Bottom line forward: There are indications that the Taliban have no intention of compromise and believe they can take control of Afghanistan soon after the US withdrawal. Comparisons with the survival of the Najibullah government may be misleading. The eventual evacuation of the international community should be manageable, but it will have its risks.
Tim Willacy Willsey, Brief Expert on Cipher, Former Senior Member, Foreign Office
coding brief expert موجز Tim Willacy Willsey He served for more than 27 years in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is now a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College London. His first overseas posting was in Angola during the Cold War, followed by Central America during the instability of the late 1980s. click here for his full biography.
The Afghan Taliban have no intention To reach a compromise with the United States, NATO countries or the Afghan government. This was recently explained to me by a South Asian political figure close to the Taliban leadership. In response to the argument that a united Afghan government would represent a better outcome than a Pashtun Muslim state, his strong response was that “losers cannot be pickers.”
There is also a degree of disdain for some of the canals used to set up a supposed summit in Istanbul. Far from revering the Taliban as a beacon of Islamic assertion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is viewed with great suspicion for his support of Uzbek warlord and former Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum. Furthermore, the efforts of Pakistan Army Chief of Staff (COAS) Qamar Bajwa to persuading the Taliban It is alleged that attending Istanbul risks weakening the future influence of the Pakistani army over the Taliban.
The United States places great faith in Bajwa’s ability to bring the Taliban to negotiate a deal in Afghanistan, but Bajwa is not as free to implement as Washington believes. Bajwa’s current strength stems from his dominance over a weak prime minister and his authority over the army. However, he will know that he needs to retain the support of his corps commanders and that means not to stray too far from the policy areas controlled by the military; They are India, Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Afghan policy is to ensure that India cannot gain a foothold in Afghanistan (the military believes) that it is best served by supporting a Pashtun Islamic party. Bajwa’s tenure as COAS lasts until November 2022, long enough to make some short-term tactical moves but not long enough to change course.
All these factors will encourage the Taliban (who know the inner workings of the Pakistani army better than others) to play a long game, confident that the Pakistani army will remain resilient in the long run. The Taliban may also suspect that Bajwa is playing a mediating role to persuade the Americans and that he will also return to normal policy norms once the last NATO soldier leaves.
According to my sources, the Taliban are convinced that they can capture Kabul “within days” of NATO’s withdrawal and they believe the Afghan army is “in disarray and frustration”. Although the Taliban will not disrupt the departing US forces (unless they are attacked) they are not willing to wait until September to continue their campaign against government forces in Kabul.
These allegations are reminiscent of 1989, after the Soviet withdrawal when the mujahideen believed they would bring down President Muhammad Najibullah’s government within weeks. In fact, Najibullah survived for 3 years against a group of rebel groups that had the support of Pakistan and the Gulf states and still well-equipped with the Western weapons supplied over the past decade. In fact, it wasn’t until the Russians actively undermined Najibullah and halted his supplies that his government finally collapsed and the Mujahideen began their disastrous battle for control of Kabul.
But we should not rest too much from Najibullah’s example. Comparisons with Afghanistan today are misleading. Najibullah’s government was able to reach all the major cities and supply them with a military convoy. The Afghan army was deployed to protect the towns and ground communications. By contrast, in 2021, only the road between Kabul and Jalalabad was reasonably safe. Caravans cannot cross from Kabul to Kandahar, from Kandahar to Herat, or from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif. The Afghan army is spread across the country in fragmented district centers (often surrounded by Taliban-controlled countryside) and must be resupplied by air. This is not a sustainable model.
Moreover, a number of Afghan commanders, officials, and officers today received offers to relocate to the United States, Germany, and elsewhere. As the security situation continues to deteriorate, the pace of gradual displacement is likely to accelerate. In such circumstances, the government can suddenly explode. In 1989, few Afghan officials wished to seek refuge in the Soviet Union, where the economy was in a state of terminal decline. Today, some Afghans have become relatively prosperous against the backdrop of international generosity over the past twenty years. This provides options for immigration that did not exist in 1989.
It is important that Western countries do not encourage the collapse of the Afghan government by closing their embassies in Kabul Australia did. There is no doubt that NATO military planners are working on contingency plans in case an emergency evacuation of the international community is required. The probability is that such an operation will be as successful as 1928 Aliens Air Bridge By Royal Air Force planes from Kabul to Peshawar. The Taliban may promise to provide protection for diplomatic missions, and Pakistan will surely allow its territory to be used to save the international community. However, it will be a high-risk operation with a number of challenges such as distance, weather, terrorism, ground-to-air fire and coincidence.
For some, this may evoke images of the fall of Saigon in 1975 in which the big losers were the Afghans who remained, particularly the women, who faced a future of uncertainty and anxiety. There may also be a migration crisis reminiscent of Syria in the past decade.
We hope that the Taliban’s confidence is misplaced and they fail to make progress against the Afghan army and that they finally accept the benefits of a negotiated settlement. This outcome seems fanciful at the moment and will require more international support than has been evident in recent months.
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