Afghanistan - Sudden Departure of the US; The Rapid Rise of Taliban

Ahmad Reza Taheri

The "sudden departure of the United States from Afghanistan", is the main headline of the world media these days. The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan conveys several messages. The first message highlights two issues which can be considered in conflict with each other. First, with the departure of the US forces from Afghanistan, President Biden spoke of the achievement of the US goals, in which it can be inferred that the United States has achieved its goal after years in Afghanistan and now it is time to leave. There is no sign of success in the second message; Joe Biden clearly acknowledges the weakness of the United States, saying: the United States cannot interfere in the affairs of other countries and teach them how to govern themselves. The people of Afghanistan must think for themselves and choose a government which they like, and there is no justification for the United States to stay in Afghanistan any longer.

While the US presence in Afghanistan has certainly benefited the US, what seems to be most notable, however, is the US inability to deal with the Afghan issue, as Biden himself has referred to it. Therefore, taking into account the US claims (fight against terrorism, bringing about peace and democracy), it can be concluded that the US has not been able to adhere to its claims in practice, and now, for whatever reason, is a loser in Afghanistan.

But, the other side of the coin has a different story that may present several hypotheses. The so-called abrupt withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the so-called rapid rise of Taliban seem strange and complicated, and thus it is difficult to see behind the scenes --- Is it possible that the United States intends to prove to the world the incompetence of Afghan government in fighting against Taliban and justify its re-entry into Afghanistan? Is it possible that by vacating Afghanistan the United States really has admitted its failure? Could the peace between Israel and the Arabs have anything to do with the US departure of Afghanistan, i.e., an agreement or deal behind the scenes between the Western and Eastern powers (China or Russia)? Can this new war in Afghanistan be part of a greater game? Could it be that the US strategy is for Iran, to push it more deep in Afghanistan so that ignite an ideological war between Taliban and allied groups against Iran? In any case, let's not be concerned with the issue that which hypotheses may be correct or incorrect. Yet, it can be said with certainty that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was not a sudden plan, nor Taliban's coming to power was quick; this is a global plan with regional cooperation.

Another message to be noted is that countries like Afghanistan, which are militarily and economically weak and internally unstable, and whose governments are heavily dependent on the United States, should know that such dependency may one day cost them dearly; as soon as they lose their political credibility, the conditions for overthrowing them would be facilitated. Taliban came to power by the support of the United States, and after four years of rule were overthrown by the United States itself, and now the US withdrawal from Afghanistan means supporting Taliban to regain power. Hence, without military and economic strength, diplomacy and bargaining would not be effective in international relations.

What matters to Western states like the United States is national interest, which is a natural thing. The war on terrorism and the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy are rather deceptive and fascinating slogans that have manipulated the common people by powerful states through their powerful media. If we examine the roots of the formation of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, we find that all these groups were either created by the United States or with the cooperation of the United States.

The rapid occupation of Afghanistan by Taliban also suggests that the regional actors strongly support this movement, whether with or without the green light from the United States or Russia. Negotiations between Iranian delegations and Taliban and Pakistan's strong ties with Taliban mean the presence of regional actors in Afghanistan. In other words, in some cases, the role of Pakistan and Iran in the future of Afghanistan can be more important than the role of other countries. It should be remembered that when the United States attacked Taliban and Al-Qaeda, without the cooperation of Iran and Pakistan, it could not easily get rid of Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But, here, the important point is that between Iran and Pakistan, which country benefits most from the Afghan civil war and the rise of Taliban?

Apart from the fact that there are ideological differences between Taliban and Iran, which in itself can easily provide the grounds for strained relations with Iran later on, inciting ideological differences by regional agents and foreign intelligence is highly likely and must be taken seriously by the Iranians. Taliban who come to power with the help of ideology will follow the same ideological path which is in contrast with Iranian ideology. In this ongoing civil war, whether Taliban come to power or not, whether the conditions for disintegration of Afghanistan would be provided or not, and if the war continues, the winner of this great game, for reasons which are beyond the capacity of this text, is Pakistan and the main loser is the people of Afghanistan.

13 July 2021