Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


With the Taliban in control of more than half of all districts in Afghanistan, promises made last year by Taliban negotiators are falling by the wayside.

The Taliban have won a string of battlefield victories in recent weeks against the Afghan forces as the United States-led foreign forces are about to complete pull-out from Afghanistan after 20 years.

In Afghanistan people feel stuck between a corrupt government and a brutal, violent, oppressive Taliban that is gaining ground. A fog of uncertainty looms from the capital Kabul to Logar province: everyone asks the same question: “What’s going to happen?”

Taliban have already killed a young woman (for wearing tight clothing), a poet - historian and the head of Afghanistan government media department. Meanwhile, Hazara in Bamiyan Region fear repeat of past Taliban atrocities.


The Taliban were removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on US soil, but they gradually regained strength, carrying out numerous attacks on foreign as well as Afghan forces in the past 20 years. 

They managed to win some sort of international legitimacy after the US under then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the armed group on February 29, 2020, to withdraw foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees.

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, did not reverse the troop withdrawal decision, instead, delaying it until September 11 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. However, last month, he again revised that deadline to August 31.

Last week, Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhunzada called for a “political settlement” but his fighters have pressed ahead with military offensives against government forces. 

The Taliban have set up a parallel state calling it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with their own administrations in the nation’s 34 provinces. The Taliban chief heads a council that oversees about a dozen commissions in charge of things like finance, health and education.

They even run their own courts. According to a UN committee, they make close to $1.5bn a year. They have also earned revenue from partnering with local and regional mafias in the regional drug trade. Last year, they also made millions from mining and trading minerals.

They also have their own tax collection system and receive funding from abroad, although Pakistan and Iran deny it.

Taliban's misdeeds

The killing last week of Dawa Khan Minapal, the head of the government media and information centre, came days after the Taliban warned it would target senior administration officials in retaliation for increased air raids.

Meanwhile, Taliban forces that have taken control of districts in Kandahar have detained hundreds of residents whom they accuse of association with the government. As many as 33 people were assassinated over the past two weeks. Religious scholars, tribal elders, civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders and female journalists are being sacrificed in targeted attacks.

In particular, an Afghan poet and historian has been tortured and shot dead by the Taliban in the country’s south. Abdullah Atefi was killed on August 4 in the Chora district. The Taliban killed also a young woman for wearing tight clothing and not being accompanied by a male relative. The victim, Nazanin, 21 years old, was attacked after she left her house and was about to board a vehicle to travel to Balkh’s capital Mazar-e Sharif. The woman was wearing a veil that covers the face and body at the time of the attack.

During its 1996-2001 rule, the Taliban denied girls the right to go to school, and women were not allowed to work outside the home. Women had to wear a burqa and be escorted by a male relative when going outside.

Hazara in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Region fear repeat of Taliban atrocities

Memories are still raw of Taliban rule two decades ago, when their gunmen executed hundreds of ethnic Hazara men shortly after capturing the remote, highland region of central Afghanistan.

Hazara Shi’ite Muslims - who are considered infidels by the hard-line Sunni Taliban - make up a majority in Bamiyan and its eponymous capital.

During their rule in the late-1990s and early 2000s, the Taliban infamously blew up Bamiyan’s 6th-century Buddha statues, carved into sandstone cliffs in the heart of city, which the Taliban regarded as idolatrous.

Hundreds of Hazara men and boys were also executed by the Taliban in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, when their militants went door-to-door searching for Hazara to kill.

As the Taliban offensive gathers momentum and international forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Hazara fear that history might tragically repeat itself if the group returns to power.

This is why hundreds of panicked Bamiyan residents abruptly fled the city last July when Bamiyan's Kahmard and Saighan districts fell briefly to the Taliban. People who had money, passports, and visas went abroad or toward Kabul and other provinces.

Hundreds of Hazara have also been killed in Kabul in recent years in bomb attacks targeting their community's mosques, schools, and neighborhoods. Most of the killings were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Comparison between Afghanistan forces and Taliban

The total strength of the Afghan national security forces was more than 307,000 at the end of April while the combat forces available on any given day are about 180,000.

The strength of the Taliban, on the other hand, is not accurately known. UNSC monitors last year said the group had between 55,000 and 85,000 fighters.

The US spent tens of billions of dollars rebuilding and equipping the Afghan military after it toppled the previous Taliban regime in 2001. Afghan forces possess a technological advantage over the Taliban, using a wide variety of Western-made weapons, including modern assault rifles, night-vision goggles, armoured vehicles, artillery and small surveillance drones. They also have an air force with a fleet of 167 aircraft, including attack helicopters.

On the other hand, the Taliban have mainly used the small arms and light weapons that flooded Afghanistan over decades of conflict - such as Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifles - while also procuring them from regional black markets. In addition to sniper rifles and machine guns, the group has also deployed rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and other small rockets.

Suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been among the deadliest weapons the Taliban have used against Afghan and foreign forces. The Taliban have also captured and used Western-made weapons and equipment supplied to the Afghan military, including night-vision devices, assault rifles and vehicles.

Afghan forces have had their confidence tested for years, suffering high casualties, corruption, desertions, and now the departure of foreign troops. Poor planning and leadership have also been blamed for low morale.

The Taliban have displayed greater cohesion due to a religious zeal as well as the promise of material gains as contributing factors.

UN urges warring parties to protect civilians

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had denounced that the Taliban ground offensive and Afghan forces' air raids are causing the most harm.

Since the start of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in May, the Taliban has intensified their attacks, making significant territorial gains, especially in rural areas of Afghanistan.

Thousands of people have been displaced, while the Afghan security forces lost their morale due to intense propaganda by the Taliban. Some security forces' members put their weapons on the ground, took off their uniforms, and left their units and fled.

The Taliban already control large portions of the countryside. Taliban fighters overran three provincial capitals, including the strategic city of Kunduz and Sar-e Pol in the north of the country on August 8, as the group stepped up its northern offensive and threatened more urban centers. and, after conquering Lashkar Gah, are now challenging government forces in other provincial capitals including Herat, near the western border with Iran, and Kandahar in the south.

Incidents of gross human rights violation by the Taliban and their foreign terrorist associates in almost half of the country are reported and UNAMA is seriously concerned about the safety and security of people . This is why UNAMA is urging warring parties to protect civilians in cities under Taliban attacks.

UN Security Council's involvement

The UN Security Council (UNSC) and the regional and international community should prevent Afghanistan from descending into a situation of catastrophe.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the UNSC that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan was of increasing concern and “with the withdrawal of foreign forces, the outlook looks grim”. “It is clear that there is no military solution to the Afghan situation, but in the current situation - given the absence of progress on the negotiation track - the prospects of Afghanistan slipping into full scale and protracted civil war, unfortunately, is a stark reality,” he said.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the UNSC “should leave the Taliban in no doubt that there will be consequences for them if they continue to pursue this military offensive” and pledged that Britain would not recognise a Taliban government that comes to power by force.

As a matter of fact, the UNSC has the ability to impose targeted sanctions on Taliban individuals or entities who constitute a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.

Deputy Chinese UN Ambassador Dai Bing said foreign forces withdrawing from Afghanistan should be “more transparent with regional countries and avoid leaving behind all the problems and wash their hands of them.” “The US recently expressed its intention to assist Afghanistan in maintaining stability. We hope that the US can earnestly fulfill its commitment and step up efforts,” Dai Bing told the UNSC.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai urged the UNSC to act to “prevent a catastrophic situation”.

No military solution to conflict in Afghanistan

The Taliban have lost the ability to justify more conflict: in the past, the claim was that foreign invaders needed to be expelled. Now, the US and NATO are definitively handing over the political reins of the country to domestic forces.

There’s lithium, natural gas, cobalt, gold currently sitting in the ground, untouched. Development could mean jobs for people in Afghanistan, as well as revenue for everyone involved. Given that the most pressing issue within the country is hunger, a steady stream of money would definitely ease the conflict.

Furthermore, international projects such as the TAPI pipeline, which will carry natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, will strengthen regional peace through cooperation and result in billions of dollars of royalties for Afghans and neighbouring countries.

The war in Afghanistan has no legitimacy and a political solution is the only way forward. There is no military solution. Ultimately for Afghanistan to have peace and stability there needs to be a negotiated political settlement that has broad support in Afghanistan and broad support in the region and beyond.

The best-case scenario is a negotiated agreement to end the violence: that’s what the people of Afghanistan want. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emphasizing the need to accelerate peace negotiations and achieve a political settlement that is inclusive, respects the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities, allows the Afghan people to have a say in choosing their leaders, and prevents Afghan soil from being used to threaten the United States and its allies and partners.

The international community and most people in Afghanistan agree that war is not the answer. Peace is inevitable and will be advantageous to most. The enlightened self-interest of various stakeholders could lead to a sustainable peace for a people who deserve so much more and absolutely no less.