The Taliban Taking Over Afghanistan


Afghan pro-government forces (including militia and army troops) assemble in Jowzjan Province during the 2021 Taliban offensive. Wikimedia Commons

According to CNN, it was two weeks ago when US intelligence analysts conducted an estimation that it would merely take a couple of weeks until the Afghanistan government in Kabul were to be controlled by the Taliban. That estimation did not meet reality because the Afghanistan government in Kabul would be controlled by the Taliban in a matter of days. 


After the Taliban militants were revoked two decades ago by US troops, Taliban militants once again took full control of Afghanistan’s capital. After the US troops in Afghanistan began to diminish in July, the Afghan security forces did not fight back against the control of power by the Taliban militants in most of the country. The control of the Taliban militants led to the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country. 


Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country … and that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”


But, when did the Taliban surge in power?


According to The New York Times, everything would initiate in May when a tribal elder, Muhammad Jallal, in Baghlan Province was told by a Taliban commander to send a word to the Afghan governor troops at various bases in his district. 


Mr. Jallal said that the word he was told to send stated, “If they do not surrender, we will kill them.” 


Leaving no other choice, Mr. Jallal and several tribal elders obeyed. Throughout negotiations, two government bases and three outposts surrendered with no resistance. Over 100 security forces gave up their weapons and equipment and left their positions. 


A deal signed by the Trump Administration to remove all American troops in Afghanistan as of May 1st would be acknowledged by President Biden when he made an announcement on April 14 that he would honor that deal with the Taliban. That announcement was not deemed as favorable since the Taliban became more known in power. 


But, President Biden still had a plan in April that garnered hopes. 


What was that plan?


According to The New York Times, the nation’s top national security officials held a meeting on April 24 at the Pentagon to discuss the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Llyod J. Austin III, Gen. Mark A. Milley and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined with top White House and intelligence officials. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was not able to attend the meeting in person but resorted to attending the meeting by video conference. After four hours, a plan was formed. 


The Pentagon officials said that they could remove the 3,500 remaining American troops that were mostly stationed at Bagram Air Base by July 4. That would mean that the airfield that was the American military hub in Afghanistan would have to be closed, but Defense Department officials appalled having a defeated force and risks of service members losing their lives. Thanks to more than 1,400 remaining Americans guarded by 650 Marines and soldiers, State Department officials stated that the American Embassy would remain open. Displayed in the meeting, an intelligence assessment predicted that Afghan forces would be able to overpower the Taliban for one to two years. 


Briefly, it was discussed in the meeting that in case of an emergency evacuation plan, helicopters would transport Americans to the airport in Kabul. That emergency evacuation plan would stay in the dust because the Taliban also gained control of that airport. 


What are the conditions looking like for evacuation?


According to USA TODAY, there has been an effort to evacuate all American troops from Afghanistan by August 31st. However, Kabul’s airport became packed with Afghans trying to escape the Taliban. The Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul experienced danger to even attempt to board planes to leave Afghanistan due to the crowds of people. 


The Biden administration states there is an agreement with the Taliban for the militant group allowing secure passage to the airport, but reports claim otherwise. Instead of secure passage, the Taliban is harassing Americans at checkpoints. 


President Biden said, “The security situation is changing rapidly. We’re under no illusions about the threat.”


So far, there have been 30,000 people able to evacuate Afghanistan since late July. On Sunday afternoon, President Biden made an announcement that 11,000 people were airlifted in the span of the last 30 hours. 


It is unknown as to how many Americans are still in Afghanistan, but President Biden said, “Let me clear. Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.” 


How many deaths from the chaos in the airport?


According to a NATO official that told Reuters, there have been at least 20 people that have been killed inside and around the Kabul airport. From those 20 people, seven people were killed on Sunday. 


From all of this, who is in front of the Taliban?  


According to CNN, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious cleric, is who leads the Taliban. He became the Taliban leader in 2016 after the previous leader named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour died in a US airstrike in Pakistan. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the Taliban co-founder. He was released in 2018 after being captured in 2010 in Karachi. Baradar is the one who leads the group’s political committee. 


Due to the Taliban’s past, does the past remain present?


According to CNN, the Taliban states that they have committed to “the peace process, an inclusive government, and willing to maintain some rights for women.” Taliban spokesman, Sohali Shaheen, said that women are still permitted to follow their education from the primary to higher levels. Shaheen also stated that diplomats, journalists, and nonprofits are able to continue to conduct their professions in the country. 


“That is our commitment, to provide a secure environment and they can carry out their activities for the people of Afghanistan,” Shaheen said. 


However, there are many observers that have the same worry of the Taliban returning to its old rule of women having limited to no rights. That worry was justified in a tweet made by Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, that stated how “hundreds of thousands were being forced to flee amid reports of serious human rights violations.”


Amin Saikal, the author of “Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival,”states that the Taliban did not want Afghanistan to become a state in the shadows. But, the Taliban wanted Afghanistan to continue receiving international aid. 


However, Saikal does not believe that the Taliban has changed. 


Saikal states, “As far as their ideological commitment is concerned, they have not really changed.”

Afghan pro-government forces (including militia and army troops) assemble in Jowzjan Province during the 2021 Taliban offensive. Wikimedia Commons