Following the announcement of the complete withdrawal of US and foreign troops in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters made rapid advances towards capturing the seat of power in the war-torn nation. This takeover was completed with the capture of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday, August 15. The President and other key officials reportedly fled the country, leaving many scrambling for their dear life.
Since the takeover, chaotic scenes have emerged from Afghanistan, most notably with the Kabul airport fiasco. A now-infamous video emerged of Afghans hanging onto a US Military evacuation aircraft speeding through the tarmac. About seven fell to their deaths.
In addition, women’s rights groups are raising concerns over the Taliban’s reputation with women’s rights. Fear and apprehension also characterize the mood in the nation. Nevertheless, the Taliban are taking a stance of moderation. To understand the crisis in Afghanistan, it is important to understand what the Taliban is all about.
Who are the Taliban, and what do they want?
The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. It is rooted in rural areas of Kandahar Province, in the country’s ethnic-Pashtun heartland in the south. The Soviet Union had invaded in 1979 to prop up the Communist government in Afghanistan. However, they met a similar fate of enormous powers—past and present—that have tried to impose their will on the country. Eventually, the Soviet Union was driven out.
Despite their efforts, the Soviets were defeated by Islamic fighters known as the Mujahedeen, a patchwork of insurgent factions supported by a U.S. government happy to wage a proxy war against its Cold War rival. However, the joy over that victory was short-lived, as the various factions fell out and began fighting for control. The country fell into warlordism and brutal civil war.
Against this backdrop, the Taliban, with their promise to put Islamic values first and to battle the corruption that drove the warlords’ fighting quickly attracted large followership. Over months of intense fighting, they took over most of the country.
How did the Taliban Rule during its First Stint?
In 1996, the Taliban declared an Islamic Emirate, imposing a harsh interpretation of the Quran and enforcing it with brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations, and mass executions. They strictly curtailed the role of women, keeping them out of school.
In addition, they made it clear that rival religious practices would not be tolerated. In early 2001, the Taliban destroyed towering statues known as the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan, objects of awe around the globe. The Taliban considered them blasphemous and boasted that their destruction was holy.
“It is easier to destroy than to build,” observed the militants’ minister of information and culture. The last time they ruled, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs too. Women caught outside the home with their faces uncovered risked severe punishment. Unmarried women and men seen together also faced punishment.
Timeline of Events Leading to the Taliban Takeover
After the United States announced a change to its planned exit from Afghanistan from May 1 to September 11, Taliban attacks against civilians and US military officials resumed. At the start of July, experts warned the Taliban were on the ascendancy, projecting that the group could retake Kabul before October. However, that takeover happened faster than projections. Here is a rundown of events leading to the takeover.
- April 14 – President Joe Biden announces U.S. troops will withdraw from Afghanistan starting on May 1 and ending on Sept. 11, bringing America’s longest war to a close.
- May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces.
- May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country.
- June 7 – Senior government officials say over 150 Afghan soldiers die in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces.
- June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the country’s north, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken over 50 of 370 districts.
- July 2 – American troops quietly pull out of their main military base in Afghanistan – Bagram Air Base, an hour’s drive from Kabul. It effectively ends U.S. involvement in the war.
- July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August. Talks continue.
Taliban vs. Afghan Fighting Begins…
- July 21 – Taliban controls about half of the country’s districts. This was according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the speed of their advance.
- July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks.
- July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009.
- Aug 6 – Zaranj in the country’s south becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north.
- Aug 13 – Four more provincial capitals fall in a day, including Kandahar, the country’s second city and spiritual home of the Taliban. In the west, another key city, Herat, gets overrun and veteran commander Mohammad Ismail Khan, one of the leading fighters against the Taliban, gets captured.
- Aug 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar Province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on the next steps.
- Aug 15 – The Taliban takes the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul.
Reactions Trailing the Taliban Takeover
Since the retake of Afghanistan, people have taken to social media to voice out their opinions. Below are some of the reactions.
Biden's Afghanistan fiasco sends the unmistakable message to future allies that we won’t have their backs. When you treat friends like that, you end up with no friends.https://t.co/PRj7QGIZ8W
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) August 20, 2021
Really sad for Christians in Afghanistan at the moment. Their faith is pretty much a death sentence. And although for Christians, death is not something to fear, persecution is not a cakewalk. God be with them ❤️
— Jola (@Jollz) August 16, 2021
What’s happening in Afghanistan is so so sad .. what has the world turned into
— £ € R N A N D A (@szafernanda) August 17, 2021
— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) August 19, 2021
What Does the Afghan Crisis Portend for African Nations?
Although the Afghan crisis is occurring in the Far East, many continue to draw parallels between the crisis and terrorism in African nations. In the same mannerism as the Taliban, insurgent groups such as Boko Haram/ISWAP continue to terrorize Nigeria for the past decade. In Somalia, Al-Shabab continues to run riot, while Al-Qaeda is strengthening its foothold on the Islamic Maghreb in Mali.
With the takeover of Afghanistan, political analysts project that these insurgent groups could receive psychological boosts. David Hundeyin, a Nigerian journalist and public affairs commentator believes that “Afghanistan is a scale version of Nigeria, with a large population of Jihadi sympathizers…it will also end in tears and a crowded Abuja airport.”
In this @BusinessDayNg column, I use the example of postwar Igboland as a case in point to argue that entire cultures and civilisations do not have to drift toward extremism and other bad choices when facing upheaval. https://t.co/swcI3GgS9S
— David Hundeyin (@DavidHundeyin) August 20, 2021
I guess they weren’t the last days, two covers twenty years, a generation apart. I wonder what will be on the cover for Afghanistan in 2040. Or for Nigeria? Ethiopia? Somalia? Hard times for weak fragile artificial dysfunctional states. pic.twitter.com/oupMi0CSlf
— OK then (@Kdenkss) August 15, 2021
On the other side of the divide, several other analysts believe the comments made by these commentators are simply alarmist. Some of these analysts believe that the peculiarities of the situation in Afghanistan make it impossible in Africa. Although both sides are firm in their convictions, only time can be the true judge.
— The Daily Jubba (@DailyJubba) August 15, 2021
What can African Governments do to Avoid the Afghanistan Insurrection in Africa?
Although there are legitimate arguments on both sides, the common ground is that African governments cannot afford to take terrorism with kid-glove. The war against terrorism is complex. However, victory can only come about by a combination of strategies. Some of these strategies are;
#1. Serious Dialogue
One of the key takeaways from the Afghan crisis is that nobody wins ideological wars with bullets and bombs. Despite trillions of dollars in aid, personnel, and equipment spending by the US, the Taliban has wiped out all its 20-year efforts in a matter of weeks. By the same token, African governments will only continue to spend taxpayers’ money without result if they refuse to bring these insurgent groups to the roundtable.
#2. Strategic Partnerships to Improve Military Might
Many observers agree on the fact that the Afghan capital was easily taken by the Taliban because, as President Biden said, “the Afghan troops simply refused to fight.” In Africa, one of the key reasons these insurgencies have lasted long is a gross under-equipment and/or under-training of troops for the fight. With strategic partnerships with western powers and dedication of the part of the African troops, the war against terrorism will be a thing of the past.
#3. Commitment to Development
Many young people can become lured by extremist ideologies because of unemployment and poverty. Many developed nations rarely experience insurgencies because of higher youth employment. Similarly, if African nations must put terrorism behind them, then their governments must commit to true economic development.
Although the situation in Afghanistan looks gloomy, many around the world continue to express hope that things can improve. Nevertheless, Africans continue to express their fears that unstable states are rapidly towing the path of Afghanistan. We want to hear from you. Do you think the Afghan situation can occur in any African nation? If yes, which ones, and why? What can governments do to avert this? Share your thoughts in the comment section.