A year after the Taliban (under UN sanctions for terrorism) took power, Afghanistan’s future remains bleak, with slim chances of domestic reconciliation and recognition by international actors, experts told Sputnik.
Last year on August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul, prompting then-President Ashraf Ghani to resign and hastily leave the country. The development accelerated the US troop withdrawal, which began in April and was completed in late August — in advance of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that led to the infamous US-led War on Terror and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The United States withdrew very haphazardly, causing chaos at the Kabul airport, with Afghans desperately attempting to make it out of the country, and 13 American soldiers killed in a bombing perpetrated by a local branch of the Islamic State terror group. The Biden administration left behind several thousand US citizens and permanent residents, as well as military equipment worth $85 billion.
Since August last year, the US has resettled at least 76,000 Afghan refugees, but there is still reportedly a backlog of 40,000 visa applicants, many of whom have been waiting for six months for a decision.
The Taliban soon created their own government, vowing that Afghanistan will be governed in strict accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
MORE GLOBAL INSECURITY
The return of the Taliban has emboldened regional and international terrorist groups and organizations, a development that threatens regional and global security, Nazif Mohib Shahrani, Professor of Central Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Global and International Studies of Indiana University, told Sputnik.
“The future of Afghanistan is very bleak under the Taliban rule, that is, more abuse of human rights of women and non-Pashtun communities, increased national resistance against the Taliban,” he said.
Shahrani himself felt the consequences of the new governance. He told Sputnik the Taliban have made it impossible for him to return home to see his family and relatives.
“It has also professionally made it unlikely for me to be able to return to teach or do field research in my beloved country of birth and early education, which has been the focus of my life-long professional occupation as a native anthropologist from Afghanistan,” he explained.
Shahrani doubts that the Taliban government will ever be recognized by international organizations.
“If the Taliban continue their current course of talk, but not the walk, it is very unlikely. The West may begin to support national resistance movement before the end of 2022, if there is no change in Taliban policy of not listening to the peoples of Afghanistan and their wishes as well as ignoring the international call for policy change,” he explained.
LITTLE HOPE FOR ANY RECONCILIATION DOMESTICALLY
The macro level indicators are not looking well for Afghanistan’s future, Raghav Sharma, director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies at O.P. Jindal Global University, told Sputnik.
“The defacto authorities in the country have installed a ‘victor’s cabinet’ demonstrating little appetite for compromise with domestic political opponents. In fact it offers very little hope for any reconciliation domestically,” he said.
Sharma said that personally, for him the last year has been traumatic with his family in Kabul being forced to flee.
“Many of my close friends loosing loved ones and dreams and aspirations of so many built up over the last two decades being brutally crushed,” he said.
The Taliban’s stance on girls’ education, human rights and other issues will only widen the chasm with the international community at large in the near future, according to the expert.
“This is likely to translate into reduced levels of political and economic engagement in turn reinforcing political isolation and dire economic situation in the country which in turn continue reinforcing push factors for migration,” Sharma said.
Afghanistan is unlikely to see its government being recognized internationally any time soon, the expert believes.
“The red lines for the Taliban were laid out clearly which is they should respect the gains of the last 20 years and break ranks with terrorist organizations. Thus far they have done neither and the Taliban as a reactionary Islamist group will find it hard to balance their core ideology with state interests,” he said.
POSSIBLE RECOGNITION BY CHINA?
Speaking of the possibility of recognition, Shahrani of Indiana University did not rule out that China might recognize the Taliban.
“If US relation with China worsens over Taiwan or other matters, China may consider recognition of the Taliban regime, but we will wait and see,” he said.
China has forged one of the best covert relations with the Taliban in the late 1990s, so it makes it no surprise that the two maintain good contacts, according to Shahrani.
“What has changed is Beijing’s willingness to play a greater political role in the Afghan theatre as it seeks to protect its perceived security and geo–economic interests,” he explained.
He believes that Beijing will continue to deepen its footprint in Afghanistan as it seeks foremost to protect its security interests.
“Notably this development has been accompanied by a corresponding growth in its military footprint in Tajikistan. It is likely to continue playing a significant political role in Afghanistan at times risking its international reputation,” the expert concluded.
In April, acting Afghan minerals and petroleum minister Shahabuddin Delawar said that the country’s authorities have prepared the ground for launching a joint Afghan-Chinese project at the Mes Aynak mine, a copper deposit located nearly 25 miles southeast of Kabul.
In July, the Afghan embassy in China said that Chinese companies are interested in investing in Afghanistan, particularly its mining infrastructure and the energy sector. Members of Chinese delegations have expressed interest in investing in Afghanistan’s solid mining railroads, energy and water sectors.