Taliban Controls Kabul | 17 Aug 2021

Why in News

Recently, the Taliban has seized Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, raising questions over the US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) trained Afghan Forces.

  • The Taliban have proclaimed that there will be no witch hunt, that it will respect a transitional process, and that it will work for a future Islamic system that is acceptable to all.


  • The Taliban, or students in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
  • It is an Islamic fundamentalist political and military organisation operating in Afghanistan. They have dominated Afghan polity for quite some time and feature regularly in international affairs.
  • The Taliban have been fighting against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul for around 20 years. They seek to reimpose their strict version of Islam in Afghanistan.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • Terrorist Attack:
      • On 11th September 2001, terrorist attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people.
      • So, a month after 9/11, the US launched airstrikes against Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).
    • Transitional Government in Afghanistan:
      • After the attacks, the NATO coalition troops declared war on Afghanistan. The US dislodged the Taliban regime and established a transitional government in Afghanistan.
      • The US had reached the conclusion long ago that the war was unwinnable and approached for peace talks.
    • Peace Talks:
      • Murree Talks:
        • In 2015 the US had sent a representative to the first-ever meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan government that was hosted by Pakistan in Murree in 2015.
          • However, the Murree talks did not progress.
      • Doha Talks:
        • In 2020, before the Doha Talks started, the Taliban had maintained that they would hold direct talks only with the US, and not with the Kabul government, which they did not recognise.
        • In the agreement, the US administration promised that it would withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by 1st May, 2021.
          • The deadline has been pushed to 11th September 2021.
          • This provided the Taliban a sense of victory and demoralised the Afghan troops.
        • The Taliban promised to reduce violence, join intra-Afghan peace talks and cut all ties with foreign terrorist groups.
    • US Exit:
      • By July 2021, the US claimed that it had withdrawn 90% of the troops and Taliban claimed that it had controlled over 85% of the Afghan Territory.
  • Current Scenario:
    • Taliban has seized Kabul and Many ministers along with the former President have fled the country.
      • This is the first time since their ouster 20 years ago in the wake of the 9/11 strikes that Taliban fighters have entered the city — they first seized the Capital in 1996.
    • Among the cities that fell is Jalalabad in the east, and many evacuation missions are set in motion.
  • Cause of Capitulation:
    • US’ Unconditional Exit:
      • The US decision to pull out its troops unconditionally without waiting for a negotiated political settlement regardless of consequences that were almost entirely predictable other than the speed with which it occurred.
    • Afghan’s Psychological Denial:
      • Afghan’s psychological denial that the US would indeed leave as they warned, a lack of military strategy, poor supplies and logistics, indefensible and thinly manned posts, unpaid salaries, phantom rolls, and a sense of betrayal, abandonment and demoralisation, all played a role in the capitulation
      • The Afghan had technical dependence on the US for air support, weapon systems, intelligence etc.
    • Lack of Preparation:
      • The Afghan Army was unprepared and caught by surprise by the Taliban offensive.
    • Lack of Training of Afghan Forces:
      • The Afghan National Army (ANA) was never really trained and equipped with the normal attributes of a national army capable of defending territory with adequate mobility, artillery, armour, engineering, logistics, intelligence, air support etc for rugged terrain; and infantry battalions and doctrines designed for it.
  • Role of US in Current Situation:
    • Invested on the War on Terror:
      • Most of the US’ effort went into grooming Special Forces units meant to recover targets of urban terrorist attacks, at which they acquitted themselves admirably, but not offensive operations.
      • In sum, they invested just enough for the war on terror, but not the defence of Afghanistan although it was perfectly aware of the connection between the two in the Pakistani role in nurturing the Taliban.
    • No Strategic Importance:
      • After the end of the Soviet intervention and the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has never really considered Afghanistan of strategic importance.
    • No attempt to integrate the economic sphere:
      • For all its USD 1 trillion investment in Afghanistan and its awareness of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, the US never really invested in the Afghan economy or attempt to integrate it to its economic sphere of influence (including India) as it did after its interventions after World War II in Europe, East Asia and later in the oil economies of the Gulf.
  • Implications for India:
    • Securing Indians:
      • The first concern is for Indian diplomats, personnel and citizens based in Afghanistan.
    • Strategic Concern:
      • The Taliban’s control will also mean a bigger hand for the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies to influence outcomes for the country, which will mandate a much smaller role for Indian development and infrastructure work that has won it goodwill over the past 20 years.
    • Threat of radicalisation:
      • There is the threat of growing radicalisation and space for pan-Islamic terror groups in India’s neighbourhood.

Way Forward

  • First option for India is to stick to its principle of backing only a democratically-elected government in Kabul, and providing political and humanitarian support while that lasts.
  • Also, India can learn from US-Taliban talks where two opposing parties came to the negotiating table for talks on Afghanistan’s future.
    • For India, given its abiding interest in Afghanistan’s success and traditional warmth for its people, making that leap should be a bit easier. Thus, India can consider the appointment of a special envoy and start Track II diplomacy with the Taliban.
  • India should facilitate emergency visas and evacuation of those close to India who will be under threat.

Source: IE