Afghanistan today: between humanitarian crisis and the Taliban rule. Interview with H.E. Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, Ambassador of Afghanistan in Italy

Crowd Kabul Airport
On the second day of the Taliban’s rule in Kabul, the front of Hamid Karzai International Airport was crowded with people trying to travel abroad but were stopped by Taliban militants (Credits: VOA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

After the US-NATO troops withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of power by force, once again the international community is confronted with the humanitarian and political crisis in Afghanistan. Despite the imposition of an Islamic Emirate and implementation of radical Islamist sharīʿa inside Afghanistan, several regional powers have pondered on the idea of officially recognising the Taliban’s caretaker administration.

Considering the current situation in Afghanistan, we met with H.E. Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA) in Italy, to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, Afghan geopolitics and the importance of local and regional dynamics.

How was it possible that the Afghan Military Forces and Kabul Government quickly surrendered to the Taliban? Was something related to the “failure of the nation buildings”, or are there other reasons?

There are several internal and external factors, which led to the regrouping and re-emergence of the Taliban, the collapse of Afghanistan’s National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), and finally the fall of the elected Government of IRoA on August 15th, 2021.

Following the September 11th attacks in 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban, then-de facto ruling Afghanistan, extradite Osama bin Laden, the attacks’ mastermind. The Taliban’s refusal to do so made the US-led forces and the Afghan Northern Alliance defeat and expel the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies from major population centres and out of Afghanistan.

The US and a coalition of over 40 countries (including all NATO members) formed an UN-sanctioned security mission called International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and began to consolidate an interim administration in the country to prevent the return of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to power. At the Bonn Conference, new Afghan interim authorities elected Hamid Karzai to head the Afghan Interim Administration.

The external factors were due to a lack of continuity in the US foreign policy and a deficiency in understanding Afghanistan’s historical and contextual uniqueness, which also influenced most of our allies to follow these policies.

In 2001, as the US’s foreign policy in Afghanistan was predicated on ‘Nation Building’, from the very beginning, we indicated to the US side that what Afghanistan needed was instead ‘State Building’ because despite having a strong nation, we did not possess viable Afghan state institutions. At the same time, we questioned the US posture that if their attempt was to build the Afghan nation, then why was that the Taliban were not included in the Bonn process, or at least given an opportunity to be part of the Interim Administration led by Karzai. After a period of persuasion by Afghan authorities and a process of trial and error by the US, the Bush Administration changed its policy from nation-building to state-building.

Despite this policy change to state-building, there were two fundamental flaws associated with it: first, the US Ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad’s continuous interference in the constitutional writing process, which led to the executive branch gaining enormous power by making the President not only the Head of the Government but also the Head of the State, this destroyed Montesquieu’s concept of ‘Separation of Power’ and ‘Check and Balance’ in the Afghan constitution. In fact, both President Karzai and President Ghani used this constitutional power to their benefit. Second, state-building did not focus on the immediate rebuilding of the Afghan judiciary, police, air force, and the preparation of required regulations for the imposed market system. In 2003, taking advantage of the lack of jurisdiction of the Afghan Government in judiciary and security areas, the Taliban regrouped and re-emerged in Afghanistan. As the Taliban gained some popular support by substituting the central state authority in providing security and adjudicating matters such as family and land disputes in the rural southern part of Afghanistan, they also started to wage asymmetric warfare with guerrilla raids and ambushes in the countryside, suicide attacks against urban targets, turncoat killings against coalition forces, and reprisals against perceived collaborators. Violence eventually escalated to a large part of Afghanistan by the Taliban by 2007.

As the US refocused most of its efforts on Iraq, this diminished the state-building process and ISAF’s military airpower support to ANDSF. With a lack of air power support, the military situation became worse in the battleground against the Taliban.

The Obama administration under the new US policy of SURGE massively increased its troops for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan. The purpose of SURGE was to ‘clear and hold’ villages, which reached its peak in 2011 when roughly 140,000 foreign troops operated under ISAF and the US command in Afghanistan. The great flaw of the SURGE was that it was not complemented with a viable peace process due to the lack of trust that existed between Obama and Karzai. With the US meddling in the internal political matters of Afghanistan (pushing to create the Chief Executive Post to challenge Karzai’s power), interfering in the presidential electoral process of 2009 to promote candidate of their choice, and allowing the opening of the Taliban office in Doha, despite Obama’s written assurance (the Taliban office was closed after a day, pursuant to Karzai’s protest), the US-Afghan bilateral relations reached its lowest point, where Karzai refused to sign the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Strategic Partnership (BSA) in 2014.

After realising that this war could not be won without a peace settlement and following the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US commenced an exit strategy for withdrawing its forces along with the NATO troops from Afghanistan. On December 28th, 2014, NATO formally ended ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan and under Resolute Support Mission (RSM) officially transferred full security responsibilities under the ‘Train, Advice and Assist Mission’ to ANDSF and pertinent Afghan institutions. During this period, serious steps were taken by US and NATO to rehabilitate the Afghan Airforce and accelerate the reform of the Afghan Police that started in 2009. From 2015 to 2021, 98 per cent of all military operations were successfully conducted by ANDSF.

Under Trump’s administration, there was a period of hope when a mix of soft power and hard power was utilised to exert pressure on Pakistan to stop giving refuge and support the Taliban and their affiliates. In fact, many military and political analysts believed that the war was fought on the wrong side of Durand Line since most terrorist groups, including their leaders such as Mullah Omar and Bin Laden, were stationed and supported by Pakistan (Situazione attuale delle tribù Pashtun lungo la linea di Durand: intervista ad Ahmad Khan Mumtaz). Unfortunately, this US policy was short-lived due to Pakistan’s robust lobby process in Washington.

Trump by wanting to satisfy his constituents to win the next presidential election appointed Ambassador Khalilzad to broker a deal between the US and the Taliban. After a long period of negotiation with the Taliban, in February 2020 the Doha Agreement was signed between the US and the Taliban (Washington signed a deal with the Taliban, but this is not the end of the war). This conditional peace agreement that required the US troops withdrawal by May of 2021 in exchange for the Taliban not to attack the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, emboldened the Taliban and their state sponsors and provided an opportunity for the Taliban to intensify and focus all their attacks on ANDSF and the local population. Additionally, this agreement questioned the utility and the binding legal status of the BSA. As the Afghan elected Government was not a party to the Doha deal, it not only questioned the utility of the BSA but at first also rejected one of the Doha Agreement’s terms regarding the release of Taliban prisoners. After the signing of the Doha Agreement and release of 5,000 prisoners, where most of these prisoners rejoined other fighters on the battlefield, 1/6 of Afghan districts (about 70 districts) fell in the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the Taliban started to buy time by not engaging with the IRoA negotiation team and waiting to take power after the full departure of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

Under Biden, instead of scrutinising and amending the Doha Agreement and adopting a realistic, gradual, and responsible withdrawal plan based on peace dividends coming out of IRoA and Taliban negotiations in Doha, his unilateral withdrawal announcement, not only brought ANDSF morale down but with it, the US and NATO support for ANDSF declined. In fact, about a month and a half after the withdrawal announcement, 10,000 foreign contractors that assisted the ANDSF in areas of transportation, logistic, airpower maintenance and airpower support left Afghanistan. As a result, in June 2021, about 220 districts or almost half of Afghanistan’s districts fell into the hands of the Taliban.

Several internal elements also contributed to the IRoA’s collapse.

First, in 2001 as the US empowered corrupt figures by bringing them at the forefront of Afghan politics, nepotism, bribery, money laundering, narcotics trade and trafficking, electoral rigging, abduction, and use of ethnocentric and lingo-centric politics were employed by these political figures.

Second, the replacement of experienced individuals with inexperienced youth via political appointments in military, police, foreign missions, ministries, governorship, municipality, and other civil service posts became prevalent, more so during Ghani’s administration. As an example, in 2017 almost 90% of Afghan Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs of Missions were all non-career political appointees.

Third, as the US started to interfere in the Afghan democratic electoral process to promote corrupt politicians that sided with the US, the Afghan presidential incumbents and their cronies also began electoral rigging to destroy their opponents. This ultimately led to a lack of transparency, accountability and belief in the democratic electoral process. During the Afghan presidential elections, out of 18 million eligible voters, voter turnout went down dramatically from 9 million in 2009 to 7 million in 2014 and to less than 2 million in 2019.

Fourth, Karzai’s unwillingness to allow the US and Qatar to be part of the peace process negotiation with the Taliban in 2012 followed by Ghani’s ill attempts to discredit and sometimes hinder the peace process negotiation in Doha, destroyed any hope for a viable peace settlement in Afghanistan.

Fifth, ‘Micromanagement’ mostly used by Ghani, who wanted to manage and control the entire administration, led to antagonism, disenchantment, alienation, and duplication in administrative processes throughout governmental agencies. Administrative efficacy and civil service job security became unknown, especially at a time that Afghanistan needed efficiency, expertise, and professionalism.

Sixth, extreme centralisation of power by the creation of ‘Kitchen Cabinets’ by Afghan presidents became rampant. During Ghani’s second term, a 1 Plus 2 Kitchen Cabinet took most matters into their own hands. Ghani gave enormous authority to his National Security Advisor and Head of the Directorate General of the Administrative Office of the President office. The heads of these two offices oversaw all military, police, municipality, governorship, ambassadorial and top ministerial post appointments. In fact, when ANDSF wanted to fight the Taliban, besides not getting timely transportation and logistics support, they were told by the office of the National Security Advisor to put their weapons down and not fight the Taliban. Adoption of tactical military retrieval posture to protect the lives of Afghan civilians became a daily excuse by National Security Advisor Office. Governors, mayors, and district chief police were also told to follow this posture and hand over provinces.

The finality of the 20-year sacrifice both in blood and treasure by our allies and our own Afghans occurred on August 15th, 2021, where Ghani, his Kitchen Cabinet, and 50 members of his team fled the country, leaving the people of Afghanistan stranded in the hands of a terrorist organisation known as the Taliban. This 20-year war resulted in the killings of 176,000 Afghans, of which 46,319 were civilians, 69,095 were military and police, and 52,893 were opposition fighters. 75,000 Afghan civilians were wounded and 2443 US, of which 1144 were allied troops, of which 54 were Italians who died for the cause of freedom, democracy, human rights protection, and the fight against terrorism.

Let me take this opportunity to express our appreciation on behalf of the IRoA and our people for all the sacrifices that the US, NATO, EU members states, including Italy, and other international allies have rendered in Afghanistan. These sacrifices will be marked as immortal in the contemporary history of Afghanistan.

Event for Afghanistan
H.E. Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Italy, gave a speech on the current situation of his country during the exhibition “Let’s Call for Arts for Afghanistan” in Rome (Credits: SpecialEurasia)

What is the current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan considering the migration process and the life under the Taliban?

Let me give you some facts and figures about the gravity of the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the migration, and life under the Taliban regime.

Approximately half of the 40 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. As many as 8.7 million people would need long-term and consistent assistance. The World Food Program (WFP) has stated that 14 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation because of not having sufficient food and lack of access to cash to pay for it. 5.5 million are declared as Internal displacements (IDPs) in Afghanistan and new displacement trends and patterns will rise. A 70% rise in Afghanistan’s poverty rate in the next year is expected as well.

The humanitarian crisis has become worse with widespread and long-term poverty, difficult security situations, natural disasters, and exacerbated by climate change and ongoing drought, COVID-19 pandemic, and upcoming cold winter season in Afghanistan as oil and liquid gas prices have increased by two-fold.

While humanitarian staff can enter the country through UNHAS, but five critical issues affect humanitarian access and assistance to the Afghan population:

  1. Issues affecting female staff and recipients as well as independent humanitarian action to allow the use and employment of female humanitarians, especially female nationals, have become problematic;
  2. The deployment, acceptance, and safety of humanitarian actors, including nationals, throughout the country and especially in the south;
  3. Uncertainty regarding the extent of bureaucratic impediments where some ministries such as the Ministry of Women Affairs was permanently closed and some other ministries such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation where FAO, WFP, IFAD and other organisations were closely working with, have not become functional due to a significant gap in qualified staff that either escaped the country or not willing to work with the Taliban regime. Though the Taliban have announced new caretaker ministers and have called for the resumption of administrative and humanitarian activities and reportedly produced a manual on NGO operational guidelines, it remains to be seen how these theoretical guidelines and assurances will be implemented by their local and decentralised administration as well as on the acceptance of some Afghan communities given some of their cultural practices;
  4. Difficulty to coordinate, implement and monitor the food, cash and other supplies despite the presence of UN organisations and NGOs in Afghanistan;
  5. Banks also continue to be closed for commercial services, including to NGOs, which cannot access their funds in Afghan bank accounts. Even though the hawala system (the hawala system is an informal method of transferring money, including across borders, through a network of money brokers referred to as ‘hawaladars’) has been restored, this will not be a long-term solution because of the scale of money transfers required and the difficulty for the system to meet accountability and transparency requirements imposed by some international donors.

As it relates to migration, we are faced with two types of migration: first, is the migration that occurs through what is called ‘humanitarian evacuation migration’. Humanitarian evacuation migration is considered an important and life-saving measure for Afghan citizens that are under immediate or imminent threat of harm by the Taliban. The recent pledges by the Taliban leadership not to seek ‘revenge’ on former government personnel and others associated with foreign governments have not been observed. The second form of migration known as ‘economic migration’ shall intensify in the upcoming months and years as people are forcefully being moved out of their homes and territories as witnessed in Dikondee and Kandahar provinces.

Life under the Taliban is also becoming worse with their human rights violations in Afghanistan. Since taking power, the Taliban have committed atrocities and serious human rights violations against Afghan civilians, including women and girls, children, minorities, journalists, human rights defenders, members of the Afghan Parliament, and individuals who worked or supported democratic rights and values in Afghanistan. The imposition of restrictions on women in public and workspaces as well as obstructing their basic right to pursue education and higher education are alarming. The formation of an all-male and mostly from one ethnic group caretaker administration, fall far short of the Taliban’s equal rights guarantees. Without the eyes of the world on Afghanistan, the human rights situation in Afghanistan is likely to get worse.

Since most embassies and some organisations have left Afghanistan and there is no coordination, implementation, and monitoring mechanisms to oversee humanitarian assistance, humanitarian evacuation, human rights protection, socioeconomic rehabilitation/adjustment, and legitimate governance. IRoA proposed the establishment of a Special Monitoring Unit for Afghanistan (SAMU) in Afghanistan. Under the UN, SAMU can become operational with the assistance of the US, EU, regional countries, and other interested nations. Though it would be difficult for the Taliban to accept the establishment of SAMU, since the Taliban are looking for recognition, legitimacy, and economic support, the international community can use a mix of hard and soft powers to exert pressure on the Taleban to accept SAMU as one of the international community’s ‘terms and conditions of engagement.”.

Afghan presidential palace under the Taliban
Afghan presidential palace under the Taliban control (Credits: CuboidalBrake06, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Why are several countries discussing the possibility to recognise the Taliban Government instead of supporting the resistance in the Panjshir or the previous Afghan Government?

Firstly, I would like to draw the attention of the UN Credential Committee to safeguard the IRoA UN permanent seat in New York and secondly, I encourage some of our natural and near neighbours that are thinking of recognising the Taliban regime based on the following legal claims:

First, Art. 2, paragraph. 4 of the UN Charter, prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN The principle that territory may not be validly acquired by the illegal use of force is well established. The protection accorded to a State by Article 2, paragraph. 4, also extends to the status of Government in the face of invasion, belligerent occupation, and annexation. It should be noted that it is well established that neither belligerent occupation nor illegal annexation affects the continued legal existence of a State. The establishment of a ‘Puppet State’ in the territory under belligerent occupation also does not lead to the extinction of a previously existing State. As a belligerent occupant does not acquire sovereignty by virtue of the occupation, it cannot transfer sovereignty to the new State either. Under these circumstances, an existing representative government that had to flee the country is protected by international law against illegal invasion, intervention and/or force. So, there exists a strong presumption that a government forced from its state’s territory is representative of that State and its people. This presumption will usually operate until such time as the people themselves can again freely decide on their future Government. Therefore, the international community due to these legal reasons has instead continued to recognise the last incumbent Government.

Second, states are under a legal obligation to refrain from intervention in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of other States. Non-intervention is the corollary to the sovereign equality and independence of States. Hence, States that intervene in the internal matters of a government (invited or uninvited), delegitimise not only the independence of that State but also question the effectiveness of their new supported Government. Thus, a government that is without a binding agreement becomes dependent in matters of financial, logistic, military, intelligence, and politics on other States has no legal independence. In other words, legal independence may be defined as freedom from direct and indirect control of sponsored State or any other State.

Third, a government inside the territory cannot exist without the legal existence of a State, which the Government represents. The legitimate States must have a ratified constitution, functional institutions inside the territory and diplomatically recognised missions abroad for delivery of services, and more importantly, must possess sovereignty and independence.

Fourth, a new government cannot be established by a mere proclamation of a government inside the territory that does not exercise effective and legal control over the State’s population and territory. Hence, a government that cannot bind its State, dispose of its assets abroad, provide viable delivery of basic services, commit to addressing the main challenges in areas such as humanitarian assistance, humanitarian evacuation, protection of human rights, economic/social rehabilitation, legitimate governance (governing competence and accountability), protect its nationals, represent the State in judicial proceedings and international fora, consent to armed (pro-democratic or humanitarian) intervention (i.e., the use of force against the population in situ) and most importantly respect the principle of self-determination, is illegitimate

Fifth, a government that is contrary to legal traditions and values of the population in the country and tries to obliterate an existing and functional system of jurisprudence that has governed, and guided public and private affairs of its population-based on rule of law and legal due process, is deemed illegitimate.

Sixth, a government that is devoid of a substantial representative character, both formal and factual, cannot be recognised as the Government of a State. The representative character of Government, where it is regarded as being representative of the national will—shows a sufficient quality by which it seems as the emanation of the population—for which it intends to act, is important as an initial qualification for governmental status, as well as a criterion for its continuation. Hence, there is a strong presumption that an undemocratic government is also unrepresentative, especially when a State has opted for representative democracy as a political system as envisaged in its ratified living constitution.

Seventh, a government that has no respect for human rights, particularly minorities rights as well as women and girls’ rights, and is guilty of massive human rights violation or even genocide of its own people, forfeits its right to represent the people and as a government despite having control over the territory.

Eighth, a government that does not respect the principle of racial equality and non-discrimination and whose composition is based on race (or on ethnicity, creed, or colour) in which a minority dominates an overwhelming majority, is surely not representative since it violates the rights of self-determination.

Ninth, a government where most of its prominent figures are known and listed as terrorists and/or affiliated with terrorist organisations and gains direct or indirect support from terrorist sponsored states, pose a huge counterterrorism challenge and thus deemed illegitimate by the international community.

Based on the aforementioned grounds, the recognition of the Taliban regime become null and void, especially when a competing, constitutionally valid claim to power exists. According to Article 67 of IRoA’s constitution, the First Vice-President has claimed authorities and duties of the caretaker of IRoA. Consequently, a new regime ran by a terrorist organisation (the Taliban) that is tainted by international illegality such as coming to power by force and in contravention of the national law of the land (ratified and living state constitution), the previous representative Government that possess all the legal characteristics—a government in exile, diplomatically recognised international representation (missions abroad), and a living ratified democratic constitution with its tricolour symbol (flag), is still deemed legitimate and recognised.

As it relates to the National Resistance Front, it is a legitimate arm of IRoA. Since it has widespread support throughout Afghanistan it can also open the territory for the IRoA’s venue.”.

Meeting SpecialEurasia and Amb Afghanistan in Italy
The meeting between our Managing Director Silvia Boltuc and H.E. Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Italy (Credits: SpecialEurasia)

What is the role of international and regional actors in the Afghan dynamics?

Currently, most members of the international community and the regional actors are focussed on the issue of humanitarian assistance to prevent a human catastrophe in Afghanistan. As the current President of the G20, Italy’s call for the convening of the Special G20 on Afghanistan on October 12th, 2021, and its proactive bilateral and multilateral discussions on the side-line of the G20 on October 30th and 31st, 2021 is indicative of the fact that luckily Italy has seriously taken the ownership of the Afghan case.

The engagement that Italy in the past twenty years and its assistance worth 8.4 billion euros in Afghanistan give Italy the prestigious right and posture to play a pivotal role in Afghanistan’s future. We also appreciate Italy’s concise and clear stance on preconditions sat for the recognition of the Taliban. Aside from Canada, Italy has been the first country to come out with the precise call on the Taliban: ‘human rights matter for us’.

As it relates to some of our natural and near neighbours, for the right or wrong reasons, they perceive my country in terms of exploitation of its underground resources, water resources, the establishment of regional connectivity and even the use of what is called ‘strategic debts’ (install a puppet regime to counter so-called India’s influence in Afghanistan). However, considering that under the Taliban and their state sponsors, Afghanistan might become a ‘safe heaven’ for international terrorists and/or a battleground amongst terrorist organisations, regional powers must take more of a cautious, realist and pragmatic approach. Hence, when brokering deals with a terrorist organisation, it might look easy at the first, but in a long run, especially in view of the recent terrorist attacks and security concerns, it will have dire consequences for them. A terrorist organisation cannot be trusted at all.

As it relates to current Afghan dynamics, the latest UN, US, EU, UK, Canada, Australia, Russia, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Commonwealth nations, and some other European and Central Asian countries’ postures regarding the Taliban and immediate humanitarian assistance to Afghan people, they have been very constructive. We encourage other regional actors, especially Pakistan and China to carefully revisit and review their past, current, and future policies as it relates to Afghanistan and the Taliban regime. They must understand that a destabilised Afghanistan, being run by a terrorist organisation will have dire consequences for them and the region. Additionally, since the collapse of the Taliban has become more plausible, this will not only create a power vacuum and war in Afghanistan, but it might change the political geography and security of the region. In other words, any foreign policy that is predicated on ill will, sooner or later, it will have serious implications for that particular nation-state and the region as a whole.“.

Looking at recent terrorist attacks, how is it possible that the Taliban can confront terrorist organisations considering they had a link with some of them in the past and how do you see the future of the Taliban?

Most of the terrorist organisations currently present in Afghanistan have a fraternal relationship with the Taliban because they share relatively the same ideology (Political Radical Islam), the same strategy (Global Islamist Expansionist religious call under the banner of Emirate or Caliphate), the same terrorist tactics (Asymmetric warfare with guerrilla raids, ambushes and suicide attacks against targets, turncoat killings and abductions), and the use of the same financial resources (Narcotics, illegal extraction of minerals, money laundering, theft, children and artefact smuggling).

As it pertains to Al-Qaeda, with the Taliban taking power by force in Kabul, immediately thereafter members of al-Qaeda entered Afghanistan and settled in Jalalabad. Their relationship is based on historical and familial ties.

Regarding ISIS-K, let us not forget that this is an offshoot of the Haqqani group, which was created in 2014. By bringing the ISIS-K into the picture, the Taliban and their state sponsors are trying to show that the Taliban are the good guys who are fighting ISIS-K by providing security to the country and the region. Therefore, they want to convince the international community that the Taliban should be supported and given legitimacy to successfully combat ISIS-K. Since ISIS-K leaders have always claimed that they are against the Shiites in Afghanistan, why is it that when the Taliban took Kabul, there was not even a single attack against the Shiite during the first ten days of the ritual ceremony of Imam Hussain’s Martyrdom in Kabul. The minute the US said that they might extend their stay due to the evacuation process, immediately there was a suicide bombing against the gates of Kabul international airport. Hence, the Taliban themselves conduct most of these operations and then address the responsibility to ISIS-K. The local population in Afghanistan have stated that in the past few years they have seen the same people on some occasion raise the Taliban flag, in another situation, the ISIS-K flag. Additionally, the Taliban are known to be as bad or even worse when it comes to their views about the Shiite Muslims and minorities in Afghanistan, especially the Afghan Hazaras, where in recent days have been forced to leave their territories.

Based on the past and current historical facts, academic research, and intelligence reports, we are fully confident that the Taliban will not fight against terrorist organisations in Afghanistan such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS-K), Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Jaish-e-Mohammad, Mujahidin United Council (Shura-I-Etihad Mujahidin), Maulvi Nazir Group, Tahrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Amre Ba Maroof and Momin group. By combating these terrorist groups, they will alienate and turn their own foot soldiers against the Taliban regime. Therefore, these groups will continue their operations from Afghanistan and Pakistan and if not destroyed, they will become far more dangerous for the region and beyond (Dilemma of Central Asian Jihadists between IS-K and Taliban).

As it relates to the Taliban regimes’ future, there are four probable scenarios:

  • SCENARIO ONE: Pragmatic Governance. Considering the Taliban’s diplomatic activities in recent years and giving reassurance that they won’t allow Afghan soil to be used by terrorists, the Taliban develops a toned-down hybrid pragmatic governance and work on a viable constitution (perhaps even allowing a semi-representative system), where the Taliban is an important part, not the only part of the new Government. They are recognised by most countries and conflict levels remain low despite the presence of other terrorist groups. The new Government shows more leniency, inclusiveness across gender and ethnic lines, and a genuine desire to respect women and girls’ rights as well as minority rights in Afghanistan.
  • SCENARIO TWO: Divided Governance. Considering the past differences in theological interpretation of Islam and policy and planning amongst the Taliban groups, internal splits within the Taliban leads to divided governance within the Taliban leadership, administrative ranks and files, foot soldiers as well as other nonstate armed groups present in Afghanistan. After an initial period of engagement of the wider international community, only a few countries remain to support and recognise the Taliban such as Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Women and minority rights are interpreted within the ‘framework of Sharia’ and the media reporting is limited.
  • SCENARIO THREE: Rouge State Governance. Considering the Taliban’s incessant attacks on female schools, targeted assassinations of government officials, a predilection for violence and their ideological tint, the Taliban keep a closed foreign policy circle with Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan and take an aggressive stance towards the US and its allies. While sanctions remain, the economy does not completely collapse due to limited financial support, illicit business, and investments and the development of some mining sectors by China.
  • SCENARIO FOUR: Collapse and Civil War. Considering the Taliban’s past and present lack of attention given to the international community’s demands, pockets of a national uprising in urban canters and internal resistance around rural areas, including the IRoA government in exile and National Resistance Front, along with other terrorist groups begin to compete for power in Kabul and, as a result, the Taliban regime falls apart and a civil war begins. As regional powers join the war for their own competing interests in Afghanistan, the US and NATO military reengage in Afghanistan against the Taliban, their affiliates and state sponsors begin.

I would like to say again to our US ally that Americas’ longest war has not ended, because the second and most complex phase of this war has just begun. The US might have abandoned Afghanistan and its entire population, but unfortunately, transnational terrorism will not abandon America and its allies. Therefore, we must be fully prepared and have a viable re-engagement plan for the occurrence of the most probable scenario: the Collapse and Civil War in Afghanistan.”.

Author: Silvia Boltuc

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