The history has been rewritten. Twenty years of US oppression finally comes to an end in the Afghanistan. The insurgents stormed across the country in a matter of time after Taliban captured all major cities featuring the US-trained Afghan security forces as just some spectators in their show. Taliban had the capital captured during the last week which was simultaneously stunning and pathetic. US soldiers were marching out of the Afghan land for the final time whereas some hundreds of people were trying to escape the country out of a “Taliban-fear” because of their previous engagement with US officials. Although the Taliban have tried to convey a sense of calmness all across the capital, It surely was inevitable – due to global concern and fear. People were calm outside the capital, but as it seems, hundreds of the people in the capital were clinging to the fuselage of departing planes along with their families.
How Taliban regained the capital so smoothly could be another discussion, but the most important thing that is on the table today is how exactly Taliban is planning to keep all systems running in a poverty-stricken and corrupt country? Afghanistan is not just a poor country, It is a country that had been run by the foreign donations with 75% of the government spending is financed alone by them. The country receiving a gigantic $4 billion a year in official aid is currently on the verge of cutting the diplomatic bonds with most of the country as countries won’t recognize them as the legal authority of the Afghanistan. How exactly will they turn everything in favor of them when there are some big pies of problems to solve: the women rights issue, freedom of press, freedom of speech, corruption, internal tribal conflicts, foreign affairs, and so on.
As it seems, the foreign affairs could be the biggest misery of the newly arrived Afghan authorities. Germany has already warned them to cut off the financial supports they are giving to Afghanistan if the Taliban introduce “Shariyah Law” in the state. The state’s bankruptcy has tempted the foreign especially western donors to into thinking that financial pressure could be well levied upon the Taliban – in the form of threats to withhold humanitarian and development funding. Even though the western imperial countries won’t be a good ally of Taliban which they must have thought of before taking the power away, Taliban can still get some spiritual support as well as financial support from China and Pakistan as these two countries are greatly dependent on Afghan routes and passes.
IMF’s threat to block more than $400 million foreign aid for Afghanistan as Taliban seize the power is somewhat funny. Even before their blitz into Kabul over the weekend, the Taliban had claimed Afghanistan’s real economic prize: the trade routes – comprising all the Highways, bridges, and check passes that sure serve as strategic choke points for trade across the South Asia. With their power now spread all across these sites, Taliban now can afford to outrun the foreign aids if they really make a good use of all these high revenue earning sites.
One particular reason that the west have always undermined is the informal sector of Afghanistan and the vast amounts of cash hidden in the war zones. As Taliban now can fully capture the informal sector and war zone (which they were always a dominant force in), they can grow the national savings. Trafficking in opium, hashish, methamphetamines, and other narcotics are too some parts of this informal economy. The real money in Afghanistan comes from the illegal movement or purchases of ordinary goods, i.e: fuel, consumer imports. In its size and the sum – the informal economy of Afghanistan dwarfs the size of the foreign donations. Through all these informal economic flows, even though It’s so uncertain what might come next in this country, It’s highly likely that the future of Afghanistan will be less influenced by western policies and diplomacies.
In a recent study done by the NYT, published by Overseas Development Institute, It was found that one of the border cities of Afghanistan – Nimruz – collected a total sum of $235 million annual tax revenue where they received less than $20 million a year in foreign aid. These informal taxation were collected by the military personnel for allowing safe passages of goods and services through the border. Nimruz is believed to be one of the heartland provinces for Taliban and they might use it as a major economic model city for their upcoming internal economic challenges. The other border cities like Ziranj too will be the cash sources of Taliban. As of the study, true total revenues from this Ziranj border has crossed to at least $176 million a year and these revenues are just the liquid cash Taliban would like increment further as they seek to strengthen their internal economy with much broad cash flows and control.
Taliban is no talismanic power in the middle-east politics and they obviously know that. Their existence is not quite welcoming for the neighboring countries as some of them have already vowed to the western policy of not recognizing them. But, can they live up to it? Most of these unsettled countries now have two options: either continuing to trade with the Taliban by legitimizing and strengthening them even more; or denying trading with them by accepting the financial pain comes with it. As It was officially announced, Iran cut off trading through the Afghan borders in early August. Taliban collected a total sum of $84 million last year just by taxing afghan people who trade with Iran. These border provinces pass through more than $2 billion a year in trading goods and services which would surely be doubled if the informal economy is counted along with. Although the borders are shaky currently because of the unexpected seize in the Afghan authority, the border economy is getting vapored for a full swing. Once this border economy is fully swinging and the passes are being checked appropriately – then Taliban are set to fly high. No more external forces could possibly hurt them anymore – until anyone tries to invade them like USA did in 2001.
There’s a holistic and pragmatic way of looking into this matter – hundreds of Afghans fleeing from their homeland, especially in Kabul airport. These people are worried that under the Taliban regime, the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could possibly carry out revenge attacks and search against those who worked with the Americans or the government in the past twenty years. But, that’s not entirely a true position of belief. Taliban have already announced that they have “forgiven” everyone who worked with the previous government or with the US forces. As of now, there are some three thousands US military personnel staying in Kabul, as to ensure a safe evacuation for the people who are trying to flee off the country or who have worked with them. But, Taliban yet to make any collision with them; Taliban are even claiming that they are working jointly with the US forces to take on this departure smoothly. International diplomatic arena holds a big grudge against the implementation of the Islamic Shariyah Law, which Taliban would surely want to cap. Taliban’s cultural spokesman urged their political agenda of implementing of the Shariyah Law very clear.
But, how much Taliban would want to sacrifice their will in exchange of a timely demand is the right question to ask. In their 1996-2001 regime, women were banned from the institutional education and working outside of the home was totally cursed. Even Taliban banned the music which excluded the traditional tribal music obviously. After twenty years agony and suffering, as Taliban derailed the US- backed government and took over the power – should Taliban become cautious of what they want to carry on into, culturally and legally? Since their retrieval, Taliban have tried utmost to present themselves as a more moderate and tolerant force in recent years. They just have promised to respect afghan women’s rights, “unconditionally” forgive those who fought against them in the past years and prevent their homeland Afghanistan from being used as a base for further terror attacks. If they keep all of these promises, are we then heading forward to a Taliban 2.0, way cooler and moderate than their precedent regime? If that happens against all odds, the question would be – how the West and Europe should deal with them? Should they embrace Taliban giving them more audacity to hope for a better future of Afghanistan or should they just
reject further discussion worsening the present situation in Afghanistan? Do they really have choices if Taliban keep all their promises, especially the ones related with women’s rights and freedom of press?
There’s still a remaining question in the discussion table now and that is how could the Taliban take over the whole Afghanistan so smoothly within a week? The utter silence from the domestic security forces were uncalled for and were unexpected. US military and its government tried every way possible to train them with the best military equipment in the world. Still they all vowed to Taliban without firing a single gunshot. A city is taken over whilst there was no shot fired or no gun pointed at. It sounds too utopian to say, but Its the harsh truth of the war on terror project that It’s totally a failed try out in Afghanistan. The U.S. and its NATO allies spent billions of dollars over two decades to train and equip Afghan security forces to combat “terrorism”. But the Western-backed Ghani government was so rife with corruption. Afghan commanders exaggerated the number of soldiers to siphon off resources, and troops in the field often lacked ammunition, supplies or even food. Although It was believed that the Afghan security forces comprise of more than 3,00,000 military personnel, a BBC investigation found this claim utterly incorrect. The investigation found recently that the size of the Afghan military forces was exaggerated and the size of the country’s security forces wouldn’t exceed 50 thousands.
Their morale further eroded when it became clear the U.S. force was on its way out from Kabul. As the Taliban rapidly advanced in recent days, the entire units surrendered after some brief battles, whereas Kabul and some nearby provinces fell without a single fight. The twenty-year-long attempt to secularize the Afghanistan finally said goodbye to Afghanistan – a land where people tend to be more traditional and custom loving, a country where a privileged secular dogma was levied upon the mass people who didn’t even care about secularism or modernized west-politics. The most buzzing issue is probably the afghan women’s rights to work and education which was denied and banned in the first regime of the Taliban. However, this time the issue gets a new flavor as Taliban announced that they will certainly be more inclusive and diverse than they were ever before. They urged to initiate a government comprising of all sorts of Afghan people. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, emerged from the shadows last week in his first-ever public appearance to address those concerns at a news conference.
He promised the Taliban would surely honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic ethics and law, without elaborating further. The Taliban fighters have encouraged women to return to work and have allowed girls to return to school, handing out Islamic headscarves at the door. A female news anchor interviewed a Taliban official last week in a TV studio which is first of its kind as Taliban have always hold a rigid principle regarding women’s being around the media. Although the girls are allowed to go to school, some pundits have raised a moral obligatory test for Taliban: will they let the girls choose any subject they want to study, for instance, Engineering, computer science etc? Or, it’s just beyond their choice where they’ll have to choose what Taliban offer them to study on? There’s an urban dialectics popping up when the issues of women’s rights and education are being discussed and without uprooting the stereotypes of the rural people of Afghanistan, the secularism would never get any deemed success. Thus it needs to be well considered what the rural people think in Afghanistan, about their women and their state as a whole. “Let the Afghan people decide what their fate would look like” sounds to chaotic, maybe it’s unrealistic too. But, at least, when things like this sentimental are being politicized, people tend to forget the rituals and long lasting customs in Afghan culture. Weighing the whole western doctrinal liberalization upon the illiterate Afghan women might not turn up a very good investment, unless the both sides agree to slow things down and move forward step by step.
If IMF really blocks Afghanistan from receiving its fair share of the largest-ever allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), equivalent to $650bn, including an estimated $460m in SDRs for the people of Afghanistan, then it will again show a hypocrisy of the international corporations and groups. Because when the US troops illegally interfered Afghanistan, another sovereign country that had its own parties and politics, the mother organization of the international community went in a complete silence. 2.5 lac people have died in this illegitimate war on terror, millions have lost their homes and a peaceful, conservative Afghanistan turned into a complete violent, terror-hunting country in the past twenty years.
As it seems, Afghanistan has shown the true color and ultimate fate of the global imperialism, whether it is American imperialism or the soviet imperialism, and the ultimate fate of the imperialism is that it will be defeated and trashed by the people. Afghanistan became a military and diplomatic burden for the US for so long that they were trying to get rid of it at any cost. Trillions of dollars invested in the wake of the secularism finally pays no return except illegal eroding and exports of the natural resources in Afghanistan. War on terror got slapped back for its own seeds in this land. A peaceful transition of power in the capital of Afghanistan proves nothing less than a sheer denial by the Afghan people to the existence of the mighty imperialists.
The author is a Bangladeshi born political scientist whose interests covers mainly the Middle-east and around.