Tariq Saeedi and Elvira Kadyrova
Everyone is in disbelief at the speed at which the Taliban took control of Kabul. How? Just how?
— The short answer: They found the path of least resistance.
Here is the somewhat longer, though still incomplete, answer.
The conditions were ripe
- Ghost army, ghost police
The official figures put the strength of the Afghan armed forces to more than 300000. This based on the number of troops and officers who are on the payroll. The actual figures were dismally low.
According to some reports the actual number of police was 70% less than their numbers on the payroll. The difference was being pocketed by the warlords who claimed to recruit them.
The same holds true for the armed forces.
- Low morale, no sense of purpose
The morale of the armed forces and police was gloomily low because most of them were not being paid on time and their service conditions were far below the promised standard.
There was no sense of purpose. They got the impression, rightly so, that they were tools in the hands of warlords and the government in Kabul was of no consequence to their immediate bosses i.e. the local warlords.
- Rampant corruption
The people in Afghanistan were severely disillusioned about their government. The justice was absence, and there was no way to get justice.
There was severe disconnect.
- Cosmetic progress
Billions of dollars were poured into Afghanistan by the world. There is hardly a thing to show for it.
The projects done by the NGOs and organizations were of cosmetic nature. Just optics; just visuals.
In some cases all that was done in a project was its ground laying and the catchy photo shoot.
- Population felt helpless
The people were frustrated because they had nowhere to turn to for the redress of their grievances.
It was a frequent phenomenon that the armed soldiers from the Afghan army set up their entrepreneurial posts at random points on the road and extorted money from the passing vehicles.
It was also not uncommon for the army and police to take something from the shop and not pay for it.
There were reports of rape and abduction by the soldiers and police.
How the Taliban took advantage of it
This is a highly evolved version of the Taliban. They know how to convey their narrative to the media in a convincing manner. They use the social media just as effectively as everyone else. They seek and find the path of least resistance.
As they slowly started regaining control of some of the territories after their initial fall, they ensured a few things in the areas under their control: 1. Rough but quick and honest justice in open trials; 2. No extortion, no lawlessness; 3. Freedom of economic activity.
The word spread fast and the adjoining territories began to long for the Taliban rule except for those who were immediately benefiting from the sitting regime.
The Taliban were methodically preparing for the takeover of the country, fully mindful of the fact their victory would almost entirely depend on the goodwill in the hearts and minds of the population.
For several months before 15 August 2021, the day Kabul fell, the Taliban were negotiating surrender of the Afghan forces in return for general amnesty.
They designed a documented system of granting amnesty.
Any soldier or policeman seeking amnesty was given a certificate that the person’s photograph on it. All of these certificates were registered in a central document system. The Taliban authorities can compare the certificate with their own database to ascertain its authenticity. Anyone holding this certificate of amnesty is free to move in the entire territory under the control of the Taliban without any fear.
Such amnesty is also available to the people who worked with the occupying forces or anyone else who feels that the Taliban may have any reason to harm them.
The process of issuing the amnesty certificate took shape over several months during negotiations with the elders in each community. The certificate is signed by two elders from the community and the local commander of the Taliban.
The Taliban only entered a territory when the amnesty deal had been reached with the army, police and security personnel.
Simultaneously, the Taliban repeatedly made some announcements to allay the fears of the population: There will be no revenge, the markets and offices will remain open, the people can continue to go about their life without any fear, the women are free to move as long as they wear a hijab, there will be no victimization of anyone on the basis of ethnicity or sect, the Taliban will swiftly and sincerely respond to any complaints from anyone, etc.
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Actually, the Taliban wanted to wait at the gates of Kabul without entering the city. They were forced to change their decision when the saw that the police and security personnel in Kabul had abandoned their posts, creating the risk of lawlessness and looting.
Meanwhile the people on the streets of Kabul started chanting welcome slogans for the Taliban. When the Taliban entered Kabul, there are video clips of little boys rushing to hug them.
The fall of Kabul is certainly a moment of historic significance.
Hundreds of pictures are available on the Internet, documenting the progress of this event. Two of them will perhaps be included by the future historians in their books.
One picture is a group of the Taliban in the presidential palace in Kabul.
One of the Taliban is sitting in the chair of Ashraf Ghani, surrounded by his colleagues.
The man in the presidential chair recites the chapter 110 of Quran, the Surah Al-Nasr (The Divine Support).
Here is its translation:
When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest,
And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes,
Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of Repentance.
The other picture is of a Chinook helicopter evacuating people from the rood of the American embassy to the airport.
This picture is eerily similar to the picture of the last helicopter leaving the rood of the American embassy in Vietnam.
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It is sure that the former president Ashraf Ghani has fled Kabul. But, where is he.
There are conflicting reports.
He possibly flew to Tajikistan but some reports put his destination to Uzbekistan.
Is he in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan or has moved on to some other country? We are not sure.
What we are sure is that when he reached the airport on his way to some country, there were three SUVs full of suitcases stuffed with US Dollars with him. However, only one of them was allowed to enter the airport area; the one in which he was sitting.
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It is quite likely that the Taliban will appoint Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar as the president of Afghanistan. They will quite likely include some non-Taliban in the government.
The purpose would be to move to a fully inclusive government without letting any outside meddlers to corrupt the process.
In the Doha office during the recent round of talks, the Taliban have assured the delegations from various countries that they would ensure security of their diplomatic missions and citizens. They promised the sanctity of life and property of all.
It is understood that some countries including the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, and China, Russia and some other countries will not close their missions in Afghanistan.
In fact, on the sidelines of the Doha round, the Taliban discussed the ways for enhancing cooperation with the neighbours. For instance, they asked Turkmenistan to increase the supplies of LNG and food items.
On the other hand, the USA, the European and some other countries have shuttered down their missions and evacuated their staff for now.
* * *
The Taliban will speak to the media today (16 August 2021) and outline their course of action.
The Security Council is going to meet on the current situation in Afghanistan.
* * *
Russia has said that it will not hurry to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Together with this, Russia sees no chance of any uprising against the Taliban as long as they keep to their promises.
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[This part of the report was written by Ms. Elvira Kadyrova while the Taliban had still not entered Kabul}
International meetings on Afghanistan in Doha – declarations and reality
Last week, Doha, has hosted a series of international gatherings on Afghanistan.
At the invitation of the government of Qatar, special envoys and representatives of China, Uzbekistan, the United States, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the State of Qatar, the UN, the EU met in Doha on 10 August. On 12 August, the delegations of Germany, India, Norway, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan joined the international meeting.
In parallel, on Wednesday, 11 August, an extended “troika” consisting of Russia, the USA, China and Pakistan also met in Doha.
The discussions aimed at assessing the state of intra-Afghan negotiations, exchange views with the negotiating groups from the Kabul government and the Taliban on current problems and opportunities.
Following the results of the international meeting, a final statement was adopted. Perhaps the most notable point of the statement was that — “Participants reaffirmed that they will not recognize any government in Afghanistan that is imposed through the use of military force.”
By the way, the US State Department persistently spoke about the same-worded commitment of regional players on the eve of the meeting. In a recent interview with Voice of America, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, confirmed Washington’s implacable stance that Taliban-ruled Afghanistan would not be recognized by the international community and would become a pariah state.
As befits such declaratory documents, the statement urges both sides of the Afghan conflict to take steps to build trust and accelerate efforts to reach a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire as quickly as possible.
The paper outlines the converging guiding principles for a political settlement, shared by both conflicting sides: (a) inclusive governance; (b) respect for human rights, including the rights of women and minorities; (c) a mechanism to deliver a representative government, (d) a commitment not allow any individuals or groups to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of other countries; and, (e) respect for international law, including international humanitarian law.
Full text of the statement is available here: https://www.mofa.gov.qa/en/all-mofa-news/details/1443/01/04/participants-in-international-meeting-on-afghanistan-agree-on-need-to-accelerate-peace-process-and-call-for-immediate-end-to-violence
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Another noteworthy moment of the international consultation in Doha was the anti-crisis plan of Ashraf Ghani government, submitted to the Taliban by the Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah. According to Ariana News, sources say the plan calls for the formation of a joint government.
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Meanwhile, whatever diplomatic efforts are attempted to spur the inter-Afghan negotiations to the “substantive phase”, the real developments on Afghan soil until now and henceforth will take place not in strict line to the declarative statements, whoever adopted these statements.
The meetings in Doha, which aired well-prepared speeches and remarks by special envoys, ended with intentions and calls. Not to be blunt, but the last day’s events devalue such statements to A4 paper with printed text.
The Taliban continue to triumphally regain power. The Western expert and political community is tend to describe this process as “violence”, “military seizure of Afghanistan”, “bloody civil war”. However, let’s leave aside the word games, after all the essence does not change.
Here is need to recall a precedent from the history of a European nation. From the history curricula, taught at school, everyone knows the iron fist of the first Germany Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who in the second half of the 19th century gained unification of disparate German state formations into a national state, created a powerful industrial and political European empire. Bismarck reshaped the fate of Germany in not entirely peaceful ways, as he once told: “The great questions of the time will not be resolved by speeches and majority decisions […] but by iron and blood.”
Similarly, the new chapter in the modern history of Afghanistan is being written with “iron and blood”. The recent achievements of the Taliban look very illustrative in this context. At the end of last week, several influential political and military figures sided with the Taliban – they are the veteran of the Afghan wars, military commander Mohammad Ismail Khan, Abdul Rahman-ur-Rehman, the deputy interior minister of Kabul administration, Khayal Nabi Ahmadzai, the commander of Zafar corps of Herat administration, Abdul Sabur Qane, the governor of Herat, director of national security Hasab Siddiqui.
An inveterate enemy of the Taliban since the 1996-2001 civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik, nicknamed the Lion of Herat, is one of the most influential persons in the supreme council of the Islamic Society of Afghanistan party, pursuing moderate views. In the 1990s, under the leadership of Ismail Khan, who was popular among the field commanders of the south and south-west of Afghanistan, a commission was created that developed the “14 Provinces Peace Plan”.
The various media reports asserted that the Vice-president of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, has fled to Tajikistan, but the Tajik authorities deny this information.
Another Afghan military leader, Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, who returned to Afghanistan from Turkey early in August and promised to turn the north into a Taliban graveyard, was forced to flee the country again. After the capture of Mazar-I-Sharif by the Taliban, Dostum and the leader of the Afghan Tajiks, Atta Muhammad Nur took refuge in the Uzbek border town of Termez.
According to the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, on 14 August 2021, 84 soldiers of the Afghan government troops crossed the Afghan-Uzbek border. The Uzbek side provided medical assistance to wounded, food and temporary accommodation was organized.
In addition, some government troops crowded on the Afghan part of the Termez-Khayroton bridge. As of 15 August, they left the bridge on their own.
Since 13 August 2021, the Taliban have occupied the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Herat, Badghis, the cities of Mazar-I-Sharif, Jalalabad, the port of Aqina on the border with Turkmenistan, the city of Maidanshahr 46 km from Kabul. According to reports, the Taliban controls almost the entire territory of Afghanistan and all border crossings. Morning of 15 August, Kabul was surrounded.
However, Taliban shows no intention of military seize the capital. President Ashraf Ghani is on the verge of resigning.
On 15 August Taliban issued a statement, reassuring all neighbor countries that they will not create any problems for them and all the foreign diplomatic missions that a secure environment will be provided to them.
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Russia and Central Asia share common vision on the deployment of US troops in the region
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in a recent interview confirmed again that the Central Asian countries do not intend to host any US troop or military equipment leaving Afghanistan.
“The Americans, as you know, tried to negotiate with the Central Asian countries to deploy some of the weapons and armed forces being withdrawn from Afghanistan on their territory. Our position coincides with the position of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan: no one needs this, ” the top Russian diplomat stressed.
“Trying to create a new presence with the obvious goal of using force across the border on the territory of Afghanistan makes our allies hostages of American policy, which, unfortunately, have not shown positive results in this region and in other parts of the world,” he added.
According to Lavrov, Moscow is mainly concerned that “what is happening in Afghanistan will not be transferred to Central Asia, to the territory of the allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).”
He also noted that Russia supports an Afghan settlement with the participation of all political, ethnic, and confessional forces of this country, including with the support of international mediators.
In this context he mentioned the efforts, taken by the expanded troika. He also told that Russia is interested in involving Iran and other countries, in particular, India, in solving the Afghan problem in the subsequent stages.
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The foreign office of Turkmenistan reports that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan R. Meredov met with the US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Turkmenistan Matthew Stephen Klimow on 15 August 2021.
The parties discussed the current state of the Turkmen-American cooperation in various fields. At the same time, the effectiveness of close interaction between the diplomatic services of the two states was emphasized.
The diplomats also exchanged views on topical issues of regional and international politics of mutual interest. /// nCa, 16 August 2021 [pictures credit Aljazeera]