The repatriation of the US troops from Afghanistan in May 2021 observed a significant surge in Taliban domination starting from the villages. The Taliban had been fighting back the US Forces for the last 20 years. Amidst the US dominance, and Anti-Taliban elite class grew under the US support which looked very vibrant and offered a wide range of views, ideologies, and voices clamoring for inclusion. But the system of government established largely by the Bush administration in 2001 for a post-Taliban Afghanistan has proved incapable of fulfilling the aspirations of the dynamic society. Rather the hasty repatriation has led the country into serious political turmoil wherefrom most of the world is either taken aback or is belligerent about. In a tightly centralized political system where the president enjoys autocratic powers, the willingness of the Taliban to return to power is not illogical, mostly due to their long-held struggle with the US Forces. The dynamic multitude of the problems has juxtaposed serious problems for the country which demand an immediate solution.
The Taliban, which rose from the ashes of Afghanistan’s post-Soviet civil war, provides Al-Qaeda sanctuary for operations. After the attack of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration signed a joint resolution which later was cited as the rationale for combatting terrorism, invading Afghanistan, eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a court order, and standing up the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. military, with British support, began a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially named Operation Enduring Freedom where Canada, Australia, Germany, and France joined later. With a surge in the Taliban dominance in Afghanistan, the UN Security Council passed its Resolution 1378, calling for a “central role” for the United Nations for a transitional administration and inviting members for peacekeeping to promote stability and aid delivery. In December 2001 an interim government led by Hamid Karzai, who after seven months became the head of the government and an elected president in 2004 and 2009 terms, and the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF was formed to provide security to Kabul.
ISAF assumed command of the international military forces in eastern Afghanistan from the U.S.-led coalition and also becomes more involved in intensive combat operations in southern Afghanistan. The operations of ISAF went through the serious challenges of limited support of the member states while the intensity of the suicide attacks. In 2005, the USA and Afghanistan signed a joint agreement to promote security, democracy, prosperity, organization, training, equipping, and the sustenance of the Afghan security forces. In 2011 there had been an announcement for dropping the US Forces in Afghanistan and in a summit in Lisbon, NATO member countries sign a declaration agreeing to hand over full responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. In 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed in a village in Pakistan and therefrom the US Forces stay in Afghanistan was severely questioned in the US Parliament. Meanwhile, the US Army was criticized for killing 16 innocent villagers in Afghanistan and a hasty withdrawal was claimed. By June 2013 the handover was completed while the US Forces remain engaged in Training the Afghan Forces and the special operations only.
The 2014 election in Afghanistan saw a new president Ashraf Ghani, an Ex-World Bank Specialist. In 2017 U.S. Attacks Islamic State Redoubt against the most powerful non-nuclear bomb on suspected self-proclaimed Islamic State militants at a cave complex in eastern Nangarhar Province while President Trump outlines his Afghanistan policy based on the “conditions on the ground,” rather than arbitrary timelines regarding Troops withdrawal. When the Trump administration came to implement its Afghan plan In January 2018 the Taliban carry out a series of bold terror attacks in Kabul that killed more than 115 people amid a broader upsurge in violence. In February 2019 The Taliban’s delegation to Doha attends a meeting in Moscow following the latest round of peace talks which was abruptly withdrawn by the US President in September the same year. The peace talks resumed exactly after one year when the delegates met in Doha in September 2020. In September 2020 Intra-Afghan Peace Talks Begin in Doha for promoting peace in Afghanistan after the Government had released more than five thousand imprisoned Taliban activists, with the government urging for a cease fighting while the Taliban proposed for an Islamist Government.
The USA finally announced its decision to withdraw its military from Afghanistan in November 2020 and its plans to halve the number of soldiers to 2500 by January 2021 amidst the deadlock of Intra Afghan peace talks and deadly attacks by the Taliban. Finally, US president Biden announced his plans to withdraw all US and NATO Troops by September 11, 2001, while continuing to support the Afghan forces (CFR, 2021).
Currently, the situation of Afghanistan is the worst, particularly the following problems are vividly noticeable:
Alarming security situation
According to the Guardian (The Guardian, 2021), the overall security and Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened with the repatriation of the US Forces from Afghanistan. Even after 20 years of battle the Taliban’s could not be quenched and they have started acquiring the provincial towns and cities, more than any time since 2001, which the government is willing to retain at any cost. Helmand, Herat, Kandahar (Kandahar Airport) are a few of many affected cities where the Taliban are in dominance. Some cities are along key transportation routes that link provincial capitals to Kabul. Frequent changes in leadership, improper planning, limited logistics, and halted international air support have altogether lowered the morale of the Afghan security forces and the next six months are expected to be increasingly violent since the Taliban Military wing is the key decision-maker and they don’t have to make the slightest compromise for that (Wilder & Worden, 2021) (Witte, 2021) (Seldin, 2021).
Violence, Internal Displacement, and Humanitarian Situation
According to the Guardian (The Guardian, 2021) and Skirmishes resulted in killings, abuse fear, and anxiety, uncertainty, power and telecommunication shut down, no power or medicine supply for the COVID patients in the hospital with all pharmacies being closed, suspension of flights that has halted logistics and air support (in Kandahar). Although the Third wave of COVID has hit the country, which is more contagious and deadly than the previous ones the fear of the COVID deaths has become secondary in comparison to the threat of the Taliban atrocities. The paucity of beds and the oxygen supply have compelled the two key hospitals in Kabul to refuse the new COVID patients. Amid foreign withdrawal and a deteriorating security situation, this third COVID wave will be worse than the previous two where the effect on the overall economy and future livelihoods will be equally profound. Internally displaced persons are also on the rise from conflict and drought, straining the government’s ability to provide basic services. Amidst the anti-Taliban militia mobilizing and the government’s failure to quench the Taliban, the people, in general, are looking for alternatives to both the Taliban and the Government (Witte, 2021), (Wilder & Worden, 2021).
Weaker Leadership and Political factions in the Government:
Greater societal ethnic divisions and ethnic biases in the appointment of government officials led to deep mistrust and political selfishness which have altogether impeded progress on a proposed High State Council although the Political leaders recognize they are stronger together against the Taliban. The High State Council is likely to accommodate the political leaders from all factions in decisions on peace and security that have national significance. But the leadership is failing to grasp the urgency of the situation and rather than to unite to confront the existential threat posed by the Taliban so far the political crisis has been seen as an opportunity to settle past disputes about power-sharing within the Republic (Wilder & Worden, 2021).
Undermined ANDSF capability and morale with the rapid U.S troop withdrawal
The complexity of the integrated support of the ANDSF by the US and the U.S. and NATO troops demanded a slower withdrawal particularly on the issues of the supply contracts and maintenance and operations, especially for the Afghan Air force. Unforeseen regulatory and contracting obstacles have compelled the Afghan government to find aircraft maintenance crews and ammunition and fuel contracts and suppliers. The news of the continued withdrawal, base hand over, equipment removal or destruction, lowered over the horizon air support rather than the Positive messages about continued financial assistance have altogether had a profound and negative effect on political and military morale (Wilder & Worden, 2021) (Seldin, 2021).
Currently Dormant Doha peace process
Basically, the Doha Peace process was aimed to settle the disputes through peaceful discussions which the Taliban were never serious about. Rather they fulfilled the minimum conditions of the 2020 U.S. Taliban agreement for a U.S. troop withdrawal and rather continued to consolidate their fighting strength. Upon the withdrawal of the US forces and with the victory the Taliban has even fewer incentives to continue the conversation. Therefore unless a true Intra Afghan peace discussion involving the senior members of both the parties and facilitated by the UN rather than the US is likely to have a more positive outcome. Many Afghans emphasized the need for a momentum-slowing victory against the Taliban in key terrain that proves there is, indeed, no military path to victory, and peace talks are the best way to resolve the insurgency.
Burden of the Conflict and Impact on and by the Regional powers
The regional powers must be counter the temptation to hedge and support proxies with meaningful support for the government and a peace process and decide their preferred end-state and what leverage they are willing to exert on the Taliban. The disruption to regional trade and flows of refugees, along with the destabilizing effects of regional rivals supporting different proxies in a brutal civil war was never beneficial to Afghanistan’s neighbors namely: China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Therefore, the necessity is of a proactive national action to combat the conflict is essential
Shrank Operating Space for the Civil Society
The areas and space of the Civil Society Operation have shrunk due to the Assassinations of civil society leaders and journalists plus threats from the Taliban, lack of protection from the government, and general uncertainty about the future. Particularly the City Dwellers, women empowerment, marginalized ethnic communities, activists, intellectuals, artists, and writers are falling victim to uncertainty and life risks. As a result, civil society leaders are leaving the country and suppressing those who are willing to stay in the country. Particularly the women’s rights, achieving harmony and violence reduction within their community and that ensure basic rights are not traded away for a short-term peace.
Some potential solutions have been offered in the subsequent paragraphs:
- Strengthen the peace process by supporting the Afghan government, people, and civil society
Forming an inclusive High State Council would be an important signal that the government is making decisions that respond to constituents in all regions of the country. Preserving the current Republic is essential to protect the gains in rights and freedoms achieved from Bonn Agreement. Besides, the Selection of respectable and worthy leaders in the ANDSF and assurance of local support for the provincial governors has become the topmost priority. In order to meet the grassroots demand for peace, the civil society can help foster national unity with international support, ensure a greater diversity of Afghan voices are included for mobilization and pressure on political and Taliban leaders through a social movement for peace (Wilder & Worden, 2021).
- Formation of Afghan National Army and Strengthening the Afghan security forces(ANDSF)
If Afghan National Army can be formed with the Taliban Warriors, who already have the warring skills it will reduce the cost of recruitment. The only factors necessary would be their education, socialization, discipline, and adherence to modern technology. Therefore, if education, socialization, disciplining, and technical progress could be outsourced to the developed international military.
A modest increase of the continued economic support to the ANDSF by U.S. and NATO partners over time would help to reinforce the message and boost morale but Transitioning contract mechanisms for supplies and maintenance is an urgent priority. Particularly, to avoid a loss of military capability, Airstrikes to defend ANDSF positions if key provincial centers or Kabul are threatened will be important leverage against the Taliban (Wilder & Worden, 2021).
- Increased regional support of the peace process
The revival of the regional diplomatic forums and networks, which include: United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran, can coordinate diverse international support for the peace talks in Doha. The regional countries have expressed their interest in the pursuance of regional peace by acting as a pressure group under the leadership of the United Nations (Wilder & Worden, 2021).
- Incentives for an inclusive peace agreement for the Taliban
International Aid, Sanctions, Bilateral Agreements, Trade Facility, Human Resources Development, Networking, Collaboration and various multi-lateral development project led by the World Bank, UNDP, JICA, KOICA, and the other development agencies could be some potential instruments for the Taliban to stop the warfare and demilitarize their actions.
- Development of Education and Cultural Infusion from the Developed Countries
Since the education and the infrastructure development has become a key factor, therefore the development of education could be a priority. Besides the culture of tolerance, compassion, coexistence could be transmitted through different cultural fusion programmes under the leadership of the universities and the Civil services organizations.
- Emphasis on Empowerment and Inclusion
The development and national efforts should assure the empowerment and inclusion of the marginalized folks, especially women, of the country starting from the grassroots to the policy levels of the state. That sustainable development incorporates all the stakeholders in the same ladder of development where all the partners are equally highlighted and the voices are heard and the needs and demands are fulfilled. The inclusion efforts should be incorporated in the constitutional framework and be practiced in all levels of the state as a mandate to the global commitments or development agenda.
- Development Approach Like Japan
The counties of the world, under the leadership of the UN, can go for the development approach like that of US post-war contributions in Japan. The scenario in Afghanistan may not be exactly the same as it was in 1945 or in Island country Japan since China was against Japan but the UN can use the experience for designing a prototype for experimenting in Afghanistan.
Throughout history, it has been found that quenching belligerence and hostility is difficult. The case of Afghanistan is also the same. Although the nation is belligerent, they are vulnerable too. Particularly continued engagement in some forms of warfare since 1979, lack of education and women empowerment, social dispute, mistrust, economic and infrastructural fragility, and particularly COVID 19 has posed a serious threat for the nation, which the global leaders must put into consideration and craft strategies accordingly.