The swift surge of the Taliban has surprised many around the world.
Twenty years after they melted away as the United States-led NATO troops entered Kabul, the Taliban soldiers stood at the gates of power. The elected government of President Ashraf Ghani has surrendered, and the Taliban are negotiating with the government leaders over the transfer of power in Doha. The term ‘Transfer of Power’ is a euphemism for the collapse of a democratically elected government.
American and the Western European leaders, who proclaim themselves to be the apostles of democracy had shamelessly stood by as the Taliban forces swept through Afghanistan, and the Ashraf Ghani government showed itself to be spineless. The question being debated in western media is how is it that the Taliban succeeded, and how did the democrats collapse. It is being conceded that the Taliban enjoy the confidence of rural Afghanistan, especially of the elders of the community, and therefore their takeover of the countryside has been almost a cakewalk.
This is also mainly due to the fact that leaders who had enjoyed power in the 20 years have been corrupt and inefficient. The people had lost faith in the democratic system, and that is why they are willing to surrender to the Taliban.
It is also being argued that the Taliban of 2021 are modern, better educated and belong to a new generation compared to the Taliban of 2001 who refused to surrender Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. And, therefore, the Taliban negotiating at Doha and its soldiers standing at the gates of Kabul are only too willing to negotiate and make peace with the West, and that they are seeking the revocation of the United Nations’ sanctions against it, especially its status as a terrorist organization.
The Taliban are then seeking diplomatic recognition and they want Afghanistan to be part of the world bodies with them heading Afghanistan.
As an orthodox religious group, they are going to undo all the advantages the people of Afghanistan had had in the last 20 years, especially in the fields of education and women’s employment.
The Americans and Europeans have thrown the people of Afghanistan before the mercy of the group. It is quite unlikely that the Taliban will allow dissent in the country, nor will they allow social freedoms for women and youth. The Taliban may not be as tough as they were in the period between 1996-2001 when they ruled the country with an iron hand, whipping people, forcing men to wear beards, and not allowing the then Afghan football team to wear shorts instead of trousers. It may be the case that the whimsicalities that the Taliban had then displayed may not be there this time round.
It is also not clear how much ground they will yield to other political players because a coalition requires compromises, leaving ground to rivals on some issues and get their own demands accepted. The Taliban have taken over Afghanistan with the force of arms.
They did not win power through a democratic contest. And they have not so far declared that they believe in democratic sharing of power.
By indirectly facilitating the Taliban to take over the country, the Western countries have betrayed the hopes and dreams of the Afghan people for a life of opportunity. And the Western leaders, especially American President Joe Biden, should be hanging their heads in shame.
The Taliban are in a strong position and they are not obliged to yield ground to their political rivals. What restrains Taliban are their desire to be recognised as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.