Post-Taliban, Afghanistan – A Short Note

Lt. Gen (retd) Tariq Khan, shared his very insightful views which are attached after my article in which I share my perspective on a post-Taliban, Afghanistan.

Thank you for sharing Tariq, my perspective is far less insightful than yours, but for whatever it’s worth, here’s what’s top of mind for me.

Short-term to mid-term: 0 to 12 months

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1. Establishing a governance structure. Inner power struggles? Don’t have much visibility here. The Panjshiris, Ahmed Wali Masood has agreed to cooperate. So I think that’s one feather in Pakistan’s hat.

I think there appears a strong possibility of some non-Taliban figures in a new administration. Not sure if it’ll be Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, A Tajik like Ahmed Wali, and a Shia Hazara. If they can swing it. Huge win and immediate international acceptance, in my opinion.

2. Getting stuff done, given the many professionals who have left or gone into hiding.

If they’re able to achieve an inclusive government, then perhaps former government people may return? Do you see any possibilities of Pakistani professionals in the interim to help fill the gap in crucial areas like health, education, infrastructure, etc?

3. Their desperate need for cash, since all assets have been frozen. So perhaps China may be a huge player to step up and fill the gap for now. Your thoughts?

4. Treatment of former enemies, Shias, Women. Closely watched. I think if they have an inclusive government then in the short term this will die down, but I fear that the hardliners will continue to exert power and influence and we may see intense power struggles on these issues between the theological and political Taliban leadership.

5. Not sure what form and shape the Sharia-driven governance model will take. As we can see these issues are highly complex and intertwined with even more complex political, economic, social, theological power structures and positions of the ethnic, linguistic, sectarian patchwork is called Afghanistan.

6. Law sends order and security. I think barring the odd rogue incident will remain more stable. But the spoilers on both sides. The former Afghan regime remnants and Daesh and Al Qaeda splinter groups, covertly supported by India and sadly perhaps even the USA, trying to reclaim some operating space.

7. International recognition. This and unfreezing of assets is perhaps the single biggest challenge the Taliban have. If they’re as pragmatic as Tribal Pashtuns are, I hazard that they will try and cobble a government that is acceptable to some international organizations and countries, especially in the EU, allowing for some economic succor. The USA will continue to play the “woman scorned” role, and as always, unable to see the writing on the wall. However, if they were to open their eyes, ears, and minds, they should co-opt any new Afghan administration, long term to rebuild the country and not resort to undermine the government and use their moles and spoilers to fuel an insurgency which is Unlikely to succeed.

What is most worrying about USA policymakers are the emerging voices in the USA attempting to hold Pakistan responsible for this debacle, since it’s probably the easiest scapegoat to explain the incredible stupidity and the Supreme arrogance of the USA in Afghanistan which actually lead to the inevitable outcome. President Biden is advised not to listen to these voices attempting to shift blame and responsibility on Pakistan.

Here’s the most compelling piece of evidence why the USA failed in Afghanistan. Attempting a military solution vs a political/economic solution.

20 years & $1 trillion?

$816B, US troops.

$83B Afghan Forces.

$10B drug interdiction,

$15B, US agencies in Afghanistan,

$21B in “economic support”.

Barely 2% of US spending reached people for basic infrastructure & poverty-reducing services. Go figure why the Taliban succeeded and the USA failed.

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