The Resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan

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As the US troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has rapidly expanded its control, positioning itself for a return. After its ouster in 2001, the group maintained an insurgency against the US-led mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan government.

After signing a peace agreement with the US in 2020, the Taliban entered into power-sharing negotiations with the Afghan government.

Since the withdrawal of the US troops from the country, the Taliban launched more than tripled the number of Afghan districts under its control. However, since then, little progress has been made in the intra-Afghan talks.

According to the experts, if the power-sharing words remain stalled for longer, civil war and more civilian casualties are very likely.

The Formation of Taliban

Taliban was formed by Afghan Mujahideen, or Islamic Guerilla Fighters, in the early 1990s. Afghan Mujahideen had resisted the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan (1879-89) with the covert backing of the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, ISI.

Later they were joined by younger Pashtun tribesmen, who studied in Pakistani seminaries (Madrassas).

Pashtuns are the predominant ethnic group in Afghanistan’s south and east and Pakistan’s north and west.

The group promised to impose stability and the rule of law after four years of conflict (1992-96) among rival mujahideen groups.

The Taliban entered Kandahar in 1992 and seized the capital city, Kabul, in 1996.

The Taliban declared Afghanistan as an Islamic emirate that year itself, with Mullah Mohammad Omar as commander of the faithful.

The regime had controlled 90 % of the country before its 2001 withdrawal.

The Taliban consolidated territorial control and drew its jurisprudence from the interpretations of Sharia and neglected social services and other essential state functions.

World Response to Taliban

Over the past two decades, government and international bodies joined US-led efforts to oust the Taliban and bolster the Afghan government in the following ways:

Military– In October 2001, US troops overthrew the Taliban. Since then, the Taliban has waged an insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government.

In 2011, the number of US troops in Afghanistan peaked at one hundred thousand.

Sanctions– The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the Taliban for harbouring al-Qaeda in 1999.

The Council later expanded the sanctions after 9/11. The Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the regime, targeted Talibani leaders” financial assets, and banned them from most travel.

Investigation– The Taliban is under investigation in the International Criminal Court for alleged abuses of Afghan civilians. US and Afghan forces are under investigation for alleged war crimes, including crimes against humanity, since 2003.

Who Leads the Taliban?

The experts believe the Taliban’sTaliban’s leadership is primarily based outside the country to maintain control over its fighters and officials throughout Afghanistan.

The Taliban also follows a hierarchy system including Leader, Deputies, Leadership Council, Commissions and Administrative Organs, Shadow Governors and Military Commanders.

The leadership council called the Rahbari Shura, or Quetta Shura, makes decisions for all the political and military affairs of the Emirate.

Taliban’s Finances and International Support

According to the UN Monitoring Group, the Taliban primarily earns revenue through criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping. Its estimated annual income ranges from $300 million to $1.6 billion.

The Taliban levies taxes on commercial activities in its territories, such as farming and mining. Despite strict UN sanctions, the Taliban receives donations from abroad to supplements its income.

Do Afghans Support the Taliban?

The Taliban enjoyed support after it fell from power for years.

Asia Foundation, A US-based NGO, found in 2009 that half of Afghans-primarily Pashtuns and rural Afghans had sympathy for the Taliban.

But in 2019, it dropped drastically, with only 13.4% of Afghans sympathizing with the Taliban.

Is Taliban a Threat?

The Taliban has between 58,000-100,000 full-time fighters. The regime is stronger now than at any point in the last twenty years.

With the withdrawal of the US troops, the Taliban has increased attacks on civilians and seized control of critical border crossings. The Taliban has dramatically expanded its presence throughout the country.

According to the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies Long War Journal, in 2021, the Taliban controlled an estimated 54 % of Afghan districts. Just months earlier, the group held only 20%.

2021 saw significantly higher civilian deaths and injuries, with women and children making up a more significant proportion of casualties.

The Taliban was sought responsible for approximately 40% of the losses, including targeted assassinations and explosive device attacks.

According to a 2021 report by a UN team, the Taliban has strong ties with al-Qaeda.

The Taliban tightens its control over al-Qaeda by gathering information on foreign terrorist fighters, registering and restricting them. The Taliban provides al-Qaeda with protection in exchange for resources and training.

What is Next for the Taliban?

The Taliban has signed the peace agreement with the Donald Trump Administration in early 2020 and has agreed to enter its first direct peace talks with the Afghan government.

However, the regime refused to attend the UN-backed peace conference in April 2021.

The Taliban has claimed to reach a political statement through peaceful means. Meanwhile, the group is also boosting diplomacy with countries in the region, such as China and Russia.

After it invades the country, many issues need to be resolved. The subjects include sharing the power with the Taliban, protection of various rights, democratic institutions, and constitution.

The Taliban representatives have declared to protect the women’s rights under Sharia but have no clue how it would look in practice. The Taliban’s motives from intra-Afghan negotiations are unknown.

It remains unclear if the Taliban will prevent international terrorist attacks emanating from Afghanistan under the US peace deal.

For the Taliban, peace does not mean an end to the fighting but the US occupation.

Will the Taliban work to settle its scores and re-establish the Islamic Emirate after the US, is gone? The future is to decide.

Ankita Gautam
Ankita Gautam
Ankita Gautam aka AnkiTam, is an Educator, who learns by reading and expresses by writing. She has been an avid reader, writer, speaker, learner, and observer ever since. A science background could never stop her from grasping the nitty-gritties of fashion, technology, and trending news. She finds her solace in magazines and newspapers. Being an ambivert, she is blessed to be flexible in knowing when to talk and when to listen. She is an opinionated personality with an optimal level of compassion and empathy. She can be easily found entertaining people with her wordplays and also with her wry sense of humor. She is a pantomath, who wants to know everything.

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