Where is Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US and allied forces?

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As the US military and allies exit accelerates, war-torn and Covid-19 ravaged Afghanistan faces a multifaceted transition. The country is once again in a position to turn to a political, economic and security transformation on a scale that could seriously affect its survival as a defensible, functioning state. The US and its allies have pledged to continue noncombat support, including funding for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). But that cannot be taken for granted. Afghanistan faces more violent, darker and more uncertain times. The direction the country will take after September 11, 2021 will depend on whether the conflict is resolved on the battlefield or through a negotiated solution.

Afghanistan could follow one of three directions. The first is that it will remain in the current course of the conflict for some time, with a chaotic and divided system of government in Kabul. This would depend on two major imperatives: that the ANDSF remain coherent and effective, and that the US keep its promise to fund $ 3.3 billion from the ANDSF’s more than $ 4 billion in annual funds and the defense operations of the To support ANDSF with air forces whenever Kabul or any other major city is in danger of falling victim to the Taliban. Even so, as suggested by American intelligence, the weak, divided, and kleptocratic government in Kabul may not last more than six months to two years. It is to be expected that this buffer would force the Taliban and its Pakistani backers to take a political solution more seriously.

The second option points to the possibility that the government in Kabul could collapse sooner because both the ANDSF are falling apart and the Taliban are moving quickly to stifle the big cities to surrender. The ANDSF is made up of employees from various Afghan micro-societies who are loyal to their ethnic and tribal strata. Some have already defected or surrendered to the Taliban with their weapons. Meanwhile, the Taliban have recently made rapid territorial gains and captured districts across the country.

If the Taliban take power in Kabul, they will be expected to rename the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and establish a strict theocratic order more or less similar to that introduced during their previous rule (1996-2001) had.

However, it would not be easy for the Taliban to enforce their lawsuit across the country. The militia is not very popular and its appeal does not cut across numerous political and social divisions in the country. Localized or regionalized deterrent forces have already begun to band together to combat them. The situation could result in a devastating, multi-faceted civil war in which Afghanistan’s neighbors and other regional actors battle for influence by supporting various groups, as was the case under the Taliban rule.

It is important to remember that the Afghanistan conflict is deeply intertwined with many regional and extra-regional problems, including the Indo-Pakistan dispute, the close ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the strategic relations between China and Pakistan, the Saudi Arabian Iranian rivalry, Iranian-Pakistani distrust, and US-Russia and US-China disputes. General Austin Miller, commander of the US-led forces in Afghanistan, has said that “Civil war is certainly a way that can be visualized … that should worry the world”.

The third option is a negotiated political solution for a power-sharing government and a transition to parliamentary elections for a people-mandated government within a few years. Such a regulation can only work if it is supported by a cross section of the Afghan mosaic population and regional actors as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council. But the current situation leaves little confidence in this regard. The Doha peace process has stalled. The Taliban feel hugely encouraged by their February 2020 peace agreement with the United States, which provides for a ceasefire only with American and Allied forces and no political agreement, and by the complete withdrawal of foreign forces by September. You have reasons not to be interested in a political agreement; they have already declared victory against the US and NATO and, after two decades of struggle, have the trophy of power in their sights.

A Taliban triumph would also spur al-Qaeda, with which the militia is still closely linked, according to UN reports. If the main goal of the Americans and the Allies was to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose attacks of September 11, 2001 sparked the US-led intervention, there is no way they can claim to have been successful.

At this point, it’s hard to be optimistic about the chances of reaching an agreement as it may be too late. However, this is not to say that, in the context of national unity and rescue, supported by the international community, Afghan leaders should not make urgent efforts to persuade the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters to compromise in support of saving Afghanistan from more disaster. It is very disappointing to see that the leaders in Kabul are still divided, arguing over the formation of a Supreme State Council with the executive powers necessary to make collective decisions on how to prevent the flood of Taliban advances and reassure the Afghan government can become people about their future.

In the ubiquitous environment of violence and insecurity, the current situation has already aroused panic and fear among citizens, which has led to an outflow of urgently needed skilled workers and capital. Most people feel trapped between the self-centered and confident leaders in Kabul and the very real prospect of the Taliban’s return to power. The threat posed by a return of the Taliban extends to the fear that they will reinstate their discriminatory and brutal theocratic order and thereby restrict the rights not only of women but of all citizens to a dignified and progressive life.

But the only political solution that has any prospect of success lies in a paradigm of interlocking national, regional and international consensus that can be enforced by the UN Security Council. The failure of such a political solution to the crisis is likely to weigh heavily on the leadership of Afghanistan as well as the US and its allies.



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