People who think they know what will happen in Afghanistan need to hold off on their predictions. The Taliban don’t have complete control over Afghanistan yet. And that country’s future is far from clear.
• There’s no unified command of Afghanistan; it’s a narco state
Elena Suponia, an analyst with the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, reports that the Afghan Taliban has no single command. There are other armed groups in Afghanistan that are unwilling to obey the Taliban. And regional and other powers will continue to play on these internal differences.
The Washington Post’s columnist Elaine Shannon writes that we may also be seeing the emergence of the world’s largest “narco state.” Afghan drug lords now “control 85 percent of the world’s opium supply” and have branched out into becoming “the world’s biggest producer of hashish” and a growing supplier of methamphetamine, she rights. The Afghan Taliban will need to come to agreement with these drug lords about the existence of their operations and how to finance itself it is to stay in power.
• The Taliban’s money troubles
Also complicating the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan—a country with a per capita annual income of approximately $508 — is that the Biden administration has announced that it’s freezing billions of dollars of Afghanistan’s reserve in U.S. banks assets.
According to Reuters, about 80 percent of Afghanistan’s budget is funded by the U.S. and other international donors. Now this essential source of support is no longer guaranteed.
• The Taliban needs technocrats to run the country
As for the plight of all the Afghan people, especially its women and girls, the Taliban must now deal with the young Afghan men and women, and their parents, who welcomed the liberty, education, and modernity provided by courageous and generous U.S. engagement and support over the last 20 years. Many of these Afghans are now educated technocrats. Many of them worked in the previous Afghan government. They will be essential to running the country.
Will the Taliban murder, jail, and oppress all of these people? We can’t be certain. However, historically, the Taliban has been vicious, brutal, and uncompromising.
• The Taliban’s promises of amnesty for all and women’s rights under Islam
According to NPR, while the Taliban has pledged not to go after its enemies, many fighters have lists of people who cooperated with the government, and they are looking for them.
The Taliban, as reported by the BBC, also promise that “women are a very important part of our society. They can work. They can get education. They are needed in our society, and they will be actively involved. [And] the Islamic Emirate [of Afghanistan] believes that we have rights for women in Islam.”
However, what “women’s rights” means can vary amongst Islamic scholars, and the Taliban have been absolute in its oppression and subjugation of women and girls.
One can only hope this “new” Taliban will be who its says it will be, and if it is not, that international sanctions and other persuasive measures can be taken to protect former supporters of the previous Afghan government and Afghanistan’s women and girls.
• China and Russia now bear the burden
In the weeks ahead, the U.S. will be take a back seat in assuring the stability and peacefulness of Afghanistan, as its neighbors, China and Russia, now bear the immediate burden of trying to contain the radical Islamist Taliban and its ideology.
Only one country separates Afghanistan from China. That’s Tajikistan, a former state in the Soviet Union and a close ally of Russia. Thus, China and Russia will now have their hands full containing the spread of Afghanistan’s radical Islamic law agenda — a situation they both greatly dread.
In addition, refugees from Afghanistan will now be on their way to the Central Asian countries at China’s and Russia’s doorsteps, which will create quite a bit of internal disruption, fear, great expense, and possibly worse for China and Russia.
• Al Qaeda and ISIS
As for al Qaeda and ISIS, on July 8, President Biden sought to assure the American people by saying: “Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan. We are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”
We hope he is right.
• The Biden administration must use America’s power and influence
Having nearly completed its promised removal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Biden administration now must use all of America’s power and influence — without re- occupying Afghanistan — to assure the safe passage of all Americans and those who helped us in Afghanistan, plus other Afghan asylum seekers; protect Afghans’ human rights, particularly for women and girls; and deny safe haven to al Qaeda and ISIS.
• Afghanistan’s future
Afghanistan’s future was never certain. And it is not now.
Former U.S. Congressman Steven R. Rothman of Englewood served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013.