Shahmeer Kazi describes Taliban celebrate first anniversary
The year passed very quickly as the Taliban celebrate first anniversary of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan declaring the event as a national holiday and lit up the capital with coloured lights to mark the end of a brutal 20-year war that kept the country in a paroxysm of terror and devastation. Some 66,000 Afghan troops and 48,000 civilians were killed in the conflict but it was the deaths of US service members — 2,461 in total — that became too much for the American public to bear. More than 3,500 troops from other NATO countries were also killed. The war witnessed both Republican and Democratic administrations involved in the prosecution of war and many analysts considered the withdrawal from the country as a bipartisan failure. The US military said that the burden of the war in Afghanistan, however, went beyond Americans.
The celebrations showed rows of troops in festive uniforms and a Taliban Air Force helicopter flying above the airbase. Banners celebrating victories against three empires — the former Soviet Union and Britain also lost wars in Afghanistan — were flying in Kabul. Hundreds of white Taliban flags bearing the Islamic proclamation of faith flew from lamp-posts and government buildings. The skies above Kabul were lit up with fireworks and celebratory gunfire from crowds of Taliban fighters. In Massoud Square, near the former US embassy, armed fighters carrying Taliban flags chanted “Death to America”. Others drove across the city honking their horns.
Taliban social media accounts posted scores of videos and pictures of newly trained troops — many flaunting the US military equipment left behind in the haste of Washington’s chaotic withdrawal. One caption read that this is how one trolls a superpower after humiliating them and forcing them to withdraw from the country. It also featured a photo of a giant Taliban flag now painted on the wall of the former US embassy. Taliban’s Chief of Staff Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat said with confidence that not a single occupant will ever come to this country again.
Though Afghanistan was not an ideal country when the US backed Afghan regime was in power from December 2001 till August 2021 but the country was widely known to have put behind the suffocated governance practices followed by the Taliban regime that was in power for five years before them. The flawed political process brought the legitimacy of the regimes of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani into question but the Taliban neither believed in political pluralism, constitution or equality of all Afghans nor did they feel accountable to the people.
The Taliban launched a massive operation to take control of Afghanistan after the United States announced last spring that it would withdraw from the country. In mid-August 2021, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stepped down and fled abroad. The Taliban entered Kabul without a fight. US troops left Afghanistan completely on the night of 31 August, 2021 and the Taliban announced an interim government on 7 September that still has not been recognised by any country yet. They just captured power by taking advantage of the US military withdrawal and Ashraf Ghani’s crumbling regime.
A year has passed, and the Taliban government is struggling to seek legitimacy for its rule and wants to run Afghanistan as a medieval-type state detached from the realities of the contemporary world. Revisiting Afghanistan a year after the US withdrawal and the subsequent occupation by the Taliban would require a critical analysis of the situation. Non-conformist Afghans are running out of patience and tolerance for the suffocating Taliban regime. Thousands of Afghans who were threatened by the Taliban regime have already left their country. However, the remaining 38 million cannot leave Afghanistan and will not tolerate unabated coercion and oppression. But despite the restrictions, and a deepening humanitarian crisis, many Afghans say they are glad the foreign force that prompted the Taliban insurgency has gone. Despite the Taliban’s pride in taking over, Afghanistan’s people now face a desperate humanitarian crisis aggravated after billions of dollars in assets were frozen and foreign aid dried up. Hardships for ordinary Afghans, especially women, have increased. Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid however insisted that major achievements had been recorded in the past year adding that Afghans are no more being killed in war, foreign forces have withdrawn and security has improved.
Many observers however opine that given that no substantial changes have taken place in Afghanistan during the one year of the Taliban’s rule, the country will continue to degenerate in the years to come. In the past year, there has been little socio-economic development, quality of life has deteriorated, human security has worsened, and educational opportunities remain absent. With marginal space for groups and parties advocating for democracy, political pluralism, and gender emancipation, it seems Afghanistan under the Taliban will be no different from its past rule. However, if the people of Afghanistan rise against the Taliban regime to mitigate violence, armed conflicts, corruption, and disorder, one can hope for a better future for the country. TW