The Taliban’s seemingly sudden takeover of Afghanistan shocked outside observers, but they have been steadily building their power base for a year to the point where they have faced no resistance, Tasmia Tahira and Matie Tareen argue
The United States’ hasty withdrawal precipitated political crises in Afghanistan, culminating with the government’s sudden collapse.
Undermined by the US February 2020 agreement with the Taliban, Ashraf Ghani’s government begin to lose its grip first over rural and remote areas and then on cities.
As of this week, the Taliban captured local districts across 34 provinces and all major cities at breathtaking speed. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban has ended the US’s longest mission to remake the country.
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As news outlets report the Taliban’s swift retake of Kabul, a lot of concerns focus on the foreigners and their Afghan aides left in Afghanistan.
This debate has very little concern over the effects a Taliban victory would have on the Afghans’ lives.
The Taliban is claiming to establish an “open, inclusive Islamic government” and restoration of the previous name ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
This was the official name of Afghanistan under Taliban rule before their government was overthrown by US-led forces following the 9/11 attacks.
But it appears that the Taliban are holding their plan and carefully observing the international and local response over their manoeuvres.
Fearful of the Taliban’s cruel rule in the past, many people are rushing to leave the country at any cost.
Scenes of Afghans trying to cling to the airplanes leaving the Kabul airport show their anxieties and fears regarding the Taliban and signify the shattered dreams of the generation of Afghans coming of age with the ideals of modernity and freedom.
For Afghan women, Taliban capture means losing everything; their ambitions, goals dreams, identity, or whatever they achieved in the last 20 years.
They are scared as they would no more be able to choose what to wear and what to not in the public spaces. A sense of grief and panic has gripped the entire country.
The Afghan elite has walked away, siphoning the money poured by the West over the years to build the country and its defence forces.
Afghanistan’s military force appears to be a ghost force, not even able to stand against the Taliban onslaught for a few days.
The collapse of the Afghan military began when they brokered deals with the lowest ranking Taliban in villages and small towns in the last year. According to a US and Afghan official, the Taliban were offering money to the military personals in exchange for weapons, paving the way for surrender.
Over the next few months, emboldened by initial success and agreement with the US in February, the deals extended to the cities and provincial capitals, finally concluding the negotiated surrenders by almost all Afghan forces and police across the country, triggering the exodus of the Afghan government.
While entering Kabul, they found no resistance and abandoned check posts. The talks in Doha aimed to end the long-drawn war in Afghanistan demoralised Afghan forces and created uncertainty, prompting mass surrender of officials.
The Taliban’s dramatic takeover of Afghanistan on August 15 was not expected that soon and stunned people across the globe.
After fighting only for nine days, they entered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Even though this triumph seems hasty, through their diplomatic and strategic tactics, the Taliban had prepared well before to take over the government.
Their diplomacy was truly ahead of Ghani who resisted the ever-triumphant Taliban.
Given the fact they had no financial and moral ground, the defeat of the Afghan army was always on the cards.
The good thing is that, unlike their previous takeover, this time Taliban have not resorted to bloodshed.
What the future will offer to the poor souls of Afghanistan is uncertain at this stage. However, some of the immediate losses in the shape of women’s rights and rollback of the political, social, and economic development of the last two decades are imminent.
We are hoping for peace for the ever-hurt Afghan men, women, and children.
*Tasmia Tahira is a founding member if the national research network Middle East and Islamic Studies (MEISA) hosted by the University of Otago. Tasmia and Matie Tareen are also doctoral students at the Center for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University Wellington Campus.