The World Today for August 23, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

The Winners of Nothing

A week ago, the Taliban toppled the Afghan government and took over the country. Thousands have fled and many thousands more are trying to. Most of the international community is holding back diplomatic recognition. The US has frozen billions in Afghan assets desperately needed to prevent financial collapse, while donors including Germany and the IMF halt desperately need aid. Protests and armed resistance are growing.

By most measures, the Taliban may have won the battles but it has yet to win the war.

Over the past week, protests broke out in cities across Afghanistan, the New York Times reported. At least three people died in Jalalabad, Asadabad, Khost and elsewhere as the Taliban shot into crowds. Hundreds of women, some armed, also have taken to the streets in protests, demanding to keep their freedoms and rights.

And over the weekend, the Taliban lost control of three northern provinces after armed Afghans drove them out, the Washington Post reported. As Sediqullah Shuja, a former Afghan soldier who fought the Taliban told the Post. “As long as we are alive, we do not accept the Taliban’s rule.”

Analysts say that the Taliban is militarily far more superior than it was during its prior rule, from 1996-2001. Even so, some believe the anti-Taliban factions are also better trained now – many are US-trained former military or special forces – and have a better arsenal. They say they have been preparing for this day for years.

For example, one anti-Taliban force in another part of the north is the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary Afghan mujahideen leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud – he fought the Taliban before being assassinated in 2001. This group operates from the Panjshir valley, which the Taliban hasn’t captured yet. The younger Massoud is asking for Western help to oust the Taliban.

Still, other former mujahideen leaders such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who also fought the Taliban are not resisting. Former reconciliation council leader Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, want to work with the Taliban because they believe the group will create an inclusive government, the Guardian reported.

Some say that type of cooperation is contingent on the group doing as it says. The Atlantic and other outlets, meanwhile, recalled how the Taliban made the same promises 25 years ago – to offer amnesty to opponents, for example – and how they broke them.

After their takeover, the Taliban pledged to refrain from bloodshed, offer amnesty to opponents and respect women’s rights. But a week later, even as they protected a Shiite group’s religious festival – once unthinkable – they have shot at protestors, blown up a statue of Shiite militia leader, and beaten women and children trying to get to the airport. This week, the militants killed a family member of a local reporter that works for Deutsche Welle, while targeting other journalists, the German state broadcaster reported.

And the Taliban has gone door-to-door searching for people on their black list, a report prepared for the UN said and locals confirmed. There are reports of executions of soldiers and government officials outside of Kabul, where it’s harder to document them.

It’s this treatment that armed opposition groups say is fueling the resistance. “Taliban fighters did not listen to us,” said Shuja, referring to the deal local leaders made with the Taliban to stay out of the villages in exchange for support. “They came to our houses and harassed people. In our villages, people are very traditional and Muslim. There is no reason for the Taliban to come and teach us about Islam.”

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