The Taliban have a saying for the American presence in Afghanistan. ‘You have the watch, while we have the time.’ This proved to be the ultimate nemesis of United States of America, world’s unipolar power, whose influence is receding like an aging old man’s hairs!
Well, 20 years later, the Taliban’s time has come as the Americans execute a messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has brought down Joe’s approval rating abysmally low. How easy it was for the Taliban to acquire major provinces of Afghanistan? It’s a moot question how did a relatively small group of militants defeated a regular army of over three lakh soldiers, well-trained in military strategies, especially by the supreme power of the world. Even for the United States this has been embarrassing to leave Afghanistan unceremoniously, in the most deceptive way in the middle of the night, by closing all lights of the airport and they flew up, up and in the tin air!
The surrender seems to have happened as fast as the Taliban can travel by American Suv or motorcycle with their Beretta guns slinging. In the past several days Afghan security forces had collapsed like pack of cards under the pressure of the Taliban advancement.
The high pressure offensive and targeted attacks had resulted in massive surrenders, captured helicopters and millions of dollar worth of US supplied equipment. This implosion come despite the US having poured over US$ 83 Billion in weapons, equipment and training into the country’s security forces over the past two decades.
If analysis is now done, war torn soldiers and policemen have expressed resentment of the Afghan leadership, officials turned a blind eye to what was happening knowing fully well that the Afghan forces real manpower count was far lower than what was on the books, skewed by corruption, like the PDS beneficiaries, till the Aadhaar authentication was implemented.
In interview after interview, soldiers and officers described moments of pain, frustration and despair and feeling of complete abandonment by their leadership.
The supply chain of the ration was never sufficient to feed the army. On one of the frontline in Kandahar; the Afghan security forces’ inability to fend off the Taliban came down to potatoes, while the Taliban fighters were feasting on the ‘Pilaf’ and ‘prized meat’ pieces. After weeks of fighting, one box full of slimy potatoes was supposed to pass as a unit’s daily rations. “These French fries are not going to hold these front lines!” an officer yelled. By Thursday last, the line collapsed, and Kandahar was in Taliban control by Jumma!
On the other hand, key is the fact that Taliban adopted an old tactic of revolutionaries. They had mingled into the masses. It was difficult to challenge them. If you want to kill a single Taliban you may have to kill 10-12 ordinary citizens. People of Afghanistan had been providing a strong shield to Taliban. Taliban has huge treasure in the form of minerals and precious metals besides Afghanistan is part of world’s most ambitious gas pipeline route for which United States, Russia and even Argentine has invested huge capital in anticipation of good gains. This game is going on for almost three decades. Now, there is an undeclared understanding among all stake holders in Afghanistan.
Taliban has agreed to protect commercial interests of United States and Russia and also agreed to open its market for China. Taliban has also assured China (and probably India too) about no intervention in their internal matters. Going with the previous experiences, the credibility of Taliban is at the lowest ebb. However, at present Taliban appears to have prevailed upon Ghani Government. Taliban has already declared its government and their government has got immediate recognition from China and Pakistan. It was expected also. America seems in hurry to leave Afghanistan but at the same time they want an assurance from Taliban not to stray beyond a point especially in laying of gas pipeline project. For India, United States is the only hope, through them they are hoping that Indian interests will also be taken care of. India has a strong lobby in the Middle East also besides its new found allies i.e. United States and Israel.
Iran on Monday “strongly” condemned the Taliban’s military offensive against holdout fighters in the Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, as the Islamist Group claimed it had taken control of the area. “The news coming from Panjshir is truly worrying,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters. “The assault is strongly condemned.”
Iran, the region’s dominant Muslim Shiite power, had until now refrained from criticising the Taliban since the Sunni group seized Kabul on August 15, 2021. Hazara, a prominent ethnic community is Shia, which came from Iran to settle in the northern region of Afghanistan. Iran, which shares a 900 kilometer border with Afghanistan, did not recognise the Taliban during their 1996 to 2001 stint in power.
Already host to nearly 3.5 million Afghans, and fearing a new influx, Tehran has however sought to sketch a rapprochement with the Taliban since their lightning seizure of Kabul amid the US withdrawal last month.
World is watching final act of Afghanistan with fingers crossed. Let us wait until curtain falls for Ghani Government. Acting’ President of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh released audio message clarifying that he is in Panjshir with his commanders and political leaders and fighting for the Afghanistan. Taliban have launched its offensive in the Valley but has made no significant gains so far. The ‘acting’ President also claimed that the Pakistani Army is in cahoots with the Taliban and aiding it in the invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan Special Forces are fighting for the Taliban along with the air force support by Pakistan.
Taliban is delaying government formation; fight with resistance forces for Panjshir continues, as Pakistan ISI and intelligence Chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed arrives in Kabul as Taliban set to announce government.
US President Joe Biden has said, America will continue its fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. President Biden warned the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) that America is not done with the terrorist group. The US President said, the US will hunt down all those who wish to harm America. Al Qaeda praises Taliban’s ‘historic victory’ in Afghanistan: A few hours after the last US troop left Kabul, Al Qaeda’s senior leadership released a congratulatory statement on Tuesday on the occasion of the “Taliban’s victory” in the war-ravaged country. They may also join the government. The Taliban also plan to make Kabul airport operational as soon as possible. A team of aviation experts have reached Kabul in Afghanistan to help the Taliban do the same?
Today, the Taliban is dealing with a different Afghanistan from the one it left behind 20 years ago. It has shown it can win a war with a rag tag but a determined terrorists, but can it govern itself? The country is a network of different ethicalities’ and tribal loyalties. Needless to mention, Afghanistan itself has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Its GDP grew from US 2.5 Billion in the year 2001 to US$ 19.8 Billion in the year 2020. India imports around US $ 1.2 Billion worth of dry fruits. Female literacy rate rose from mere 28 per cent in 2000 to around 43 percent in the year 2018. Internet connections increased to serve 13.5% of the population in 2018 from just 0.01 per cent in the year 2002, however the poverty rate, rose from 34 percent in the year 2007-2008 to 55 percent by the year 20016-2017, a shameful story of the level of corruption.
While the Taliban funded its insurgency through the sale of heroin in the international market and bought arms – that country accounts for over 90 percent of the world’s poppy cultivation, followed by Colombia, a Latam region nation: Nation – state cannot be administered by sale of narcotics and narcotics alone.
All is not lost in Afghanistan, from the debris of war the nation must rise and shine, there may be a small window of opportunity as the Taliban struggles to consolidate as the last resistance forces in the Panjshir region surrenders. In light of extreme hostilities by Pakistan. The leaders will soon realise that fighting a terror war and a global jihad is far easier than governing a country of 38 million inhabitants, especially where the median age is 18.4 or less, who have social media presence more than few Arab states and where students are willing to study in curtained classes, sitting separately with an artificial wall and girls will leave the classroom from a separate door and they are willing to wait in an adjacent room after the boys leave the school, the struggle is long, uphill and full of obstacles. This means average Afghan has not seen life under the previous Taliban. Afghan woman will lose their hard won freedom and where their national girl’s football team members had to destroy their hard earned laurels to lead a life of unknown warriors.
It will be difficult to forget the sight of desperate citizens falling to their death after clinging to the sides of a departing US plane, or of hundreds of Afghan hiding in a moat to leave the nation or of 640 more fortunate refugees, stuffed like sardines, inside an American cargo planes. These will be etched in my mind permanently like the crumbling twin towers of the New York skyline and people jumping from top floors and their heart wrenching cries! I had seen this live in the business class lounge at Mumbai Airport on the fateful day at around 6.40 pm India time.
Not many may not know, Google locks down Afghan government email accounts as Taliban looks for access. Height of American imperialism!
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