Nine months after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, a plan to launch resistance against the Kabul regime was initiated in Ankara on the 19th of May. Former Afghan vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum invited forty political figures and they agreed to form High Council of National Resistance against the Taliban. Even though back in August some opposition figures, particularly Dostum and Ahmad Wali Massoud of the National Resistance Front, gave a free hand to the Taliban, they are no longer interested in providing the Taliban with more time and space. The Taliban have failed to establish a broad-based government and adhere to human rights as agreed in the Doha accord in February 2020.
The pros and cons of the High Council of National Resistance are worth considering. Also, to what extent will it be able to launch an effective movement against the Taliban who now control Afghanistan entirely? Will the Taliban be able to deal with the resistance alliance? The US left approximately 80 billion dollars worth of weapons in Afghanistan following its abrupt withdrawal on 14th August. The bulk of this armoury including helicopters and tanks is now controlled by the Taliban. Despite, international isolation and sanctions, the Taliban regime has managed to run the economy. However, it will face enormous difficulties in ensuring food, fuel, medicines and other essential items because the regime lacks the financial resources to pay for imports.
In this scenario, national resistance thinks that the situation is ripe for the launch of a full-fledged offensive against a regime that already lacks popular support and is unable to get international recognition. In a statement, the group said that the council should pave the way for the liberation of Afghanistan. “We demand the Taliban end their destruction and set the table for talks to find solutions to the current problems of Afghanistan. The Islamists should learn from the experiences of history that no group can have a stable government through acts of force and pressure.” Unfortunately, the only lesson that the Afghan leadership has learned whether in the past or the present is that they have not learned any lesson. Resultantly, Afghanistan, which was established in 1747 under Ahmed Shah Durrani, has failed to emerge as a nation-state in the 275 years of its existence. Its tribal and ultra-conservative characteristics including gun culture, corruption and nepotism contributed to its predicament at both the state and societal levels.
The Taliban regime has once again failed in dealing with issues of governance, economy, human rights, and terrorism, which may unleash a fresh outbreak of civil war in Afghanistan. The Council of National Resistance “aims to try to solve the problem of Afghanistan through talks. The Taliban should accept that they can’t run the government or rule alone. Otherwise, Afghanistan will experience civil war once again.”
The Taliban regime has consistently taken retrogressive measures including the imposition of a travel ban on unaccompanied women followed by a dress code of veil, female television newscasters have been ordered to cover their faces, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was closed, and female education has not been fully allowed. All this has generated frustration, anger and antagonism among the Afghan people. It demonstrates that the Taliban have not learned any lessons from their past failures and are just as retrogressive and ultra-conservative as before. The Taliban want to impose their way of life on the Afghan population, which is focused on strict adherence to their interpretation of Sharia. However, it is counter-productive because it lacks reasoning, rationality and tolerance. Despite the foreign occupation, the twenty years of freedom following 9/11 have exposed an entire generation to a different lifestyle that is unacceptable to the Taliban.
If the Taliban regime fails to take the newly formed resistance’s warnings seriously and only offers false promises of moderation, Afghanistan will once again plunge into another phase of civil war with disastrous implications. The Taliban’s overconfidence and denial of the strength of opposition will eventually make things difficult for the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s naivety in judging the Taliban’s real intentions followed by the Biden administration’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan boosted the Taliban’s confidence. Once the Afghan National Army collapsed and Ashraf Ghani’s administration escaped, the Taliban had the freedom to form their government, which they claimed would be inclusive. However, once in power, they did not take long to reveal their true colours.
The fresh resistance alliance against the Taliban needs to be analysed from two angles.
First, there is a need to determine the ability of the resistance alliance to remove the Taliban regime from power. Most political figures in the alliance are old faces with notorious pasts, particularly age-old warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. Even Ahmad Wali Massoud, the younger brother of the late Lion of Panjshir Ahmad Shah Massoud, was ousted by the Taliban from his stronghold in Panjshir Valley in the fall of 2021. During the first Taliban regime, the Northern Alliance had controlled around 10% of Afghan territory but this is the first time that the Taliban regime controls the whole country. Had the opposition groups in Afghanistan been strong and powerful, they would have controlled some parts of the country today. Unity, leadership skills, tactics and strategy will determine the future success of the resistance council. The Taliban will continue strengthening their hold until and unless the forty Afghan leaders who attended the Ankara meeting can deal with the ground realities of the country. Launching an offensive against Taliban forces would require both material and military resources, which the resistance council can mobilise as the Taliban regime is unpopular both within the country and globally.
Second, the resistance council’s plan for a post-Taliban Afghanistan needs to be examined. The heterogeneous combination of the council cannot ensure peace in the country. They will be required to resolve the issues that have previously caused civil conflict and required foreign armed intervention. Perhaps, the council is confident that the absence of legitimacy and recognition of the Taliban’s rule and Pakistan’s perceived neutrality if the Taliban face an offensive from their opponents will lead to their success.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2022.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ