A hasty and chaotic withdrawal of the US and the NATO forces from Afghanistan marked the end of the “forever wars” and paved the way for the Taliban’s ascension to the throne after a 20-year-long devastating conflict.
Previously, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Their government was accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden, the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks. Subsequently, George W Bush declared a “War on Terror” and invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. Initially, the intervention was designed to overthrow the Taliban government, hunt down Osama bin Laden, and neutralise the threat emanating for the Afghan soil. The mission was not supposed to take 20 years. It was, according to top US military chief General Mark A Milley, the “cumulative effect of 20 years of mistakes” which protracted their stay. Now, 20 years later, with the last anti-Taliban stronghold of Panjshir valley taken in a grand style, the Taliban have entitled themselves to rule Afghanistan — unlike the previous rulers who had to make some kind of power sharing deal with different ethnic and dissent groups.
Besides mounting challenges on multiple fronts, their ascension is also laced with multiple uncertainties. The international community has set a threshold of upholding basic human rights, with particular emphasis on women’s and girls’ right to education and work. International recognition has to be earned because Afghanistan can’t afford to live in isolation in the age of rapid globalisation and frequently changing international dynamics.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2021.