Fall of Kabul, 2021

While the US prepared their exit by 9th September 2021, the Taliban rose to become the dominant political and military power in Afghanistan. After capturing Herat in the extreme west, the Taliban proceeded rapidly towards the east, where the bigger cities like Kabul and Kandahar are located.

This is not the first time the Taliban has risen to power following an unstable Government in power in Kabul. In 1995, a civil war started in Afghanistan, following which the Taliban rose to power. After a failed attempt, the Taliban established their base at Herat on the western part of the country, and again launched an offensive to Kabul. Kabul fell in 1996 and Afghanistan passed into the hands of the Taliban. The siege was only for 5 years, but it resulted in Afghanistan’s economy rolling back at least 25 years.

Mass destruction, killing and raping of women, and blowing up of archaeological monuments are features of the Taliban regime. US troops gradually repealed the Taliban from 2001 onwards and took up Kabul. However, they could not completely wipe out Taliban leadership and ideology and it soon gained momentum in remote parts of the country. Though the Taliban were a nightmare for the women, Taliban support still built up on a large scale across the remote regions. The US alleged that Pakistan sponsored the Taliban providing them shelter in Quetta.

Several countries like India, Afghanistan Government, the US, Russia alleged that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorist organizations. The allegations were proved right when Osama-bin-Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 US bombardment attacks was found and killed in Pakistan. For a brief period, the progress of Al-Qaeda and Taliban were overshadowed by the rapid progress of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and their suicidal attacks in other parts of the world. Heavy bombardment by the US, Russia and other world superpowers ensured that ISIS didn’t last long. While the world helped Syria and Iraq wipe out ISIS, the US was making peace talks with the Taliban to ensure peace in Afghanistan. After the fall of ISIS, the Taliban still held their ground with military and finance aid from neighbouring countries that allegedly include Pakistan.

Things took a decisive turn as US President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by 11th September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US made a peace deal with the Taliban, where mutual peace and unity between Afghanistan Government controlled areas and Taliban controlled areas were signed. However, as soon as the withdrawal of US troops started, the Taliban started capturing one city after another in bitter street fighting. Within 3-4 weeks, the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the southern city of Kandahar, the western city of Herat was captured by Taliban forces.

The Afghan military provided almost zero resistance to the Taliban attacks, most of them switched sides taking the opportunity of lack of nationalism and leadership from the Government. Despite Joe Biden assuring that Afghanistan is self-sufficient in military power to combat any Taliban uprising, the reality shows a completely different picture. Covering almost the entire Afghanistan, the Taliban now attacked Kabul from all sides. The Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on the night of siege and took refuge in either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Street fighting started in Kabul but there was hardly anyone loyal to the Afghanistan Government and most has switched sides. Kabul passed into the hands of the Taliban, who now proclaimed their country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The fall of Kabul in August 2021, marked the beginning of a new era of Taliban rule over Afghanistan. Parts of the city, around the airport, where most of the foreign residents living in the country are escaping were spared from damage. As soon as all foreign countries finish their evacuation of citizens, entire Afghanistan will pass into the hands of the Taliban. Many Afghans want to leave the country to find shelter in other developed countries but are unprepared given how quickly the Taliban captured one city after another. While Taliban rule is a nightmare for women and minorities, they have no option other than hope that the new rule of Taliban will not be doing mass raping or ethnic cleansing and treat everyone with respect and give importance to education and growth of the economy of the war-torn country.

Written by – Himadri Paul