The word ‘Taliban’ means students in the Pashto language. The ideology of the Taliban has its roots in northern Pakistan in the 1990s when the Soviet Union troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan. Taliban is a militant organization, formed based on Islamic extremism. The Taliban proclaimed the territory they occupied as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. At one point of time in 1998, the Taliban controlled more than 90% of Afghanistan land. Since then, they were pushed back to the verge of extinction by the US forces who sided with the current Afghanistan government in Kabul.
Peace talks resumed between the US and Taliban in 2018, when both parties signed a peace deal, allowing the safe withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. In 2020, another peace deal was struck between the two parties, as President Donald Trump initiated the withdrawal of US forces from the territory of Afghanistan. After his landslide victory at the 2020 elections, US President Joe Biden has proclaimed that the withdrawal of US forces is going to be completed on 11 September 2021, marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the US. This proclamation had some effect on the current rise of the Taliban.
Taliban captured mostly the rural and inhospitable lands of Afghanistan. Major cities like Kabul and Kandahar are still in the hands of the Afghanistan Government. However, in the past 3 months, the Taliban has made great advances to big cities and has almost reached the outer fringes of both Kandahar and Kabul. Taliban leadership, however, has stopped progressing since then and focussed more on gaining strongholds in regions they have captured.
India chose not to support the Afghanistan Government, neither it is supporting the Taliban. The Afghan Vice-President openly declared that the Pakistani Air Force is giving full aid to the Taliban in their attacks, a claim that Pakistan denies. India air-lifted 50 officials and security personnel from Kandahar city as the fighting grew among the Taliban and Afghan forces at the outskirts of the city. Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in India has clarified that the Kandahar consulate has not shut down and will be operated by the locals. Two foreign missions in the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif have also closed their operations due to violence in the area.
The rise of the Taliban is certainly a threat to the restoration of local culture and tradition. The 2001 destruction of Bamiyan Buddha in Taliban controlled provinces of Afghanistan, strict punishments, and mass killings have only made the Taliban worse in the early 2000s. However, many say that Afghan forces are not strong enough to combat the powerful Taliban, and may collapse if US forces withdraw anytime soon. In this view, the US needs to stay longer, and India should also try to foster dialogue between all parties concerned to bring peace and harmony in the region.
Written by – Himadri Paul