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OP-ED: You got what you wanted, now deliver

  • Published at 09:53 pm August 21st, 2021

Can the new Taliban gain legitimacy?

After building a house of cards for 20 years, now that the US has left Afghanistan, the country faces an uncertain and chaotically complex future. War-obsessed America, perhaps, couldn’t afford the cost any longer, and they had to take a strategically decisive call to pull out of the country.

On the surface, it may look like a defeat for America, but if we dig a bit deeper, it’s possible to conclude that Afghanistan, and above all the Afghan people, have now succumbed to a new disorder and chaos. It’s quite well known that America hadn’t gone into the country just to nab one man; they had many other strategic reasons. I believe the US has consciously left the field in order to start a new game in global politics which has already begun.

However, going forward, it remains to be seen what steps America is to take in this front.

Western fears

It wasn’t only the US, but there were other countries that were involved in Afghanistan. They have fears about some uncertainties. The country may become a human rights problem for the global actors. The Taliban haven’t changed their views about women’s education or religious minorities.

At the same time, this new regime may also be instrumental toward harbouring extremist elements.

Having helped the Taliban for a long time, Pakistan may find some elements to be happy about in the new regime, but ultimately, it may not augur well for Islamabad. The influx of refugees from Afghanistan may destabilize Pakistan.

There are other fears also. Imagine the Balochis and Pashtuns of Pakistan seeking help from the Afghan Taliban. That would be an interesting aspect to watch if they do. How would the Taliban react? If the Taliban refuses a Baloch or Pashtun request, good for Pakistan. But what if they don’t refuse? We already have reports of conflict between the Pak army and Tehreek-e-Taliban.

Everyone fears that China may gain a foothold in the entire region once the Taliban-ruled country turns to Beijing for all its development projects. China has reportedly promised investments in energy and infrastructure projects and at the same time is also focusing on the country’s vast, untapped mineral resources.

It is thought that China may become a Taliban-ruled government’s closest strategic ally. As a result of that, an axis might take shape with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China. And that’s not good news for India, the US, or even Russia. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait may not like the new equation. However, it may be beneficial for Iran and Turkey.

Taliban II’s challenges

The Taliban right now are euphoric over their victory and we heard them saying that they are now different from 1996. Understood. Nothing remains the same. Afghanistan has also changed, and if we consider the population who were born during the US occupation, it’s time that the Taliban take them seriously.

The economy first. Yes, that’s way more important than what type of government they would form. Whether it’s an emirate or a democracy doesn’t really matter.

Afghanistan currently has $9 billion in foreign exchange reserves, and that too not inside the country. The money supply would be important. China may take care of the infrastructural development, but that will happen only if Beijing sees a stable Afghanistan. The electricity supply would be another challenge if they don’t have money. The country purchases electricity from its neighbours.

America had established a corrupt way of governance, and that’s why no institution could take shape over the last 20 years. Whatever there was before the occupation has been destroyed in two decades. I again emphasize the form of the government and legal system. Lo, there’s a huge void.

The Taliban would require people who can work and contribute to build the country from nothing. But the current scenario suggests that thousands want to leave the country. They would require teachers, technicians, physicians, finance professionals, bureaucrats, and many more. But professionals want to flee the country. The chief of the country’s central bank has left. His destination was to that $9 billion which is in New York. Biden has already frozen that money.

No wonder the US president said the Taliban would face an existential crisis. Where would the salary come from for the professionals they are trying to retain in the country? They already have 300,000 personnel to pay. Only poppy sales may not serve the purpose. They’ll need the businesses to function.

International legitimacy is another important factor. The Taliban are unique in their treatment of women and ethno-religious communities. We already have reports that claimed that the Taliban have run atrocities on the religious minorities. They have also killed the police chief of the Ghani regime.

The end note

Fighting against the foreign soldiers may have been easy. What may not be easy is to run the country. Statecraft is indeed a creative craft and this is what the Taliban need to learn first. And quickly. If the people are scared of a government, it in no way tells the story of a comfortable sail.

If the attitude of the Taliban is not seen as one of nation-builders, it’s going to be tough for them. If they are seen as the new occupiers, it’s not going to work for them. The current level of immaturity may not help them deliver anything.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller, a yogi, and a communications professional. His other works are on ekramkabir.com.

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