COLUMN/ THE HOT POTATO
New Delhi: Afghanistan did not fall. It was not captured by the Taliban.
For a country to fall or to be captured, there has to be a battle. There needs to be confrontation. There will be bloodshed. There should at least be some amount of resistance.
There was none of it as the Taliban militants suddenly and smoothly surged to power in just two weeks’ time without facing a single obstacle.
Why was there no resistance? Why did no one stop the Taliban from returning to power?
Notice that there were thousands of foreign troops, mostly American, illegally stationed on Afghan soil when the Taliban launched the sudden charge to retake power.
In July end, the Taliban forces were languishing on the fringes of power. Suddenly, in two weeks’ time, they marched through cities and districts without facing much opposition, taking the capital Kabul on August 15.
The foreign forces were very much on the ground at that time. The same American and NATO soldiers had toppled the Taliban from power in 2001.
But this time, they did not stop the Taliban. Instead, it became clear that US-led foreign forces helped the Taliban take control of the country.
The gates to Kabul were thrown widely open. US-made weapons, equipment and vehicles were served up like a buffet for the Taliban to take possession of. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government machinery and his national army simply melted away.
The Taliban were armed to the teeth. But they didn’t have to go through the grind of storming. It was a cakewalk. They just ambled in.
Because this chain of events is part of a deal that was ceremoniously signed between the US government and the Taliban leadership in Doha in February 2020.
The deal said at that time – America’s war against the Taliban had ended, the Taliban would stop supporting terrorism, and all foreign soldiers would leave Afghan soil in 2021.
Since it is well established that the US military allowed the Taliban’s return, it means the US government supports the militants.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001. It was modern history’s most hideous and atrocious regime. The Taliban follows an ultra-conservative strand of Islam, it is extremely intolerant towards human rights, and it is deeply regressive in its treatment of women.
The US, on the other hand, projects itself as the global leader of free society, tolerance, modern values, human rights, equality and progress.
But what just happened this month is that the same US has allowed the perverse Taliban group to come to power while its so-called anti-Taliban troops were stationed right there.
Things just don’t add up, do they?
Notice the tone and tenor of what American President Joe Biden has been saying. You would expect him to raise alarm over Afghanistan slipping back into the dark days. You would expect him to order his trigger-happy Afghanistan-based soldiers to topple the Taliban again.
But no, Biden has only been meekly commenting on the developments, not sounding alarmed by Taliban’s rise. Instead, the message he’s sent across is – what the Taliban does to the Afghan people can come later, all I care about now is how quickly I can get US soldiers and US nationals to leave Afghanistan.
The White House’s stance is a shameless endorsement of the Taliban regime by the world leader of democratic values.
Now let’s look at a couple of other countries that have shockingly decided to support the Taliban. They are China and Russia, two rising empires.
China appeared to take a guarded approach in the initial days of the handover of power. Beijing’s first reaction was – we will decide on recognising the new Afghan rulers only after a government is officially formed.
A few days on, China began to engage with the Taliban leaders. Beijing started to openly tell the world that Taliban needs to be given a long rope to prove itself, and it shouldn’t be sanctioned or punished right away. It’s a clear endorsement.
Beijing’s ruling Communist party calls China a rising, evolved country that believes in inclusive growth. Then why does it support the regressive and intolerant Taliban?
China dreads Islamic terrorism, often saying it fears the possibility of Jihadist terror spreading to the western part of the country. Yet, it is now backing an organisation that has a proven track record of breeding the world’s deadliest terror organisations.
Let’s now come to Russia. Unlike China, Moscow hasn’t openly been backing the Taliban. But Vladimir Putin’s government has sent out signals that it’s interested in forging constructive ties with Afghanistan’s new rulers, and it won’t support any resistance movement that the Taliban faces in the near future.
In recent decades, the Russians have projected themselves as a technology-driven, cyber-focused society that also has the blessings of the Orthodox Church.
But Moscow, once widely appreciated for backing iconic whistleblowers such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, is now ready to build relations with the Taliban that is a fan of suppressing freedom of expression. That’s yet another endorsement.
There are some other countries, too, that have made their fondness for the Taliban felt. One of them is Pakistan, whose intelligence apparatus is believed to have played a central role in jumpstarting Taliban’s revival.
The other is Iran, which is constantly at loggerheads with the US, but agrees with Washington that the Taliban should be given a free hand to run Afghanistan.
Of course, Pakistan and Iran are not major world powers. Their stance on the unfolding situation in Afghanistan should hardly rattle the world.
What is rattling and disturbing is how the troika of America, China and Russia – three competing modern-day empires – have teamed up to systematically support and protect the notorious Taliban regime.
Geopolitics indeed makes strange bedfellows.