Like a blockbuster Hollywood movie, the world literally stood still recently, as images of Afghans falling from the skies while trying to hang on to the wings of a plane in an apparent effort to flee the Taliban. It left many horrified. Images of the Taliban shooting in the air in ceremonial victory after taking control of Kabul further left a sour taste in many people’s mouth around the world.
In a show of strength and resounding victory also, the Taliban were seen celebrating inside the country’s presidential palace. This act no doubt was the final nail in the coffin that signified the capitulation of Afghanistan to the Taliban 20-years after it was removed from power in a US-led military invasion. We all watched as in a matter of weeks, the Taliban captured most of the provincial capitals, including the capital Kabul, in a virtually unopposed, lightning military sweep.
The capture of Kabul took place hours after the country’s President fled the country. This all happened in the midst of a US troop withdrawal under a February 2020 US-Taliban agreement which is projected to be completed by the end of the month. What was expected to be a 3-month takeover turned into a complete takeover by the Taliban in eleven days as American forces began their gradual withdrawal on the 1st of August.
Going down memory lane, the Taliban’s last stint in power was within the period of 1996 to 2001. The popular narrative during this period was a rule that was marred by abuse against ethnic minorities and women’s rights. Since retaking power on August 15, however, the Taliban’s talking points include respecting women’s role in the public sphere, human rights and the rights of minorities.
As Western countries ramp up efforts to shut embassies and evacuate civilians from Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, countries like China and Russia have begun to make overtures that suggest they will recognize the Taliban authority. While many around the world, particularly the West have consistently maintained that the Taliban takeover is more or less about religious fundamentalism, many have also maintained that the takeover was as a result of ethnic nationalism.
Afghanistan’s population is 99.7 per cent Muslim with about 14 ethnic groups. This means that all the 14 ethnic groups in the country are all Muslims. Also, majority of the Talibans are of the Pashtun ethnic group which are the economic backbone of the country. Majority of Afghanistan’s mineral deposit are located in the Pashunistan region of the country. Many observers have opined that the Taliban takeover is not about religious fundamentalism, but rather about ethnic nationalism.
The Taliban, historically, have been agitating for an Islamic Emirate. An Islamic Emirate was first established after the 1996 fall of Kabul and was toppled by the US-led military coalition that invaded the country after 9/11. The 1996-2001 Taliban-led government existed as a partially recognized state, being recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They were largely opposed to the West’s definition of democracy. The Taliban sought to establish an Islamic government through law and order alongside Islamic law.
Now, a survey by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies revealed that majority of Afghans would mainly prefer an Emirate System of governance. Many of them opted for this because the ousted regime’s legitimacy was drastically affected by flawed elections, weak governance and pervasive corruption. However, the US along with its Western allies wanted a supposedly electoral democracy under a Presidential system, where the President (in this case Ashraf Ghani) controls the wealth and resources of the country.
The West is also opposed to the government calling itself sovereign authority which is a major feature of an Emirate system of governance. The West in Afghanistan prefers a directly elected government by the people and therefore represents the nation and abolishing regional power. For many Afghans, majority supported the Emirate system of the Taliban even though the narrative from the West says otherwise.
The Taliban Emirate system which is chiefly a regional system of government governed by Islamic law sees itself as a solution to many of the country’s problems. Thus, due to the country’s ethnic structure, the West form of democracy was not supported by majority of Afghans.
Furthermore, the Taliban are largely against the West and their interference in their political and socio-economic life. Many other countries around the world share similar distaste for the Western style of liberal democracies and civilization. The Chinese doesn’t operate a liberal form of democracy according to the West, but majority of Chinese are satisfied with their form of government so much so that the country’s economy is currently the second largest in the world.
The U.S. and its allies have consistently styled its brand of democracy and governance as systems countries around the world should emulate. With their military might, they have been able to coerce and bully many countries into doing their bidding. Throughout history, the US government has participated and interfered, both overtly and covertly, in the replacement of foreign governments for their national interest.
The underlying emotion that has sustained and fueled the Taliban takeover is their aversion for the West and their supposed “freedom”, lifestyle and civilization. While they claim freedom to coexist and rights, blacks and other minorities have suffered and continue to suffer from racial and ethnic abuse. Their definition of civilization is subject to their interpretation. For instance, they believe that polygamy is barbaric and backward. However, same sex marriage is civilized and is legal in many Western countries. Sex change has also become legal in many countries and some countries now recognize it by law as a “third gender.