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What The Taliban's Expansion Means for Kabul and India

We attempt to explain how the Taliban is gaining control and what its resurgence in the wake of US exit means.

Updated
Explainers
6 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>The Taliban are advancing and US intelligence predicts the fall of Kabul (in the picture) within 90 days.&nbsp;</p></div>
i

As the Taliban continue to seize one regional capital after another, gaining control over Afghanistan territory, the international community is alarmed by the fate of the country and its global implications.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is reportedly seeking help from regional militias despite being on sour terms with them, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, US President Biden has spelt it out loud and clear that there's no returning to Afghanistan.

The UN, in July, warned that around 270,000 people had been forced to escape once the US troops withdrew — a number that has further multiplied now.

As India participates in the Afghan peace talks in Doha along with other nations to examine the situation in the country, we attempt to explain how the Taliban is gaining control and what its resurgence in the wake of US exit means.

What The Taliban's Expansion Means for Kabul and India

  1. 1. Who Are The Taliban? How Did They Gain Prominence?

    The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group that aims to make Afghanistan – now a Republic – into an Islamic State. They ruled the country from 1996 until 2001, when a US-led invasion toppled the regime for offering refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

    The extremist group aims to bring the "strict interpretation" of teachings of the Sharia law into governance. It is allegedly backed by some Islamic states and organisations across the continent.

    The Taliban rose to power as a governing body after the 1992-96 Afghan Civil War – a war that lasted for over four years to decide the fate of Kabul after President Mohammad Najibullah lost the Soviet support and agreed to resign. Disagreements among the Mujahideen groups led to a struggle of who should assume power. The Taliban came to power after assuming Sarobi, and thereafter Kabul in September 1996, which led to another civil war resulting in the arrival of US and UK troops in Afghanistan.

    The years of 1996-2001 saw a Northern Alliance resisting the Taliban. The killing of the leader of the Alliance and the 9 September 2001 attack at the WTC led the NATO troops to declare war on terrorism – or war on Taliban. The clashes between the Taliban, supposedly backed by neighbouring Islamic states, and the government of Afghanistan backed by the NATO forces continued till early this year when the US decided to step back after a deal with the Taliban leaders, and suggested that the Taliban and the government indulge in peace talks.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Happened Once The US Troops Left Afghanistan?

    The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan after the 11 September attacks. They claimed that their interference in the Afghan civil war was to dismantle the Al Qaeda – a terrorist organisation which was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre and had a strong base in Afghanistan. This was to be done by removing the Taliban from power. In April 2021, President Biden said that they had achieved their mission long ago and announced their pullout from Afghanistan.

    The stepping back of US troops ended up triggering widespread bombings and killings. The clashes between the government and Taliban have not ceased. Even though the Taliban stopped fighting the US troops after signing the deal and US agreed to withdraw, they still have been at arms with the Afghan government.

    While the US has assured to keep some troops stationed for the safety of their embassy and Kabul airport, Taliban is expanding its territory each day. According to a BBC report, by early August, Taliban was in control of half of the country. The Taliban is in control of three major cities in the country and the government's troops are at a disadvantage in terms of personnel, ammunition, and spirit. They have managed to capture nine provincial capitals, the first one being Zaranj (on 6 August) followed by Sheberghan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Aybak, Pul-e-Khumri, Faizabad and the most recent Ghazni (on 12 August). As of this day, another four capitals including Kandahar and Herat are being contested. Taliban is now directly controlling two thirds of the country.

    Although the Taliban has not gained control of the capital yet, experts worry about how long it will take for Kabul to fall with the rate of aggressive offence. A latest US military intelligence predicted Kabul to be in the hands of the Taliban within 90 days, the AP reported.

    "The Afghan security forces lost their morale due to intense propaganda by the Taliban," a senior official from the city, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

    The people of Afghanistan have been reeling under uncertainty and casualty of War since the 1980s. The position of women, education, art in society is at a standstill. Migration, deaths and other unfortunate incidents have left the citizens fretful.

    Shaharzad Akbar, the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission called on the UN Security Council to attend and respond to the atrocities in the country "with a greater sense of urgency". "We cannot wait and watch history repeat itself," she said.

    The ongoing storm of atrocities is costing lives and spreading terror, pushing the possibility of peace further away. Gains made are under attack and rapidly shrinking, she said, adding that the rights of women and girls, including access to education, markets and basic health services, are diminishing. Access to information and the freedom of expression is equally concerning, as independent media in the provinces is shut down.
    Shaharzad Akbar to the UNSC

    The government accused the Taliban of assassinating Afghan government officials and security force members, civil society advocates, journalists and human rights workers — including several women shot in broad daylight.

    Meanwhile, the Turkish president is planning to meet with the Taliban and discuss ways to bring the insurgency in control. They aim to protect Kabul airport after the complete withdrawal of the US and help ensure peace.

    On being asked why are the Taliban fighting the Afghan forces now that the US has signed a deal with them, a Taliban commander near Kabul told Vice News, "Afghanistan is run by the system built by Americans and that is not acceptable at all, and we won't accept it."

    Expand
  3. 3. But Who is Funding The Taliban?

    Apart from alleged international support, and cross border smuggling of weapons and training of militants, the Taliban is said to have been making good money independently.

    More than 60 percent of the revenue comes in from the illicit opium trade. The Taliban levies taxes on each stage of the trade, charging 10 percent tax from the cultivators. They derive a lot of funds from poppy cultivation which helps them sustain financially by themselves.

    The Taliban have also indulged in mining and trade of minerals across the border. Moreover, they have levied taxes on most activities in the regions controlled by them. Extortion is another way of securing funds for the organisation.

    Apart from that, they have on multiple occasions raided and stolen ammunition from the Afghan forces and hence come in possession of US-made technologically advanced defence equipment.

    Expand
  4. 4. How Does It Impact Afghanistan?

    The Taliban had risen to power to fight corruption and implementation of the Sharia. However, the things that they are associated with is the orthodox and discriminative attitude towards women, harsher punishments, and human rights violations.

    Safety of Women

    A Taliban commander told Vice News that rights must be issued within Islamic framework. "We do not ever restrict rights of women, we don't stop their education and the people of Afghanistan – men and women, should not fear the Islamic law as it supports peace togetherness and prosperity," he said, adding that the Taliban of 2021 is different from that of the 1990s.

    On 9 August, there was a report of the killing of a 21-year-old Afghan woman for wearing tight clothes and not being accompanied by a male relative as she was about to board a vehicle. She was wearing a burqa and had her face covered. The Taliban, however, has denied the accusation.

    Terrorism

    While many analysts and reports correlate Al Qaeda with Taliban and called them "inseparable", Afghanistan's representative to the UNSC said that the Taliban and their international allies are trying to turn the country as safe harbour for terrorism and have launched "5500 attacks in 31 provinces".

    Migration

    When the Taliban captured Kandahar, nearly 11,000 families moved to refugee camps. Now, once again many are being forced to flee their homes. The Taliban's past has also pushed people to leave their homes in search for safer spaces.

    Expand
  5. 5. What Does it Mean For The Rest of The World?

    While many countries, including India, are trying to find a seat at the table to discuss the Taliban issue to help out Afghanistan, their motive is much more than just strengthening their global position. The Taliban coming to power means mass exodus to the neighbouring nations, migration crisis and cross-border terrorism.

    Afghanistan shares its borders with Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China and India. The crisis in Afghanistan is likely to affect these countries the most.

    India has invested a lot in the reconstruction and its open support for the government of Afghanistan might land it in hot waters with the Taliban which has in the past harboured terrorists against India. However, there have been claims which say it is important for India to have a dialogue with the Taliban and aid peace talks between the government and the military outfit as it would benefit India's position in Asia.

    Even though Pakistan is alleged to have supported the Taliban, the country cannot be sure of being spared by the Taliban uprising. The border areas of Pakistan might see a rise in inter-tribal conflicts and insecurity among the non-Pashtus, India Today reported. Taliban's previous conquests have affected the people of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan areas.

    While Tajikistan and Uzbekistan fear ethnic migration into their territories, Russia, like India, has to worry about its strategic alliances in the Asian region. The Taliban are supposedly sympathetic to Uighur Muslims, in turn posing a threat to China.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who Are The Taliban? How Did They Gain Prominence?

The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group that aims to make Afghanistan – now a Republic – into an Islamic State. They ruled the country from 1996 until 2001, when a US-led invasion toppled the regime for offering refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The extremist group aims to bring the "strict interpretation" of teachings of the Sharia law into governance. It is allegedly backed by some Islamic states and organisations across the continent.

The Taliban rose to power as a governing body after the 1992-96 Afghan Civil War – a war that lasted for over four years to decide the fate of Kabul after President Mohammad Najibullah lost the Soviet support and agreed to resign. Disagreements among the Mujahideen groups led to a struggle of who should assume power. The Taliban came to power after assuming Sarobi, and thereafter Kabul in September 1996, which led to another civil war resulting in the arrival of US and UK troops in Afghanistan.

The years of 1996-2001 saw a Northern Alliance resisting the Taliban. The killing of the leader of the Alliance and the 9 September 2001 attack at the WTC led the NATO troops to declare war on terrorism – or war on Taliban. The clashes between the Taliban, supposedly backed by neighbouring Islamic states, and the government of Afghanistan backed by the NATO forces continued till early this year when the US decided to step back after a deal with the Taliban leaders, and suggested that the Taliban and the government indulge in peace talks.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Happened Once The US Troops Left Afghanistan?

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan after the 11 September attacks. They claimed that their interference in the Afghan civil war was to dismantle the Al Qaeda – a terrorist organisation which was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre and had a strong base in Afghanistan. This was to be done by removing the Taliban from power. In April 2021, President Biden said that they had achieved their mission long ago and announced their pullout from Afghanistan.

The stepping back of US troops ended up triggering widespread bombings and killings. The clashes between the government and Taliban have not ceased. Even though the Taliban stopped fighting the US troops after signing the deal and US agreed to withdraw, they still have been at arms with the Afghan government.

While the US has assured to keep some troops stationed for the safety of their embassy and Kabul airport, Taliban is expanding its territory each day. According to a BBC report, by early August, Taliban was in control of half of the country. The Taliban is in control of three major cities in the country and the government's troops are at a disadvantage in terms of personnel, ammunition, and spirit. They have managed to capture nine provincial capitals, the first one being Zaranj (on 6 August) followed by Sheberghan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Aybak, Pul-e-Khumri, Faizabad and the most recent Ghazni (on 12 August). As of this day, another four capitals including Kandahar and Herat are being contested. Taliban is now directly controlling two thirds of the country.

Although the Taliban has not gained control of the capital yet, experts worry about how long it will take for Kabul to fall with the rate of aggressive offence. A latest US military intelligence predicted Kabul to be in the hands of the Taliban within 90 days, the AP reported.

"The Afghan security forces lost their morale due to intense propaganda by the Taliban," a senior official from the city, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The people of Afghanistan have been reeling under uncertainty and casualty of War since the 1980s. The position of women, education, art in society is at a standstill. Migration, deaths and other unfortunate incidents have left the citizens fretful.

Shaharzad Akbar, the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission called on the UN Security Council to attend and respond to the atrocities in the country "with a greater sense of urgency". "We cannot wait and watch history repeat itself," she said.

The ongoing storm of atrocities is costing lives and spreading terror, pushing the possibility of peace further away. Gains made are under attack and rapidly shrinking, she said, adding that the rights of women and girls, including access to education, markets and basic health services, are diminishing. Access to information and the freedom of expression is equally concerning, as independent media in the provinces is shut down.
Shaharzad Akbar to the UNSC

The government accused the Taliban of assassinating Afghan government officials and security force members, civil society advocates, journalists and human rights workers — including several women shot in broad daylight.

Meanwhile, the Turkish president is planning to meet with the Taliban and discuss ways to bring the insurgency in control. They aim to protect Kabul airport after the complete withdrawal of the US and help ensure peace.

On being asked why are the Taliban fighting the Afghan forces now that the US has signed a deal with them, a Taliban commander near Kabul told Vice News, "Afghanistan is run by the system built by Americans and that is not acceptable at all, and we won't accept it."

But Who is Funding The Taliban?

Apart from alleged international support, and cross border smuggling of weapons and training of militants, the Taliban is said to have been making good money independently.

More than 60 percent of the revenue comes in from the illicit opium trade. The Taliban levies taxes on each stage of the trade, charging 10 percent tax from the cultivators. They derive a lot of funds from poppy cultivation which helps them sustain financially by themselves.

The Taliban have also indulged in mining and trade of minerals across the border. Moreover, they have levied taxes on most activities in the regions controlled by them. Extortion is another way of securing funds for the organisation.

Apart from that, they have on multiple occasions raided and stolen ammunition from the Afghan forces and hence come in possession of US-made technologically advanced defence equipment.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Does It Impact Afghanistan?

The Taliban had risen to power to fight corruption and implementation of the Sharia. However, the things that they are associated with is the orthodox and discriminative attitude towards women, harsher punishments, and human rights violations.

Safety of Women

A Taliban commander told Vice News that rights must be issued within Islamic framework. "We do not ever restrict rights of women, we don't stop their education and the people of Afghanistan – men and women, should not fear the Islamic law as it supports peace togetherness and prosperity," he said, adding that the Taliban of 2021 is different from that of the 1990s.

On 9 August, there was a report of the killing of a 21-year-old Afghan woman for wearing tight clothes and not being accompanied by a male relative as she was about to board a vehicle. She was wearing a burqa and had her face covered. The Taliban, however, has denied the accusation.

Terrorism

While many analysts and reports correlate Al Qaeda with Taliban and called them "inseparable", Afghanistan's representative to the UNSC said that the Taliban and their international allies are trying to turn the country as safe harbour for terrorism and have launched "5500 attacks in 31 provinces".

Migration

When the Taliban captured Kandahar, nearly 11,000 families moved to refugee camps. Now, once again many are being forced to flee their homes. The Taliban's past has also pushed people to leave their homes in search for safer spaces.

What Does it Mean For The Rest of The World?

While many countries, including India, are trying to find a seat at the table to discuss the Taliban issue to help out Afghanistan, their motive is much more than just strengthening their global position. The Taliban coming to power means mass exodus to the neighbouring nations, migration crisis and cross-border terrorism.

Afghanistan shares its borders with Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China and India. The crisis in Afghanistan is likely to affect these countries the most.

India has invested a lot in the reconstruction and its open support for the government of Afghanistan might land it in hot waters with the Taliban which has in the past harboured terrorists against India. However, there have been claims which say it is important for India to have a dialogue with the Taliban and aid peace talks between the government and the military outfit as it would benefit India's position in Asia.

Even though Pakistan is alleged to have supported the Taliban, the country cannot be sure of being spared by the Taliban uprising. The border areas of Pakistan might see a rise in inter-tribal conflicts and insecurity among the non-Pashtus, India Today reported. Taliban's previous conquests have affected the people of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan areas.

While Tajikistan and Uzbekistan fear ethnic migration into their territories, Russia, like India, has to worry about its strategic alliances in the Asian region. The Taliban are supposedly sympathetic to Uighur Muslims, in turn posing a threat to China.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Published: 
Edited By :Riniki Sanyal
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