Opinion | What lies on the other side of the red line in Afghanistan?

New DelhiWritten By: Major Amit Bansal (Retd)Updated: Aug 30, 2021, 10:31 PM IST
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Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (file photo) Photograph:(AFP)

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Although Taliban has occupied large tracts of the country, they are still far off from forming a legitimate government

Less than 24 hours are left before the deadline of 31st August 2021 will end. Taliban has issued strict warning that things may take an ugly turn if deadline is not met. While most of the countries have concluded their evacuation operations, US Forces are struggling to complete it and as on 30th August 2021, they not only handed over the outer perimeter security of Kabul Airport to Taliban but also destroyed all their material and equipment not feasible to be taken out.

A non-stop plan of airlifting all the men is underway. A contingent of over 1200 Taliban fighters is ready to take over the entire Kabul Airport and simultaneously their leaders are contacting foreign agencies to help them run the Airport since Taliban fighters are technically not competent to do so.

While we talk about it, the biggest question appears before us is the future of Afghanistan after 31st August 2021 when there will be no support forces in Afghanistan and the country will be at the mercy of God. There are several aspects that cannot be ignored and must be taken into consideration when thinking of the destiny of Afghanistan. 

Absence of a proper government

Although Taliban has occupied large tracts of the country, they are still far off from forming a legitimate government. They are known to be a terrorist group and many of their leaders are in the most wanted list of United Nations. So far hardly any country has given them recognition as a government and hence they are trying to rule the country with the help of guns. On the other hand, there is a resistance movement taking place in Panjshir Valley where the vice president of Afghanistan Mr Amrullah Saleh has declared himself as caretaker president. Technically as per the constitution of Afghanistan, he is right and hence gathering his Tajik fighters in formidable Panjshir valley where clashes with Taliban are already going on. In such situation, the government is unstable and in case resistance forces can take over the reins of Kabul, things may take a different turn altogether.   

Cash starved economy- Threat of narco-terrorism

While USA has frozen all the monetary assets of Afghanistan, other organisations like IMF and World Bank have refused to release any money to Afghanistan. With no cash available in a war-torn economy, things are going to turn bad post 31st August 2021. Taliban wants money to pay its fighters, expenditure on war and to create its propaganda machine in the country. With a situation near bankruptcy, there is a big threat looming as to how mandatory expenditures will be paid in Afghanistan. Taliban is known to promote narco-terrorism and a major part of its revenue comes from opium cultivation. With no money coming to the country, drugs will remain the only source of money and in such situation, things are likely to take a turn not only for Afghanistan but for entire of the world. 

Difficulties in providing humanitarian aid

Whole world is doubtful of the credibility of Taliban who are known to be terrorist supporters. Prior to 31st August 2021, several organisations including International Red Cross were actively working in Afghanistan but presently none of them is ready to work due to the fear of their own security. Taliban has also not given any assurance of security to international organisations. In such situation, it is difficult for a country which is fighting a war for over five decades to survive. So far, Taliban has not come up with any plan to provide basic amenities for its citizen too. Many people are already suffering due to issues related to health, hygiene, malnutrition, and drug abuse and in the situation where third wave of COVID19 is expected anytime, future is extremely dark. 

Ultra-fanatic attitude of Taliban 

Taliban are not fit to rule any country. They are primarily religious scholars who were taught ultra-fanatic form of Islam since childhood. They are brainwashed to be brutal fighters. Governing a country is totally different and needs an empathetic attitude. Taliban has already forced sharia law in the country and scrapped the constitution of Afghanistan. Their most brutal and stringent forms of medieval laws are a curse to humanity. Furthermore, their control over every department of country and run it as per their own laws is going to create problems. There are no rights to women and children. Male patriarchy is at top, and anyone can be punished at the call of religious leaders. Such things are not relevant in today’s time but since Taliban is hell bent to implement it, people of Afghanistan are certainly going to suffer due to lunatic attitude of Taliban. 

Safety of citizens

The biggest threat post 31st August 2021 is the safety of Afghan citizens. People have very ugly memories of previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan. When they entered Kabul in 1996, mass executions happened. Anyone with the slightest of doubt was killed mercilessly on streets and women were stoned to death. Presently when Taliban have access to entire database of the people who helped American forces against them, targeted killings have already started. We heard that Taliban are carrying out door-to-door searches in all major cities of Afghanistan and killing people at their will. After another 24 hours, there will be no one to control them and a bloodbath in Afghanistan is on cards. 

Refugee crisis – Breeding grounds for terrorists

UN-related organisations have predicted that more than 5-6 million refugees will migrate to nearby countries due to the ongoing crisis. Arranging basic amenities for these people is a big task especially with the fact that there is limited scope for humanitarian organisations. We must remember that Taliban was born from the colonies of the refugees who migrated to Pakistan during Soviet-Afghan war. These colonies were the breeding grounds of terrorists who went to the middle east, India (Jammu and Kashmir), Europe, Chechnya, Serbia and many other countries to fight.  At this time when the number of refugees is much larger, it is extremely difficult to predict as to which monster are they going to create in future. 

Threat of terrorist groups other than Taliban 

Islamic State- Khorasan has already made an entry in the peace process by bombing Kabul Airport on 26th August and firing rockets at it on 30th August 2021. They are most brutal of all and consider anyone who defies their ideology as enemy even if he is a Muslim. Similarly, there are other groups like Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-E-Taliban, Lashkar-E-Tayyeba, Hezb-E-Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and East Turkestan Islamic Movement present in Afghanistan. These groups are looking for the right opportunity to strike. With the present situation, any action by these groups is going to bring catastrophe to the country. 

Warlords- Threat of a civil war

Afghanistan’s politics had been dependent upon warlords who live a lavish lifestyle at the cost of common people. These warlords keep an army of armed soldiers and are very much possessive about their territories. They get support from their respective tribes and have been influencing day-to-day life in Afghanistan. Taliban advance has pushed most of these warlords away from their lands while some of them have joined the Taliban way of governance. As we saw in the past, these warlords are not going to sit silent and will strike back at a moment of their choice. While this will be a fight between Taliban and the warlords, ultimate sufferer will be the common Afghani citizen.

Role of Pakistan in destabilising Afghanistan 

Over the last five decades, if we see the sole reason behind all the disturbances in Afghanistan, only one name comes to mind and that is Pakistan. They created a force to destabilise Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan in 1974 and then led US-led operations in Afghanistan for over a decade. They were the ones who controlled majority of the warlords including “Buther of the Kabul”- Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and they were the ones who created Taliban. A significantly large number of global terrorists were from Pakistan which is evident from just one fact that at one point of time, more than 40% detainees in Guantanamo Bay detention facility were Pakistani citizens. The plot of 9/11 was hatched in Pakistan and the most wanted terrorist of the world, Osama Bin Laden was enjoying safe haven in the proximity of a military cantonment in Pakistan only. Nothing is predictable with a country that preaches terrorism as a state policy. The proximity of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI with Taliban and other terror groups like ISIS-K is not a secret anymore. Pakistan’s past actions proved that it is going to continue its activities and will not let peace prevail in Afghanistan. 

There are many questions and although we are quite close to midnight of 31st August 2021 when the bell will ring and the land of Gandhara will be left at the mercy of God, the indications and past experiences are pointing out to a major catastrophe in Afghanistan. Nothing can be predicted about the future since all our guesses have proved wrong. Only time has the answers hidden deep into its pockets. We can only pray and assume that things improve and there is normalcy in Afghanistan at the earliest. 

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)