The Consequences (Part 3)

Mazar Afghanistan Blue Mosque
A man in front of the Blue Mosque in Mazar, Afghanistan. © Sven Gückel

Is the Taliban capable of governing Afghanistan if the United States were to release Afghanistan’s assets?

“The Consequences” is a set of short essays that provides views on Afghanistan’s current situation under the Taliban’s second reign. The third block of this series provides an analysis of the Taliban’s capacity to govern and provide basic services, and its resulting impact on the peace and stability of the country.

Part 3:

Will the Taliban be able to govern Afghanistan if the US releases Afghanistan’s assets and international support for the country is resumed? 

Studying the formation and evolution of the Taliban in the last twenty-seven years or so clearly shows that this group is by no means capable of governing a highly fragmented society. This is because the Taliban is an ideological fighting group that never had nor has any idea or strategy for the establishment of a capable government. The Taliban’s measures to govern Afghanistan after its takeover in mid-August 2021 provide clear evidence for this assertion.

Governing a highly fragile state such as Afghanistan does require a great deal of governing expertise; considering that the Taliban has no professional and expert human resources in governance, and that previous governmental institutions of Afghanistan were highly corrupt and carious, the Taliban will not be able to re-establish an effective system and govern Afghanistan quickly and easily. If the establishment of a capable government is delayed, other disastrous scenarios are more likely to occur.

Considering the explanation presented above, the question that arises is whether the Taliban can govern Afghanistan if the United States releases Afghanistan’s assets and international support for the country resumes.  Even if we don’t consider the direct and destructive interference of Pakistan in Afghanistan and we discount the National Resistance Army and ISK’s presence as a serious challenge for the Taliban’s acting government, the response to this question (for the following reasons) is NO.

After the establishment of the Taliban’s acting government (with serious interference from Pakistan’s ISI), it is now obvious that this group lacks independence in decision-making and has no capacity to establish an inclusive government, develop an effective governance strategy or provide basic services at the local level. Also, several cabinet members of the Taliban’s acting government are on the UN Security Council’s blacklist, and their local militia fighters at the local level act independent of the leadership. As a result, governing Afghanistan’s fragile society will be impossible for this group unless an inclusive, capable and democratic government is established and the people of Afghanistan are involved in local governance of their society.   

To validate the claims made above, we shall consider the governance capability of the Taliban across the following fields:

Currently, Afghanistan is a country with no law. Right after its takeover, the Taliban suspended Afghanistan’s constitution and all other legislation. Hence, there is no rule of law in the country, which puts citizens’ human rights at high risk of violation. The rule of law is evidenced by an independent judicial branch and a police force free from corruption, ideological and political influences. But the local Taliban militia groups, controlling every segment and sub segment of the cities and districts, have become the dominant judiciary and law enforcement bodies.

As a result, courts are not functioning, and the Taliban’s local militias are arresting and torturing citizens without considering their rights and dignity, making judgements in civil and criminal cases, enforcing their decisions based on their own interpretation of Sharia Law. Also, these militias force communities to pay them, rob humanitarian aid supplies and limit specific ethnicities and groups’ access to humanitarian aid at the local level.

The Taliban claims that security has improved after its victory, meaning that the number of civilian causalities resulting from its own terrorist attacks have decreased, but it has failed to provide social security during the past six months. According to credible reports, several kidnappings of traders, doctors and other rich members of communities have occurred, with kidnap victims having been killed even though their families paid ransoms worth hundreds of thousands of USD. Thus, owing to this level of insecurity, all traders, famous doctors, and rich members of society are fleeing the country to safe places such as Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. Likewise, due to poverty and lack of employment, the level of organized crime has increased significantly in the big cities of Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Jalal Abad. These are only a few examples that confirm the Taliban’s failure in providing governance across the country.

Transparency and responsiveness are the most important elements of a participatory government. Not only is the Talibani government dominated by one ethnic group at the cost of exclusion of other ethnics, but, also with support of the ISI of Pakistan, the power is concentrated in the hands of the most radical segment of the Taliban -the Haqqani Network – which has never believed in participatory government. According to confirmed reports from within the country, the Haqqani Network has created several martyrdom groups (fighting groups which are ready for suicide). For instance, it’s  recently been observed that some Uzbek Taliban groups in Faryab province that were seriously dissatisfied with the current power division within the Taliban government are disarmed using this brutal martyrdom groups and a powerful Uzbek Taliban commander has been put in custody.

While events are rapidly unfolding, and fateful decisions are being made for Afghanistan in the absence of rule of law, transparency and responsiveness are completely eschewed by the Taliban. Hence, none of the citizens understand nor have access to the means and ways that decisions are made; however, all Afghans are directly affected by decisions being made by the Taliban at the national and international levels. For instance, the Taliban’s decision on the appointment of an interim government resulted in the blockage of Afghanistan’s assets; closing girls’ schools for no acceptable reason, suspending the constitution and other legislation (which has resulted in a state of anarchy), changing the Supreme Court’s structure, dissolving the parliament of Afghanistan and changing the political settlement of the country are some of the many other decisions that are directly affecting Afghans’ day-to-day lives. But these landmark decisions are those about which the Taliban rarely provides information to the media and the people of Afghanistan.

Thus, frustration, fear, panic and a dark future are the result of excluding the people of Afghanistan from political participation; a lack of transparency and responsiveness, anarchy, continuous suppression of civil and political movement and arrest and target killing of open-minded clerics and intelligentsia are the outcome of the suspension of legislation and of an authoritarian establishment.

To establish peace and stability in Afghanistan’s fragmented society, a consensus-oriented agenda is a basic need; however, the frustration, fear, panic, anarchy and dark future of Afghanistan (the result of the Taliban’s authoritarian measures) are leading Afghanistan to greater brittleness and fragmentation. To have a consensus -oriented agenda, Afghanistan needs a government that understands the historical, cultural, and social context of its society to develop such an agenda. But the Taliban has no understanding of the historical, cultural, and social contexts of the country, nor an understanding of changes that occurred particularly during the past two decades in Afghanistan’s society, despite which it seeks to enforce its specific political agenda under the name of Sharia Law.

Exclusion, inequality and disrespect of others’ rights seem to be the core of the Taliban’s political agenda under the guise of Sharia Law implementation. Hence, it is clearly observed that under the pretext of countering opposition to Sharia Law, it is removing, dismissing, marginalising and even killing all groups, parties and individuals who are opposed to its repressive measures. For instance, the Taliban’s Acting Ministry of Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani stated, “there is no expectation from the people who studied [in Afghanistan] during past two decades.” This statement can be interpreted to mean that the Taliban is going to exclude all educated people of Afghanistan from political and social participation. And, in practice, this policy has resulted in large-scale ethnic and ideological filtration across all governmental institutions including the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Education.

However, the ethnic and ideological cleansing of governmental institutions is the first step, the second step the recently begun systematic terrorization and enforced disappearances of the opposition, open-minded clerics and intelligentsia. Recent examples of these measures (defended by Mawlawi Mujahed, the spokesperson of the Taliban) are the enforced disappearances of girls and boys demonstrators in Balkh and Kabul, the assassination of Mr. Abdul Salam Abed (an influential and intellectual cleric who was cooperating with international organisations), the assassination of several religious governmental schools' headmasters in Kapisa and the violent arrest of a cleric in Taloqan’s main mosque in the Takhar province. These are only a few examples of the large-scale repression of the Taliban to remove the oppositions, which is clearly demonstrating that it is not in favor of plural governance; because, it understands well that citizens’ political participation and freedom would spell the end of Taliban oppressive regime.

Conclusion and consequence

Currently, Afghanistan’s constitution and all legislation are on hold, and (in the absence of the rule of law) an exclusively authoritarian regime has been established that has already committed serious human rights violations and will continue to do so. Meanwhile, this regime is not independent in its decision making, nor capable of effectively governing the country. It is neither responsive nor transparent in decision making and is highly repressive towards Afghan citizens.

Under this specific circumstance, the people of Afghanistan have no right of participation nor oversight over the government. Their demonstrations and objections towards Talibani misconduct are being responded to by means of serious suppressive, ethnical and ideological massacre and marginalization across society and governmental organizations.

As a result, in the absence of citizen participation and effective monitoring mechanisms, there is greater corruption than in previous governments, governmental institutions have completely failed to provide services, and the provision of support and services by international organizations to society has run into serious difficulties. Hence, fear, panic and disappointment are widespread, and hope has been erased from society. In this very vague atmosphere full of fear and panic, facing a dark future, the people of Afghanistan are struggling to save their lives while the so-called acting government of the Taliban has an open and free space to do whatever it wants without any fear, control and oversight.

In such a situation, if the United States releases Afghanistan’s assets, it will not only improve citizens’ living conditions through improvement of governance but also quickly lead to an increase in the widespread corruption that is being practiced by Taliban at the national and local levels. Because, in addition to the lack of capacity within the Taliban’s acting government, there are also no effective monitoring mechanism over the Talibani government, no access to information, no free media and generally no local or national capacities to make the Taliban accountable for its measures.

Thus, it is most likely that without a participatory and democratic government in place, the assets of Afghanistan will rapidly be wasted, and Afghanistan will again return to its current state wherein the international community must provide humanitarian aid to avoid a disaster. In other words, the people of Afghanistan have been taken hostage by the Taliban in its bid to impose its power and wishes on the world. And, without a clear and constructive agenda by the international community against the Taliban to make it fundamentally change its behavior and force it to provide the ground for the establishment of a democratic and participatory government, the world will also become a hostage of the Taliban in the long run; at this point, the Taliban will use Pakistan’s experience, which has been playing this game for a long time.

In addition, international humanitarian aid will function only as an anesthetic, alleviating the crisis for a short time. Since, these aids are limited in time and scale, it cannot fundamentally deal with the current crisis of Afghanistan and as soon as the international aids stopped or decrease, the crisis will resume.

Therefore, if the international community and (in particular western countries) don’t take logical measures based on Afghanistan’s realities to support its stabilization through justice, democracy and human rights, irrational deals will ensure the survival of the Taliban’s authoritarian regime, which is mired in widespread corruption and unable to properly govern the country. Hence, the lack of a capable government at the local level will be filled in by other radical groups who will be able to challenge the Taliban’s brutal regime.

Since Afghanistan is prone to widespread civil war owing to serious social fragmentation, it could pave the way for the emergence of different Islamist extremist groups and create regional insecurity. These extremist groups will continue to fund themselves through drug production and trafficking and by means of the illegal economy, which also has a firm footing in Afghanistan.

As a result, the region will once again observe large-scale insecurity and significant increases in drug production, trafficking, the size of its illegal economy, larger waves of migration and the export of terrorism to different non-Islamic and (in particular) western countries counted as the main enemies of Islam in the eyes of extremist Islamist ideological groups.