Editor’s Note: The following is an assessment of the current situation inside Afghanistan based on reporting coming to AND Magazine from a network of well-established sources inside country with long track records of reliable reporting. It represents the aggregate of those sources’ assessment of the current situation there.
The state of armed resistance to the Taliban
In the first month since the Taliban capture of Kabul, National Resistance (NR) forces have been active in three key north-eastern provinces of Panjshir, Baghlan and Badakhshan. The NR fighters hold secure bases in the mountainous areas of Panjshir, Baghlan’s Andarab Valley and Badakhshan’s Ishkashim district and continue to harass the large and well-armed Taliban forces which have been sent to occupy the provinces. The NR is in the process of reorganising and regrouping in multiple other provinces and aims in the coming weeks to take and hold sufficient territory to protect the civilian population from further abuses by the Taliban.
Civic resistance to the Taliban
Demonstrations against the Taliban by men and women alike have taken place in multiple locations including Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Khost and Bamyan. The civilian population is overwhelmingly opposed to the forcible imposition of Taliban rule. Any illusions that people may have had that the Taliban might bring security or stability have rapidly been dashed. We anticipate the launch of mass civic resistance as the Taliban try to impose authoritarian rule and cause an economic catastrophe. It is likely that mass protests will contribute as much to the rapid overthrow of the Taliban as traditional armed resistance.
Human rights abuses by the Taliban
In both Kabul and the provinces, despite the claims of an amnesty, Taliban fighters have launched a campaign of searches, enforced disappearances and summary executions. Taliban intelligence have produced long lists of supposed enemies, to be removed.
The continuity government and political organisation of the National Resistance
After the chaos ensuing from the forced entry of the Taliban into Kabul on the 15th August and the resignation of the President, the National Resistance has been organized around the legitimate head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Erstwhile first Vice President Amrullah Saleh has assumed the role of Interim President. Ahmad Masood has assumed the role of Minister of Defence and chair of the Military Commission. The senior politicians in the country and key serving ministers have agreed to join, or nominate members to, a government of national salvation. The composition and programme of this Government of National Salvation will be announced in coming days. The principal objective of the Government of National Salvation is to achieve sustainable peace by the replacement of the illegal Taliban administration with a broad-based administration enjoying the support of the Afghan people and addressing legitimate international concerns.
The important role of Tajikistan
Tajikistan has taken a bold stand in opposing the Taliban administration and admitting Afghan refugees. The continued cooperation of Tajikistan with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the National Resistance is important for the prospects of sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
What is wrong with the Taliban caretaker administration
On 7 September, the Taliban leadership announced a caretaker administration. This administration illustrates why the Taliban cannot bring peace to Afghanistan and why they remain a threat to international security.
- The administration includes only members of the Taliban movement, contrary to the Taliban promises of an inclusive administration.
- There are no women.
- High profile terrorists, including Seraj Haqqani and suicide bomber trainer Taj Mir have received senior positions – in an act of flagrant provocation.
- Three out of four of Afghanistan’s major ethnic groups feel excluded.
The administration is incapable of governing Afghanistan.
Divisions inside the Taliban leadership
Since the announcement of their administration, the Taliban leaders have been locked in a dangerous power struggle.
Taliban leaders from Kandahar, the traditional base of the movement, have accused the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s ISI of a power grab.
This tussle led former deputy leader Mullah Baradar to quit Kabul and return to Kandahar.
The Taliban have until now successfully covered up the loss of their supreme leader, Haibatollah. The power struggle is likely to force the Kandaharis to appoint a new supreme leader to challenge Khalifa Seraj and the ISI.
The important point is that Taliban rule is very fragile and unlikely to endure.
The return of Pakistan-backed regional jihadi organisations to Afghanistan
One of the first things which the ISI-backed Taliban have done in Kabul is to invite back into Afghanistan members of the pro-Pakistani regional terrorist outfits, Jaish Mohammad, Lashkar Tayyaba and Sipah Sahaba. ISI intends to provide these outfits with new camps to launch another round of proxy warfare against India.
What Americans can do
- Encourage Tajikistan to increase its cooperation with the lawful government of Afghanistan and the National Resistance to the Taliban.
- Ensure that in any engagement with the Taliban the US withholds recognition and avoids providing them with any assistance or legitimacy.
- Provide the lawful government of Afghanistan, under interim President Saleh, access to some of the assistance previously committed, to help it to reorganise.
- Agree to support a concept of “safe zones” within Afghanistan. These will cover areas which reject Taliban rule and where humanitarian organisations should enjoy full freedom of operation and the National Resistance protects the population from Taliban aggression.