Arn Strand, head of research at the Christian Michelson Institute in Bergen, says the Taliban will have a major challenge in controlling themselves in the future.
He cited the statement of Mullah Abdul Ghani Bharat, one of the founders of the Taliban, that the movement had achieved “unexpected success” in Afghanistan.
– I think they’re scratching their heads at how to deal with this, Strand says.
Within a week, the Taliban had entered Kabul from control of a handful of Afghan provincial capitals, forcing the country’s political leadership to flee. Strand believes rapid progress gives the Taliban a difficult task.
The political leadership, which is engaged in peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar, says it wants to create an Islamic state where women can have the right to education, work, and wear the veil instead of the full-veiled burqa.
Discipline must be observed
– The gang that came to Kabul is mostly made up of local soldiers. They come from a tougher community than Katara. Strand says it is difficult for everyone to respect the administration’s political statements.
Among its fighters, the Taliban have been able to maintain great discipline over the past year. They have not been fired upon since Western forces began to leave the country, and the withdrawal of Western diplomats and aid workers has often been allowed to proceed peacefully.
In recent weeks, however, many new soldiers have joined the movement, which may not want to follow the orders of the political leadership.
– In some parts of Afghanistan, they say militants should not enter other people’s homes, or enrich themselves on others. Strand says that is whether they have a solid structure and the will to punish themselves for violations.
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The political vacuum
The Taliban are moving to what the researcher describes as a political vacuum. On Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani left the country. No one has enough authority to hold a dialogue with the Taliban, Strand believes.
– There was a plan for a joint interim government, but suddenly the Taliban sat with all the cards. Asked how they choose to play, he says they want to take all control or form an interim government.
From 1996 to 2001, the movement controlled large parts of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, since northern Afghanistan was not then under Taliban rule, they are now strong on the ground. Last week, they captured key northern cities such as Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz.
Strand is surprised that the Taliban have been able to gain control of these areas, which are mostly populated by Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras, as a movement emerging from the Pashtun people.
– It’s about them not trusting the government anymore. He says it was a political collapse that first happened.
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Taliban: The war is over
The Taliban has now declared the war over. Since the late 1970s there have been more or less continuous wars in Afghanistan with two major foreign interventions: the Soviet Union occupied the country from 1979 to 1988, and the United States occupied the allies from 2001 to 2021.
Whether the conflict continues in the country depends on various factors.
– How the Taliban behave depends on those who have now fled. There are war veterans in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India. If none of these are invited, they can create military resistance. We’ll see about that in the next few days, Strand says.
– The West should not abandon Afghanistan
From the West, it is important for the Taliban to maintain pressure to fulfill their promises and form an inclusive government, Strand believes. But he points to something else:
– The West should not abandon Afghanistan. Before this happened, 16 million people needed humanitarian assistance, partly due to drought and conflict. The country needs to ensure that there is continued humanitarian assistance, the researcher says.
– Everyone has a responsibility: to turn both into a political solution, and to ensure that they can live in Afghanistan, Strand concludes.
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