Prof. Serdar Erdurmaz
For almost 20 years, the Taliban has been waiting patiently for this phenomenon that the US withdraws, and they will take the governance of Afghanistan and Afghan people would remain with the Taliban again. Taliban spokesman reiterated this reality on several occasions.
President George W. Bush’s speeches right after the 9/11 terrorist attack indicated that the US would destroy the safe haven for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and establish a new democratic regime that respects the rule of law and human rights.
It took 20 years to obtain two targets; First, to topple down and fight with Taliban as a terrorist organization to end al Qaeda bases in this country; Second building up a state to establish a democratic government and related institutions such as rule of law, military and security forces and so on.
It achieved the first aim to a certain degree. Now, the Taliban seems not to support any terrorist organization anymore and promises not to export terrorism outside to Western territories.
They did not put the second aim into reality because of the prevailing corruption and deception in all Afghan governmental institutions, including the armed forces. Even though the US spent much more than 2 trillion dollars, all efforts were in vain to establish democratic Afghanistan since the regime was forced down to the uneducated native and tribal Afghan people. Afghan demographic structure was neither ready to adopt a new regime nor accepting it.
Former President Donald Trump realized that situation, but current President Joe Biden has decided to get back all the US troops from this country until the end of the 9.11.2021. There is no doubt that the US authorities connected with the Taliban by using Qatar and reached an agreement. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has taken a role in this event. There might be two main points of this contract. First, The US and Western troops and civilians would leave the country using international airport in a secure manner. Taliban would not conduct any operation on this process. Second, the Taliban would establish an inclusive government. However, it is not clear what that means of “inclusive government.” In any case, the Taliban declared that the new administration would not be democratic but religious-based on Sharia. In return for that, the US promised not to interfere with the military operation of the Taliban from the ground (President Biden told the US air fighters and economic support will maintain).
Washington seems to accept the religious administration of the Taliban since there are various examples such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those countries have good relations with the US administration. If the Taliban shall adopt similar policy relations as mentioned earlier with Washington, it would be acceptable with the USA.
Greater Middle East Project had been ruled out by President Biden when he announced that the mission of the USA in Afghanistan is not “nation-building” but to end terrorism. Washington got frustrated in Syria as well, failing to establish democratic regimes over there.
Taliban initiated its assault to invade the country immediately when US withdrawal has begun. As one of their senior officers announced, they did not expect such rapid success to reach the capital city Kabul within ten days. Taliban occupied Kabul and established its religious institutions all over the country. Authorities are very attentive not to put much violence that would catch the western counter-reaction and it looks like they got some lessons from their mistakes of 20 years ago. For the time being, they announced that the girls could go to girls’ school freely. Nevertheless, women do not allow to work outside of the home. However, according to the media, some women were punished severely since they refused to wear burka.
We witnessed that the Taliban got in touch with China to obtain international recognition, which might provide them legitimacy. On the other hand, Russia established relations with the Taliban, secured its Muslim ethnicity on its soil, and controlled the Taliban by close relations. China and Russia poke the USA to recognize and improve relations with the Taliban, not leaving the area to those two adversaries. In this context, China and Russia versus the USA means any decision could not be taken in the UNSC pro and against Taliban. Thus, the Taliban gains legitimacy from the UN’s point of view.
EU does not want to interfere in this situation. However, their primary concern is to hurdle refuge flux coming from Afghanistan through Turkey. They are alarmed, and Greece builds up 40 km. of steel fence all along with the Turkish-Greece border. The President of the EU Commission, Ms. Von der Layen, announced that the EU would not recognize the Taliban administration even they negotiate with them to understand their intent.
Regarding Turkey, Ankara had taken mission within the NATO umbrella all along 20 years. She did not involve in any hot fighting against the Taliban. Ankara still has some troops contributing to the international airport in Kabul. Ankara is very attentive to the Taliban’s domestic political approach. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that Ankara could speak with Taliban representatives to understand their intent and approach to its own people. Turkey conducts a very active Afghan policy in the region using phone diplomacy with Russian President Putin and German chancellor Merkel.
As for Taliban recognition, Ankara should not hurry and adopt a “wait-see” policy. For now, Ankara’s main problem is irregular Afghan refugee flows from Iran. Eventually, Ankara should take all kind of measures to control this event, including an agreement with Iran to stop transferring refugees to the Turkish border. It should avoid discourses encouraging Afghan people to come to Turkey. Otherwise, this creates agglomeration or accumulation of those in Turkish soil since the EU would not be eager to accept any of them.
Currently, there are seven million unofficial Syrian refugees in Turkey. Aware of that the birth rate increases in geometric ratio within 20 years, Syrian refugee population would reach almost 15-20 million, making more or less 20 % of all Turkish population. In the future, this reality will create serious demographic, socio-economic, cultural, and traditional conflict in society. For that reason, Ankara should make scrutiny on this issue.
In conclusion, the new era will resume in Afghanistan, that all related states are waiting with the anxiety of Taliban governance in the domestic and international field. Taliban administration will be religious with Sharia rules and Afghan people forced to adopt this new government, Sharia rules and, social life despite the objections of the western countries. We will wait and see how the Afghan state will evolve under the Taliban administration.