistance in Panjshir and surrounding provinces. If the Hizara Resistance Front, which is currently based in Behsud, increases the scope of its opposition, it can play an important role in escalating the civil war.

Although there are doubts about the Taliban's ability to form a strong central government and the credibility of the Taliban, the resistance front led by Ahmad Massoud is set to announce the structure of a ‘democratic and accountable transitional government’. Meanwhile, with the support of figures such as the Jamiat-e-Islami party, Salahuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Atta Mohammad Noor, and the Northern People's Council, the opposition may be able to regain power. If the Taliban fail to prove their ability to provide day-to-day services and security, legitimacy is lost and discontent arises

After the message of Ahmad Massoud and the call for a ‘public uprising’, the people have a tendency to resist in some parts of Afghanistan. The cyberspace of Afghan citizens has also reacted very sharply to the direct and indirect presence of Pakistan.

Apart from Afghan demonstrations in Iran, Europe and the United States against the Taliban and Pakistan, Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Herat, Parwan and Daikundi have also been the scene of protests against the Taliban and Pakistani intervention in Kabul. Rising civil protests, along with continuing military conflict, could provoke opposition to further confront the Taliban and escalate the civil war. If fighting continues between the Taliban and the National Resistance Front, militant groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda will also enter the fray.

The role of recognizing the Taliban in the escalation of the civil war

Amrullah Saleh, citing the provisions of the Afghan constitution, declared himself the acting President of Afghanistan. Ahmad Massoud also in Panjshir and asked for international aid.

The Taliban are now trying to increase their chances of international recognition. But, most countries insist on forming an inclusive government with other groups and forces by Taliban. Meanwhile, more regional and international actors paying attention to support the Taliban’s opponents could increase the ability to maneuver against the Taliban. Also, the danger of the expansion of the National Resistance Front could attract more international actors’ attention.

Many other countries are concerned about Afghanistan becoming a 'terrorist hub' and the possibility of the birth and reproduction of international terrorists and their extradition to the region and beyond, and the growth of extremist Islamists. However, the alleged presence of international fighters including those from Chechens, could reduce the likelihood of recognizing the Taliban in favor of Amrullah Saleh.

Meanwhile, the lack of recognition of the Taliban in the short term will cause many actors to pay attention to the National Resistance Front. This, along with the decision on Afghanistan's permanent representative to the United Nations, could play an important role in the escalation of the civil war and reducing the Taliban's dominance.

Different factions of the Taliban and the danger of escalating the war

There are different factions with very different views in the Taliban. Confrontation between the Pashtun sects: "Durrani" and "Ghilzai" may also occur among the Taliban. the Taliban's beliefs are a mixture of their superficial understanding of Islam and the beliefs, ethnic customs and traditions of the Pashtun or Pashtunwali tribes.

The Taliban is facing the risk of objecting of their middle leaders to the transfer of power or other important decisions. handing over security to the Haqqani network has reduced the power of the pragmatic and moderate factions in Kabul.

The distance between the way of looking of two pragmatic and moderate factions to various crises may increase. These differences could greatly increase the risk of a ‘civil war’. If extremist factions within the Taliban strongly resist any change, thousands of non-Pashtun Taliban forces may change course in favor of the opposition and escalate the internal conflict.

Bankrupt economy and intensifying insurgency

In fact, the Taliban cannot do whatever it wants. Restrictions on the provision of economic resources are important. Afghan society has made major differences. Cultural change and rising living and welfare expectations Afghanistan are beyond the Taliban’s power.  The Taliban are facing financial and logistical difficulties, and international aid has been cut off. The risk of 3,000,000 displaced people and the need for about 14 million people in need of assistance and increasing of COVID-19 cases are also major challenge. If the Taliban fail to reorganize the economy, and sanctions begin, the risk of insurgency and civil war escalates.

Taliban totalitarianism

Almost all factions of the Taliban want a centralized and strong system. But the gap between the reality and the Taliban's ideas is wide. Forming an inclusive government is the Taliban’s last choice.  Although the Taliban have declared their one-party government ‘temporary’, allegations of civilian killings, ‘war crimes’, house-to-house inspections, and widespread human rights abuses could increase opposition and increase the risk of civil war.

In addition, people are also armed in many areas, With a large number of weapons in the hands of the people, there is a danger of an uprising. The Taliban have the facilities and equipment of a military force. But the start of a full-scale war by the Taliban will spread the war to other parts of the country, especially the northern, northeastern, northwestern and central provinces, engaging the country in a civil war and even leading to disintegration.

The Taliban and its relations to terrorist groups

According to a UN report in June, between 8,000 and 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters have recently entered Afghanistan. Some of them support al-Qaeda or ISIS.  However, there are ambiguities in the type of relationship between the Taliban and terrorist groups, and if this relationship is strengthened, in practice this raises the concerns of the international community and increases the involvement and role of foreign actors as well as the spread of civil war.

The Taliban's departure from the criteria of ‘jihad’ for the group's commanders and fighters risks separating the group's extremists and fighters and joining more extremist groups.


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