A Guantanamo Bay Government: What's Happening In Afghanistan And What It Means For Indian Subcontinent
It remains to be seen how Taliban reacts to charges of being under "foreign influence" when it held foreign influence as its major justification for violence for the last 20 years.
After the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August, it was understood that the group would re-establish Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
A senior Taliban leader yesterday announced that Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund will be the Raees-e-Jamhoor, or raees-ul-wazara or the new head state of Afghanistan while Mullah Baradar Akhund and Mullah Abdus Salam will work as his deputies. Hasan is presently head of the Taliban's powerful decision-making body Rahbari Shura or leadership council. He is said to be man dedicated to religion, instead of having a military background.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani Network, is proposed to be the federal interior minister while the defence minister would be Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar. Yaqoob was commander in chief of Taliban armed fighters and personally led the recent armed struggle to take over the country.
While the Taliban have declared that the war in Afghanistan is over and an announcement about the formation of the new government will be made in the next few days, the country seems to slipping in a new round of instability and crisis, with possible spillover effect for the whole Indian subcontinent.
The first priority of the Taliban is to wipe out the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Massoud. On Monday (6 September), the Taliban claimed that Panjshir, the last stronghold of the anti-Taliban forces, had been captured. It said that Amrullah Saleh, who has declared himself as the acting President of Afghanistan, fled to Tajikistan after Panjshir fell. The assault was reportedly heavily supported by Pakistan, through its Army commandoes, drones, helicopters, etc.
However, Massoud, in an audio message sent to the media, denied the claim and said that their leaders were safe after the fight. He said people from all the classes should get together and stand for their country against the Taliban.
The son of late Ahmad Shah Massoud also called for a "national uprising" against the Taliban. "Wherever you are, inside or outside, I call on you to begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country," he said.
Tageting Pakistan, he said that the Taliban's last night's attacks were backed by foreign forces. After Massoud’s message, resistance front’s spokesperson Ali Maisam Nazary tweeted from an unverified account:
"After our leader, @AhmadMassoud01 declared a general uprising, the ppl of Andarab, Daikundi, Kabul, Bamiyan & our diaspora in DC answered his call & joined the resistance. Resistance for freedom & justice has just begun & will continue till the oppressors are defeated.”
Meanwhile, Taliban is also dealing with civilian protests.
Hundreds of men and women on Monday night marched in the streets of Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif to protest against the Taliban and Pakistani interference in Afghanistan's affairs, shouting slogans such as 'death to Taliban, long live Afghanistan', 'long live the resistance,' and 'death to Pakistan'. The Taliban, in response, fired gunshots to disperse the people and arrested several Afghan journalists who were covering the demonstration. Video clips on social media showed scores of people running amid gunfire.
"The Islamic government is shooting at our poor people," one panic-stricken woman on the street was heard as saying over sounds of gunfire, in a video clip posted on Twitter by Asvaka news agency. "These people (Taliban) are very unjust, and they are not human at all."
The last few days have also seen women come out on the streets in Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, etc. demanding protection of their rights, including a participation in the new government.
Around 70 people, mostly women, rallied outside the Pakistani embassy, holding banners and chanting against what they said was meddling by Islamabad.
The Taliban are currently focused on establishing a government, and are actively engaging with countries. Even so, reports of brutalities that remind one of the 1996-2001 rule keep coming. While Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a reality, democracies around the world are struggling with trusting the Taliban promise of not letting Afghan soil be used for global Jihad.
While Taliban victory itself is a product of Pakistani nurture and sponsorship, the possibility that Afghanistan will replace Pakistan as the "mothership of terrorism" has become starker. Pakistan may have celebrated too soon when Taliban ran over Kabul, as Taliban-ruled Afghanistan - an openly Islamist state in the Indian subcontinent - not only will take shine away from Pakistani pride of being "sword arm of the Sunni world" but also change its equations with US, China, Iran etc.
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, in a Haaretz article, says that while Pakistan hoped that Taliban takeover would give it some breathing space to negotiate better terms on the China front, it runs the risk of being sidelined. "For all Pakistan's noisy attempt to claim ownership over access to the Taliban and Afghanistan, it can't compete with Beijing's economic attractions, on which the survival of the new Kabul regime depends," he says.
It also remains to be seen whether a hardline Sunni Jihadist Af-Pak axis, powered by Chinese investment and firepower, as dreamt by Pakistan, would trigger another axis of instability in the subcontinent - Shia-Sunni tensions.
Reportedly, Iranians were angered by the Panjshir attack as it targeted ethnic Tajiks - a people that Iran considers a part of its geo-cultural space, given the deep influence of Persian culture among them. It is also concerned about the attacks on Hazara Shia community which has been targeted by both the Taliban and the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP).
The ISI had penetrated ISKP by embedding Aslam Faruqi as the ISKP chief - a fact not just Iran, but even the Chinese will find hard to ignore. In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Iran on Monday "strongly condemned" the "foreign influence" in Afghanistan after the Panjshir attack.
"Everybody should know that the history of Afghanistan has proven that foreign meddling in Afghanistan will result in nothing but failure," warned Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh. He strongly condemning the "extremely worrying" situation in northern Afghanistan, and expressed regret at the martyrdom of the resistance front leaders.
It remains to be seen how Taliban reacts to charges of being under "foreign influence" when it held foreign influence as its major justification for violence for the last 20 years. Notably, the charges are being levelled by common Afghans - a constituency that Taliban is currently trying to win over. One can ask why a confident Taliban regime wouldn't ally with Islamist terrorists targeting Pakistani state, for example, their ideological Deobandi brothers, Tehreek-e-Taliban, for "strategic depth". After all, it has been a long time dream of Jihadists to rule a country possessing nuclear weapons.
In that case, the student would have become the master.
For now, Taliban is trying to gain recognition as a nationalistic Sunni Pashtun force ruling Kabul. However, it hasn't made any break with its Islamist ideology and the mission of global jihad. Taliban spokesman has said that the group will be the voice of (Sunni) Muslims throughout the world. It maintains active ties with Salafi groups like Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis is also looming over the war-ravaged country. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that Afghanistan is facing the collapse of basic services and food and other aid is about to run out, amid warnings of drought and starvation.
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