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The fall of Kabul: One year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

The fall of Kabul: One year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan
5 min read
15 August, 2022
Analysis: Since seizing power a year ago the Taliban has implemented repressive measures reminiscent of its harsh rule in the 1990s, with the country beset by humanitarian and economic crises.

The fall of the internationally recognised government of Afghanistan on 15 August 2021 brought the Taliban to power again after waging a brutal 20-year insurgency.

During years of negotiations with the US, the Taliban had convinced many that they had transformed, moving beyond the tyrannical rule of the mid-1990s during their first stint in power.

However, back at the helm, it looks like not much has changed. The Taliban exclusively dominates the government, side-lining anyone who opposes it.

Women, now barred from education and employment, are deprived of most of the rights they enjoyed under the previous administration.

Dissenting female voices are labelled as foreign-backed, while many have been jailed, beaten, or tortured for demanding access to higher education and the right to work.

Press freedoms in Afghanistan, meanwhile, barely exist.

The Taliban have always prided themselves on being the party of law and order, but the group has failed to maintain security. Assassinations, kidnappings, and robberies are all a feature of Afghanistan under their control.

The Taliban has continually admitted that it made some “mistakes” while in power in the mid-1990s. From the evidence so far, the group seems destined to repeat them.

In governing the country, not as a shadow apparatus but as the sole power in Afghanistan, the Taliban has never specified the form of governance it would implement and how it would be different and more inclusive than their reign in the mid-1990s.

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The group, however, recently released a 312-page manifesto titled ‘Al Imarat al Islamiah wa Nizamuha,’ which translates as 'The Islamic Emirate and Its administration or System’, written by the chief justice of the supreme court of the Taliban in Arabic - a language unfamiliar to the majority of Afghans.

Divine rather than man-made laws will govern the system envisaged by the Taliban, and the leader of the Emirate will be chosen by the Ahl Al-Hal wa Al-Aqd, or a council of Islamic scholars, making the general public redundant in the selection process.

Elections, therefore, will be obsolete, with the manifesto highlighting that they have no precedence in Islam.

While all the talk in international settings has been about forming an inclusive government in Afghanistan since the group took over, a full Talibanisation of the government is underway. In August, a decree was issued by the Taliban leader appointing new members to key positions.

To that end, the Taliban governor of Zabul province also recently said that “employees of the former government were not trustworthy and corrupt”.

The Taliban exclusively dominates the government, side-lining anyone who opposes it. [Getty]

In essence, however, not much has changed in the structures of governance and administration since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

“My impression is that the Taliban basically do not have any plan for governing the country,” Mirwais Balkhi, a former minister of education and scholar-in-residence at Georgetown University Qatar, told The New Arab.

“[This is] one of the reasons they could not present any government model in the past year, neither in the Ulema Council nor in other meetings.”

In the long run, many analysts doubt whether the Taliban will be able to deliver services to Afghans.

“In terms of finances, the Taliban have collected customs revenues and have been able to run a much smaller in size government than the previous donor funded one,” Said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst and a former Afghanistan government official, told TNA.

“However, the benefit of collected funds doesn’t reach the people of Afghanistan, as the Taliban ‘pay themselves first’, including their troops.”

Afghanistan has also once again found itself caught in the ‘great powers game’, especially since last year, when tensions have been at their highest level.

“[For] America, China, and Russia, Afghanistan is at a point where in terms of the security and the economic policy of all three countries, it has a very important geopolitics which is not in the control of any of these powers,” Balkhi said.

“All three countries are trying to have at least some influence among the Taliban because the alternative to the Taliban will be war or a government like a republic supported by the US. And Russia and China supported the Taliban for this reason,” he added.

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“All of these countries have a conservative view because they are still not sure about the nature of the Taliban, and they have doubts about the friendship and enmity of the Taliban.”

Regionally, the Taliban have clashed with several neighbouring countries in the past year. Just last week, Taliban border guards exchanged fire with Iranian security forces.

The early August clashes were not the first of their kind, but Iran has sought to suppress tensions because it believes that Taliban forces are still not capable of monitoring the borders.

Taliban fighters fired into the air as they dispersed a rare rally by women as they chanted 'Bread, work and freedom' days ahead of the first anniversary of the hardline Islamists' return to power in Kabul, Afghanistan. [Getty]

But there have also been larger escalations. In early February, the Pakistani army used heavy artillery shelling along the Durand Line in the Kunar province. The incident occurred just months after the two sides exchanged fire in December 2021.

In April, meanwhile, Pakistani military drones targeted Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) hideouts in Afghanistan’s Khost and Kunar provinces. 

Last week, another unknown drone struck and targeted Dahooz village in Kunar. Initial reports suggest the home of a TTP commander was targeted in the strike.

All of these attacks and the recent US military drone strike that killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri indicate that Afghanistan is continuing to remain a country incapable of protecting its air space.

“Afghanistan risks losing its status as a state if it remains non-recognised for a long time and is recognised as an ‘ungoverned territory’,”added Torek Farhadi.

“The Taliban would be wise to announce reforms in their cabinet and come closer to international requirements for being recognised: open schools for women and broadening the governance structure. Absent these reforms, Afghanistan risks becoming the Somalia of south Asia.”

Sayed Jalal Shajjan is a freelance journalist based in Kabul. He covers post-conflict development and counter-terrorism operations

Follow him on Twitter: @S_Jalal_Shajjan