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Arunav Goswami

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Mr. Arunav Goswami is currently the Director of Sabal Bharat Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Assam, India. He has been engaged in research on peace, security and development issues since more than a decade. He has worked on issues like dynamics of extremism, peace processes in Northeast India, situation of children and women in conflict situations, and spread of Maoism in Northeast India. He is the co-researcher of the book: Northeast India: The Maoist Spread. He did his Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Tezpur University, a Central University of India, and Graduation from Cotton College, the oldest college in Northeast India.

1. Last week there was a terrorist attack at Kabul airport. Many scholars have asserted that the re-emergence of the Afghan problem has caused a renewed wave of terrorism. What do you think this bombing means for global security? What troubles and risks might the rise of terrorism pose to the South Asian region and the world?

The situation in Afghanistan is indeed worrisome. Whenever a democratically-elected government is overthrown and power is seized by force, the resulting chaos is never good for the country and its citizens. This is what is happening in Afghanistan now. But, in my opinion, the events unfolding in Afghanistan would have less impact on the global security situation. The impact would be felt more in the immediate neighbourhood, mostly the South Asian region.

My assessment in based on the fact that Taliban has a fundamental difference as compared to other terrorist groups like the Islamic State or the Al Qaeda. Taliban wants to rule Afghanistan based on its own interpretation of the Sharia Law. But it has no bigger global plans like the Islamic State who wanted to establish a Caliphate across the globe or like Al Qaeda who has waged war against the West. So, their activities will be mostly confined within the South Asian region. And, here is where the point of concern lies. Taliban has ties with groups like the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Involvement of these groups in terrorist activities in India, especially Kashmir, is well known. A powerful Taliban government in Afghanistan would help these groups strengthen themselves and may be carry out terror activities on a larger scale or greater frequency in India. Such terror threats would be detrimental to the security situation in the overall South Asian region, as it would further distance the two neighbours – India and Pakistan.

With Taliban in power, radicalization too may increase and it may lead to increased number of members of terrorist groups in the region. With the increasing use of technology and social media by the terrorist groups, there the radicalization may spread across the globe and may lead to an increase in the number of lone wolf attacks.

2. Judging from the current performance, what do you think Afghanistan will become after the Taliban takes power? Given that the Taliban are largely drawn from rural areas and madrassas along the Afghan border, will it go to the extreme of being, as they say, "the purest of Islamic states", or will there be a glimmer of peace? Or can you give your opinion?

In my assessment, during this second stint of their rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban would be much more moderate as compared to its 1996-2001 reign. The Taliban too have evolved over the years and they have also been studying the changing geo-political situation. They know that they have come to power after more than two decades and they would not want to let it go once again. As such, in my opinion, they would be a little more lenient than their previous rule. But, it does not mean that it would not implement its interpretation of the Sharia Law. They would bring in changes to the governance style and would impose certain restrictions.

However, in my assessment, it would not be too harsh. Women would be allowed to work and received education (however, not co-education). As said by their spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid during the Taliban’s first press conference after seizing power, women would have rights to education, health and employment and there will be no discrimination against women. Taliban leaders would want its foot soldiers to abide by this and not force women to stay indoors. During an interview with Al Jazeera on 22 August 2021, Abdul Qahar Balkhi from the Taliban’s Cultural Commission had said the Group’s foremost priority now was the discipline in their own ranks, and not enforcing laws on others but enforcing it on themselves first. If they are able to do so, then the lives of the common Afghan citizens would be much better compared to Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule. On the development front, the Taliban would want the continuation of the various infrastructure projects in the country and it will surely ensure the security of those. With help from countries like Qatar, China and Pakistan, it would surely try to find ways to develop the economy of the country, without compromising on its ideals.

3. How would you assess the role played by the United States in Afghanistan over the past 20 years? Is the US responsible for the growing terrorist threat in Asia and Europe?

Starting a war and not knowing when to stop has been a fundamental problem with the United States. The same thing happened in Afghanistan. They started the war in this country to find Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, in response to the 9/11 attacks. But, the war kept lengthening and they got involved with the government formation process in Afghanistan. This was, in my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes they made. A country, which is home to several tribes and who had their own style of self-governance, would always be difficult to govern in the way in which the US envisaged. The government in power in Afghanistan came to be seen as a puppet administration and this helped the Taliban. The result is here for all of us to see. Even after spending a Trillion Dollars, the US could not stop the Taliban from seizing power.

I would not say that the US is responsible for the growing terrorist threat in Asia and Europe, but that its actions and a few policy mistakes have helped certain terrorist groups to increase its number of sympathizers and as well as funders.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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