The Taliban were in control of Afghanistan before they were removed from power in 2001 by US-led forces. The group gained a reputation for brutality and enforcement of a harsh brand of Islamic justice in the five years they ruled until 2001.
The extremist group entered direct talks with US back in 2018, and in February 2020 the two parties struck a deal in Doha, Qatar that will see the US commit to withdrawing from Afghanistan and the Taliban to prevent attacks on US troops. Other promises made was that the Taliban would not allow al-Qaeda or other militants to operate in the areas they control and to proceed with national peace talks.
The US will complete their total withdrawal from Afghan soil by September 11, after about two decades of war, but while the withdrawal had been ongoing the Taliban has moved faster than most analysts thought, overrunning Afghan military outposts, towns and villages and surrounding major cities. That rapid advancement has ultimately seen them force the civilian government to flee from the seat of power in Kabul – the second time the Taliban would be capturing the country, the other time being in September 1995.
Here’s a look at why the Taliban operations in Afghanistan matters to the world:
Afghanistan will become a major human rights problem
The Taliban of is infamous for denying women their right to education, carrying out public executions of their opponents, persecuting minorities, such as the Shiite Hazaras, and destroying priceless ancient giant stone Buddhas at Bamiyan. Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan during President George W. Bush’s administration, told NPR’s Morning Edition on Friday that “thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of Afghans” who believed in the U.S. are suddenly finding themselves the subject of Taliban reprisals. “These people have been steadily … assassinated for the last year,” he said.
A Taliban could again make Afghanistan a safe haven for other extremists
It was the final straw for the US when the Taliban refused to handover Osama bin Laden, following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York- a man considered to be an international fugitive by Washington at the time. Speaking in an interview this past week, former U.S. Secretary of Défense Leon Panetta offered this blunt assessment: “The Taliban are terrorists, and they’re going to support terrorists.” “If they take control of Afghanistan, there is no question in my mind that they will provide a safe haven for al-Qaida, for ISIS and for terrorism in general,” he said. “And that constitutes, frankly, a national security threat to the United States.”
The Chinese could become a strong influence in the region
Taliban leaders have been in a full-court press to gain allies and influence abroad. And the effort is showing signs of paying off. The last time the Taliban were in power, they turned Afghanistan into a virtual pariah state — isolated from the rest of the world, save for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the only governments willing to recognize them. But in recent weeks, top Taliban leaders have been on a whirlwind international tour, visiting Iran, Russia and China.
China has reportedly promised big investments in energy and infrastructure projects, including the building of a road network in Afghanistan, and is also eyeing the country’s vast, untapped, rare-earth mineral deposits. And Beijing was already reportedly preparing to formally recognize the Taliban before the group seized control of the country.
A Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might destabilize Pakistan
The Taliban in Afghanistan helped inspire the deadly Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, more commonly known simply as the Pakistani Taliban. The leaders of the two groups are reportedly at odds and don’t share common goals. Even so, “if there is a Taliban government in Afghanistan, certainly that’s going to embolden the [Pakistani Taliban],” Madiha Afzal, the David M. Rubenstein fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, tells NPR. Haqqani, the former ambassador who is now director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, writes in Foreign Affairs that “Islamist extremism has already divided Pakistani society along sectarian lines, and the ascendance of Afghan Islamists next door will only embolden radicals at home.”
He says that Pakistan’s “risky game” of supporting the Taliban while trying to maintain good relations with Washington “was never going to prove sustainable in the long term.”
“Pakistan has managed to kick the can down the road for a long time. Soon, however, it will reach the end of the road,” he writes.
Meanwhile there’s still no official remarks or presser from US President Joe Biden after the collapse of Kabul, as the world awaits for what follows, especially for Afghans.