Sleeping With The Enemy: Taliban's Relations With The West

Published September 5th, 2021 - 02:53 GMT
(AFP File Folder)

Is this really a new era for Afghanistan? Well, we just have to wait and see how things develop. By a mixture of fate, irony and maybe American fatigue, the Talibans are back in power and the traditional democratic government in Kabul is out after being nurtured by the West for 20 years.

The clock seemed to have moved full circle. The Taliban took over rule in 1996, they stayed in power till 2001, kicked out by American military intervention for supporting Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda from purportedly being behind the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington and are back again. This time with American blessing.

But not so quick, easy and judgmental. America tried, poured a lot of money into Afghanistan with high security collateral that costs a lot of lives, both American and Afghanis while literally, trillions of dollars was spent on creating a “democratic” western model that may have been supported by the Afghani elite but rejected by the rest of society.

Then comes along business-president Donald Trump, looked at the extravagant military scene in front of him and said “we have to do something about that” because Afghanistan is a financial drain with no end in sight. In 20 years, it has cost the American taxpayer over $2 trillion and spiking upwards.

Thus started the Doha process. Yesterday’s terrorists, according to the dominant tale, were becoming today’s friends. The Talibans were invited to Doha under the American auspices and so was then the siting government of Afghanistan to try and come to some sort of an arrangement and start ruling. It was obvious that the Americans wanted out of the mess they have helped to create and by early 2020 signed an agreement that served as the slope for their military withdrawal from the country.

The Taliban, who had been negotiating while fighting government forces in Afghanistan had something up their sleeve; they wanted much more than a power-sharing agreement. They wanted the whole cake and nothing but the cake, and this is what they got through partly American fatigue and the inability of the Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani to ward off a dedicated team of fighters who easily beat an Afghani Army of nearly 200,000 that the Americans trained and equipped with the best technology of modern warfare.

But they were no match. This army begun to quickly disintegrate after the Taliban, who had around 100,000 fighters entered and took over Kabul on 14 August, 2021. They scurried off nobody nowhere. And it quickly became apparent that they controlled the whole of the country in little less than two weeks to everyone’s surprise, even US President Joe Biden whose dollars went to smithereens.

He just couldn’t believe the government would fall so quickly and without putting up a fight. The Americans must have been particularly upset because of the tremendous amount of military hardware they have been pouring into Afghanistan over the period of 20 years. These amounted to $85 billion worth of equipment that included over 64,000 machine guns, over 358,000 rifles, 22,170 Humvees, 7000 trucks and 109 helicopters.

These were all left behind when the last of the American soldiers departed for good on the 31 August 2021, but it must have been a dream come true for the Taliban who had ready top-notch equipment. This is the stuff armies and guerrilla warfare organizations dream about and can make or break.

When people heard the Taliban were coming there was a tremendous amount of panic, fear and the return to the old archaic world of Islamic interpretation; and this despite the fact the Taliban were trying to convince them there was a new plush movement that no longer believes in the old ways but wanted a new profile. Yes, they still want an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, but they wanted a new facelift one that would be in keeping with the modern times.

With the phrase seeing is believing, we are still waiting for the Taliban to make good on their words. Early days, maybe but the Islamic movement had been talking with the Americans for two years, since 2019, the have persuaded the Islamabad to release the Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in 2018. He had been in a Pakistani prison for the last eight years and has release was meant to be a goodwill peace gesture.

The fact that Barader met CIA Director William Burns last August in Kabul was another indicator of the cushy relations that have come to develop with the Americans. But this was stressed by the new Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid who never let an opportunity pass of stressing Taliban was a new organization.

He said Taliban’s international relations are now more focused with the movement seeking relations with all countries. America aside, he is already seeking to foster cooperation with Qatar and Turkey who are now for all intense and purposes running the operations of the Hamid Karazi International Airport which had been badly damaged recently. Notice both these two countries are strong western allies with Turkey a NATO member.

Besides Mujahid has also said the Taliban wants to build relations with China through the Beijing Silk Road Initiative, Moscow, India, Pakistan naturally and of course Europe through the European Union and including such countries as Britain, Italy, Germany and France. Whilst such overtures maybe made because of the utterances coming out of Brussels that the Europeans won’t leave the Afghanis by the sidelines because its “morally unacceptable”, there is still a long way to go. Europe is still to make up its mind over the new Taliban regime in Kabul.

Individual governments like Britain are saying cooperation over evacuation of foreign nationals is one thing but developing diplomatic relations is quite another. But its early days, and no doubt the Europeans will full into line with what the Americans will be doing and means recognition of the new government of Afghanistan regardless of the present criticisms that is being heard about the American troop pullout.

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