With the Taliban take over and escape of Afghan former president Ashraf Ghani and his government the United States very swiftly evacuated the US-trained Afghan security forces who had been fighting the Taliban in the past twenty years. Afghan commandos and military units of the Khost Protection Force (KPF), units called 01, 02, and 03 who fought very hard against the Taliban during the past twenty years, and the Taliban could never fight face to face with them.
A question, like most of the people, I had in my mind – why the Afghan security forces didn’t resist the Taliban?
I met the evacuated Afghan security forces in one of the US military bases in Europe. This was my very first question from them after a cup of green tea. They said we were ordered to put down our guns and pack up. They were told the Taliban will not attack you, and you are not going to do so. They were transferred to Kabul by helicopter and directly to Qatar with military aircraft. Almost none of them have a passport, except some of them have ID cards. Before departing from Afghanistan, the US government gave them 3,000 to 5,000 USD and promised their monthly salary until the year of 2024 in the United States. What I heard did not answer my question, but I did realize how big and complicated the plot was.
With no resistance against them, the Taliban had the opportunity to take a deep breath, realize the situation and control the status quo. Indeed, the Taliban also found themselves in an unexpected takeover of the country, but they couldn’t get out of that hubris and see their inner realities.
There is no doubt the former government was a sunken ship. It was drowned in corruption to the throat, and its legitimacy was within a few governmental institutions and some groups who were benefiting.
For Afghans, did they want peace and security or the corrupt government; the matter was whom you were asking. A villager or an urban resident. The people who were living in the big cities – which form a small number of the population – preferred the corrupt government because the war was on the remote areas. But for the people in the villages, life had not been changed much from the first Taliban era. Women are still dependent on men to be allowed access to health care, education, and work.
With two different lifestyles, both the urban and rural people want peace but yes, their position towards peace diverges. For Afghans in the villages, it doesn’t matter it’s the Emirate or the Republic they just want the war to end, and they don’t lose their sons, husbands, and breadwinners in this fight.
All the odds were against the former government – including international allies - and the Taliban had the opportunity to seize the moment and start building a national legitimacy then seek international recognition. The Taliban could have accepted the past twenty years of development and respected the achievements of women and girls. Taliban could have announced an interim specialized government for a future election.
The Taliban are just fighters. They are not an ideological or a political movement. They never know how to deal with governance and statecraft. They are forgetting that while the United States was the prime mover and decided the strategy of Western intervention in Afghanistan, several European countries made a big investment of troops and resources in the effort.
The Taliban don’t have a foreign policy approach towards the EU and the international community. They don’t have the capacity and intellectuality. Their policy brain is Pakistan, the ISI, but Pakistan never wants the Taliban to build a direct line of foreign policy with the world because it will lose the leverage and the big role that currently Pakistan is playing a kind of representing Afghanistan in the world.
For the Taliban, it might not matter, but to include women in the society and government, having a clean government not individuals on a UN sanction list in the cabinet, and an inclusive and diverse government does matter for the EU. The only foreign policy that the Taliban have and think that they could get international support and legitimacy through is assuring the world that there won’t be any threat from Afghanistan soil.
What the Taliban can’t realize is a dark future for Afghanistan. The economy is collapsed, there is no government right now, poverty is going to its peak and will lead to hunger. ISIS is attacking religious minorities and they are not able to prevent it because the Taliban have always been a fighting group, they don’t have any idea about intelligence and counterterrorism.
Interviewer: Zhao LAN
Interview date: October 21, 2021