On August 15, 2021, the Taliban marked a resounding return to power in Afghanistan. Taking advantage of an institutional chaos marked by the corruption and violence of the Afghan government, this Islamist group has been able to obtain the confidence of the most modest. A year later, the country is plunged into a whirlwind of crises: financial, economic and humanitarian.
A year ago, the extremist Islamist group the Taliban regained control of Kabul, Afghanistan.
For CNEWS, Didier Chaudet, associate researcher at the French Institute for Central Asian Studies (IFEAC), discusses the reasons that allowed the Taliban to come to power, and the situation of the country and its inhabitants. one year later.
What was the situation before the Taliban came to power?
Endemic corruption, eating away at the Afghan state from within, has meant that it has been consistently weak, and gradually rejected by some Afghans.
When you go to the south of Afghanistan, especially in the rural areas, you can see that the roads that had to be built to go to a certain number of villages were never made, that the money was given but that it was hijacked. Villages that were supposed to be connected to larger economic centers never were. There was no development aid.
In addition, there were ethnic tensions, a feeling of dispossession of the state for a certain part of the Pashtun population (Hanafi Sunni Muslims who gave their name to the country, the word « Afghan » being a synonym of « Pashtun », editor’s note), even an attitude of the new representatives of the Afghan Republic who behaved very badly on the spot. Added to this are the numerous cases of corruption and violence.
This population increasingly viewed Kabul and the Americans as enemies.
What facilitated the victory of the Taliban?
The Taliban represented a political force because part of the population recognized themselves in them. It was refused for a very long time, following the official voice of America, from which France did the same at the media and diplomatic level.
We also rejected the idea that the Taliban represented a part of the population that recognized itself in the Taliban, such as people who live in the countryside, especially the poor countryside of southern Pashtun. We could have won back the latter if the money from the international community had been used for development and had not been embezzled.
Because of this loss of support, the population found itself increasingly under the protection of the growing Taliban. From 2005 – 2007, the Taliban began to represent this category which was increasingly lost.
At the time of Barack Obama, no one in the United States, or even internationally, pointed the finger at the capital problem of corruption and embezzlement when it was the heart of the problem, and no one couldn’t go and check what was going on outside the big cities.
After having succeeded in recovering the population, the Taliban were able to surf on nationalism and the rejection of foreigners who did not live up to their commitments and their speeches and who were associated with a certain corruption.
The Taliban were then able to adapt tactically to the local situation. For example, regarding the education of girls and children, they sometimes tried to go back to the approach of the past where young girls were not allowed to go to school. However, when they faced real resistance from the local population, they decided not to confront them in certain places. They also used their enemy’s money, especially American money, to present themselves as a more attractive alternative.
Why are the leaders of the movement mainly « Pashtuns »?
The Afghan state was created by Pashtun leadership, to the detriment of other nationalities. One thinks of the Hazaras in particular: for some members of this minority, the modern Afghan state was built on their de facto “genocide”.
However, there is this very complicated relationship between the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan. The Taliban therefore represent a possible version, not the only one, not the only one and not even the most important of Pashtun nationalism tinged with religiosity.
In Afghanistan, religiosity and identity often go hand in hand. It’s an impact of the reaction to the Great Game with the Russian and British intrusions and it was also what it helped to unify Afghanistan, the use of Sunni Islam as an ideology, in part, to unify the population around the state.
What is the Taliban’s relationship with the international?
From 2010, when the administration of Barack Obama said that it would be impossible to defeat the Taliban militarily and that it was necessary to negotiate with them, everyone tried to create links with them.
Ties had long existed with the Pakistanis. The Iranians, who had begun to create ties, developed them strongly to the point of inviting a delegation from the legal Afghan government and a delegation from the Taliban to large regional meetings.
For their part, the Central Asian countries, apart from Tajikistan, have tried to create links with the Taliban to avoid problems at their own borders.
The Russians have also been able to forge links with the Taliban. Indeed, the Kremlin, whose law still considers the Taliban to be a proscribed terrorist group, received them regularly in Moscow long before the capture of Kabul.
As for the Chinese, they have forged ties with the Taliban to ensure a future where the rise of the latter would not cause problems in the region and of course on the Silk Road project.
The Taliban have been able to carry out very realistic diplomacy with their neighbours. They wanted to show another face. They succeeded in reassuring their neighbors and in speaking with them and with the regional powers to be accepted.
Can today’s Taliban be considered normal leaders?
It is true that it is difficult for Afghanistan to be a normal state as long as it remains a “narco-state”.
We are faced with a State whose drug trafficking has a considerable impact on the economic functioning of the country. If the Taliban are serious in their prohibition of this traffic, which I do not believe, they will sabotage their own country because the peasants now, for a good part of them, only survive thanks to this traffic. How can Afghanistan be a normal state with such an economic functioning?
What is the Taliban’s relationship with al-Qaida and Daesh?
In some analyses, we see a rightly pronounced assertion by these two groups that al-Qaeda and Daesh have increased their capacity. The problem is that al-Qaida has pledged allegiance to the Taliban leadership while Daesh is fighting it extremely violently.
If what is said in these Anglo-Saxon analyzes is true, this rise in power of the jihadists has nothing to do with the Taliban themselves. Nevertheless, for me, the situation of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is very complicated.
Moreover, Daesh is in the situation of the Taliban before, that is to say that, for them, the most important thing is to survive and to be able to strike in a terrorist way, even if it causes a lot of deaths. They are being fought extremely hard by the Taliban.
Daesh, from an ideological point of view, took over the toughest tendencies of the Taliban since the end of the 1990s such as the radical rejection of foreigners, Russia, the United States, Westerners and the Shiite Iran. Everything that has been the breeding ground for the toughest fundamentalism is openly taken up by Daesh while the Taliban are trying to hold a discourse that is acceptable to their neighbors and to the international community.
If you want to talk about transnational jihadism, Daesh is the real danger, al-Qaeda, with all its groups, has operated autonomously.
Before his death, Ayman Al-Zawahiri found himself in a formerly posh neighborhood of Kabul. This shows that links exist between al-Qaida and Kabul. Now, was he put in this residence to keep an eye on him and to prevent him from doing anything or was he there as a friend and a comrade in arms? These are questions we can ask ourselves.
We often talk about the Taliban for obvious reasons in Afghanistan, but the danger in terrorist terms for the regional and international level is Daesh.