DiplomacyIR & Politics

The Changing Political Dynamics in Afghanistan

The Taliban, who arose as an Islamist aggressor association under the authority of their profound chief Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1994, comprised of understudies from Afghan and Pakistani madrasas, yet their unique warriors were mujahids who were battling the Soviets from 1979 to 1989. Taliban held onto control of Kandahar city with shock assault on 3 November 1994. By 1996, the Taliban effectively assumed responsibility for Kabul and shaped the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Mullah Omar turned into the main leader of the state. Until 1998, the Taliban had been controlling practically 90% of the country. After the bombarding of the US consulates in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998, the US did an airstrike on regions in Afghanistan that it accepted were important for the Al Qaeda organization. US needed to catch Osama Bin Laden by arrangement, yet the exchange interaction, which took over a year, and result was zero. US-drove alliance powers attacked Afghanistan and toppled the system with the assistance of the Northern Alliance in 2001. Mullah Omar and most Taliban pioneers escaped to the Pakistani boundary to select new adherents and pull together. Subsequently, they made the Quetta Shura. Two or three years, Taliban began new assault strikes to Afghanistan. Before very long, US sent more soldiers to the Afghanistan and struggle expanded. New ways were investigated and for the goal of the, several meetings coordinated, lastly in the late of February 2020, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” is agreed upon.

History of the War in Afghanistan

In 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. The depression that began with the Soviet armies invading Afghanistan has become an international problem.

The intervention was based on Article 4 of the treaty on friendship, good neighborhood and cooperation signed between the two countries on 5 December 1978.

For hundred years, Russian diplomats and generals had tried to bring Afghanistan into the Russian Empire. The only reason Afghanistan did not fall under Russian sovereignty was because the British wanted Afghanistan at the same time. Both countries couldn’t get what they wanted because both wanted the same thing. Both Russia and Great Britain were aware that invading Afghanistan could start a war with each other. After the First World War, Afghanistan managed to become completely independent. Since 1919, Afghan kings ruled Afghanistan under a constitution. But Afghanistan was aware that its very large and very powerful neighbor in the North was a threat. The Soviet Union wanted Afghanistan as much as the Russian Empire wanted it. After the Second World War, the Soviets sent money to Afghanistan to build schools, roads and factories. Also the United States sent money in the same way with the hope of preventing Afghanistan from becoming a communist country. Once again, Afghanistan is balanced between two very large and hostile countries.

In 1978, a rebel group sympathetic to Soviet ideas rose up and killed the king of Afghanistan.

After taking over, they declared that the Afghan administration would now be influenced by ideas that were equivalent to communist ideas. Many Afghans saw this as the first step towards losing independence. They didn’t want Soviet influence in their country and they knew that the Christian hatred of communism extended to all religious beliefs. If Afghanistan gradually become a communist state, Islam could be banned. A civil war has erupted between the rebel-held new government and Afghan Muslims struggling to maintain their faith. The Arabic name for these fighters was mujahid. So the Soviet Union decided it was time to invade. Thousands of Soviet soldiers crossed the border into Afghanistan. But taking Afghanistan was not an easy work. The mujahids, who knew the guerrilla war very well, disappeared after they came down from the steep mountains of their country and attacked. When the Soviet Union failed to include Afghanistan in its territory, it had to look at Afghanistan as an occupied country full of hostile rebels. In Afghanistan, the war between the Soviet army and the mujahideen would continue for years. With this long and determined resistance, the withdrawal of the Soviet troops within the framework of the new attitude of the USSR during the Gorbachev period, whose policies changed as a result of Perestroika, was achieved with the agreement reached as a result of the mediation of the United Nations and the withdrawal operation was completed on February 15, 1989. The predictions of the immediate collapse of the Democratic People’s Party General Secretary and the President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammed Najibullah, who declared a state of emergency after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, were not correct. After this period of nearly three years, with the dismissal of the Najibullah administration in April 1992, a fierce struggle between the radical Islamist groups in competition with each other started.

After Burhaneddin Rabbani one of the guerrilla leaders became the head of state, the clashes continued, especially around the capital Kabul. Mullah Omar, who was among the mujahids during the Soviet occupation and started his education in the madrasah in the northwest of Kandahar after the end of 1992, demanded the establishment of an order based on “Islamic principles” in the country after the communist rule was overthrown. In 1994, the Taliban Movement, which was formed by students studying in religious madrasahs with the support of Pakistan, started to advance against Rabbani. The movement, which started with 50 people, reached 15 thousand with the participation of Afghan madrasah students, who were war-weary, desperate and most of whom were displaced during the civil war, after about a month. In the same year, the forces of Uzbek leader Rashid Dostum and Hizbi Islamic leader Gulbettin Hikmetyar clashed with Rabbani forces and turned Kabul into ruins. While the Taliban forces made serious gains in 1995, the Pakistani influence in the country gradually increased. In June 1996, Hikmetyar signed a peace treaty with Rabbani and formed the government and became president. In September of the same year, Taliban forces forced Rabbani and his government to leave Kabul, seized the city and executed the deposed head of state Najibullah. The Taliban committed intense human rights violations on the grounds that they applied sharia in the places they held under their rule, especially women were prevented from working and they were prohibited from going out alone and without a veil.

Taliban Takes Over the Government

 In 1996, the Hizbi Vahdet, the government and Dostum’s forces allied themselves against the Taliban, but by 1998 the Taliban had come to control 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory. When the Taliban came to power, the country was exhausted by nearly 20 years of war and conflict. There was not enough water, electricity, telecommunications and transport infrastructure. There were difficulties in meeting the most basic needs of the people such as shelter, food and medicine. The civil war shook the social structure based on family and tribal solidarity, which was the basis of the economic and social dynamics of the country. Approximately 1 million civilians lost their lives during the occupation and civil war years, and nearly 100 thousand women were widowed. Due to the difficulties in accessing basic health services, the infant mortality rate reached the highest rate in the world with 25 percent. One of the four children born in the country died before reaching the age of 5.[1]

The Afghan people were in need of humanitarian aid provided by the United Nations agencies and foreign non-governmental organizations. When the Taliban administration came to power, it followed a strict “Islamic rule” procedure, but showed a skeptical attitude towards foreign aid organizations. In the summer of 1998, the Taliban closed the offices of all foreign aid organizations and UN agencies in the country and ended their activities. The UN accused the Taliban for preventing the World Food Program from delivering food aid to 160 thousand civilians who are starving in the country.

On August 20, the United States attacked the places that Osama Bin Laden said were their bases with Cruise missiles. Relations between Iran and the Taliban have become strained in September. After nine diplomats and an Iranian journalist were killed during the capture of Mazar-i Sharif, the Iranians piled up troops on the Afghan border but they did not clash with each other. In October 1999, international sanctions were imposed against the Taliban administration with the UN Security Council resolution 1267 on the grounds that it supported Osama Bin Laden. In December 2000, with the UN Security Council Resolution 1333, additional sanctions were imposed against the Taliban for supporting terrorism and cultivating and trafficking drugs. In March 2001, despite international pressures and the opposing views of the Islamic authorities, the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddha statues of the 5th century in Bamiyan using explosives, and also destroyed many ancient artifacts in the Kabul Museum with claims they are against Islam.

September 11 Attacks and American Occupation

After the overthrow of the Taliban administration, Afghan leaders came together at the Bonn Conference in Germany in December 2001, and brought Hamid Karzai, who would later be elected President, to the leadership of the Afghan Provisional Authority. On September 11, 2001, the Taliban supported Osama Bin Laden and his organization Al-Qaeda, which was stated to have organized the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and enabled them to use Afghanistan for all kinds of activities. The USA started the occupation operation called “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001. Afghan supporters under the umbrella of the US-led coalition and the “Northern Alliance” captured one major provinces one after another. The Taliban withdrew from the capital Kabul on 13 November and from Kandahar, whose fortress was accepted in the beginning of December. Taliban and al-Qaeda’s ringleaders were forced to leave the country. Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership took refuge in the mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance took over Afghanistan by forming an interim government headed by Hamid Karzai at the end of this month. Created by the UN in 2001 and the extension of a command change and mandate of six months, the planned 5,000 Peace Corps (ISAF- International Security Assistance Force) began his career in 2002 as commander of this force in June was given to Turkey. In the same month, Hamid Karzai was elected interim president until 2004 by the Afghan Grand Tribal Council (Loya Cirga). After the US invasion, which greatly weakened the Taliban, the conflicts between northern and southern groups came to the agenda, the countries within ISAF were reluctant to have command due to the inability to provide security and stability in the country, and the transfer of the command to NATO after Germany and the Netherlands solved the problem to some extent. Turkey has taken control of the NATO-ISAF command again in 2004, commanding Italy 2005, England in 2006, then was transferred to the United States.

The re-emergence of the Taliban

The organization has started to control certain regions of the country again since 2006. International coalition forces had to increase the number of troops in the country in the face of the Taliban getting stronger. In 2009-2011, there were 140 thousand soldiers under ISAF’s command, 100 thousand of which were US soldiers. It was revealed that Taliban leader Mullah Omar died of tuberculosis in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, on April 23, 2013. The USA announced in 2012 that it will end its operations in Afghanistan in December 2014 and begin withdrawing its troops. On December 28, 2014, NATO officially ended ISAF operations and handed over all security responsibility to the Afghan government. On the same day, it was announced that the NATO-led Resolute Support Operation as a continuation of Operation Enduring Freedom had started. While the central government forces in the country did not succeed in maintaining security, the withdrawal plan failed. While the clashes continued in the country, the Taliban continued their terrorist activities. It is difficult to say that ISAF, which has a limited mandate in Afghanistan, is sufficient in bringing security and peace to the country. In the country where the USA entered with the promise of democracy and freedom, the aimed structural change and economic progress could not be achieved yet. The September 11 attacks changed the US’ view of the world. With operations in Afghanistan, including Turkey, Uzbekistan, countries of Central Asia and Pakistan’s strategic importance has increased. Likewise, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, which the USA sought for a long time, in the house where he was hiding in Pakistan in 2011 does not seem to have made a significant contribution to the stability of Afghanistan in terms of security.

Peace Talks

For the first time, the United States made attempts to hold talks between the Taliban and Afghan governments for peace in Afghanistan under the Presidency of Barack Obama. Attempts in 2011, 2012 and 2013 failed. The peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in 2016, under the coordination of Pakistan, with the participation of the USA and China, did not yield any results. After Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2017, the negotiations came back on the agenda. President Ashraf Ghani, who was elected for the second time in Afghanistan, announced that they were ready to negotiate with the Taliban without preconditions at the beginning of 2018. Ghani also pledged to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party and to release prisoners of the organization. The Taliban responded negatively to Ghani’s proposal, saying that the addressee for peace was not the Afghan government, but the United States. On February 25, 2019, the US and Taliban representatives met for the first time in Doha, the capital of Qatar, for peace talks. After the completion of the eighth round of talks between the US and the Taliban on August 12, 2019, the parties reportedly approached the deal. At the end of the 7-day period that started on February 22, 2020, a peace agreement was signed on February 29, 2020.[2] The US and the Taliban have signed an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict. The US and NATO allies have agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal. President Trump said it had been a “long and hard journey” in Afghanistan. “It’s time after all these years to bring our people back home,” he said. Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to follow. Under the agreement, the militants also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.[3]

Biden Term

Later, the current US President Joe Biden announced the document that will form the basis of the national security strategy during his rule. In the 24-page document, Biden stated that diplomacy would be their first option in national security matters, but they would not hesitate to resort to military force when necessary. The document also emphasized that democracy is seen as the most important asset, ‘endless’ wars like Afghanistan will end and efforts will be made to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.[4] Other highlights in the report are:

Afghanistan: ‘The US will not engage in endless wars that cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. We will work to responsibly end America’s longest war in Afghanistan, prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe place for terrorists to launch terrorist attacks on the USA. “

‘Economic security is national security’: The document announced by Biden also includes the phrase ‘Economic security is national security’ in the Trump administration’s national strategy document.

Defense budget: The report states that “clear priorities will be set” in the defense budget, and it is emphasized that cooperation will be made with the Congress in determining the structure, capabilities and size of the military power, “it will be moved away from old platforms and weapon systems to create resources for new technologies and capabilities”.

Cyber ​​security: It is stated in the report that cyber security will be one of the main priorities and that the capacity, preparedness and resistance of the USA in cyber space will be strengthened.

Nuclear disarmament: It was stated in the document that the US will lead the way to reduce the dangers arising from nuclear weapons, and diplomacy will guide relations with North Korea and Iran. The United States and Russia last month extended the new START agreement (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) until 2026.

CONCLUSION

The fact that the Middle East geography is a transition area and has rich mineral deposits has led to the need for industrialized countries to always take care of this place, and a system of creating chaos in order to maintain their control in the region is necessary. Terrorist organizations and activities, which are the subcontractors of colonialism, have never been missing from the region. Afghanistan, which is one of the joints of the Middle East region, has been the scene of both regional and international terrorist incidents and problems. In this sentence, again with the influence of internal dynamics, it was first exposed to the Russian occupation and to the US activities in the millennium, which played a dominant role in the continuation of the chaos and terrorist acts in the region until today. Things have changed in Afghanistan after September 11. All eyes are focused on Afghanistan, the name of Al-Qaeda. American foreign policy, which is considered a terrorist organization, has turned to most countries, especially Afghanistan. After this date, many things have changed and the expression “fight against terrorism” was used for the first time. Countries like Afghanistan are poor because of their extractive institutions. These institutions result in the lack of property rights, law and order, or a well-functioning legal system, as well as stifling domination of national and local elites over the economic and political life. Foreign aid will not benefit in similar institutional problems; It means it will be looted and cannot get where it needs to go. The worst possibility is that the aid will support the regimes, which are the main source of the problems of these communities. Foreign aid is not an effective tool to combat the failures of countries around the world. Countries need inclusive economic and political institutions to break the cycle of poverty. In this respect, what foreign aid can do is usually limited, especially with the current form of organization, nothing it can do. Understanding what lies at the root of world inequality and poverty is extremely important to avoid hoping for false promises. Since institutions are at the root of these problems, foreign aid will have little effect in promoting sustainable growth due to the existing institutions of the recipient countries. Since the development of inclusive economic and political institutions plays a key role, it would be beneficial to maintain the current flow of foreign aid, at least in facilitating such development. The principle of conditionality does not provide a solution to these problems, as it requires existing administrators to make concessions. Rather, structuring foreign aid and involving groups and leaders who cannot have a say in the political arena on their own, thanks to this assistance, in the decision-making process and empowering the wider public will probably do better.

Afghanistan has been a country where conflicts, wars and occupations have always prevailed throughout its history. In these processes, as always, the local people had to shoulder the most intense pain. The Afghan Taliban, who caused the greatest damage to the country from the emerging terrorist organizations; It was established under the spiritual leadership of Molla Muhammed with the aim of establishing a state where Islamic Sharia law rules are applied. It officially established its existence in 1996 and maintained power in the country until 2001. After 2001, when the US-led coalition invaded the country, Taliban leaders fled to the Pakistani border. By gathering power there, it enabled them to find power again in the country. In an 18-year war between the USA and the Taliban since 2001, the USA suffered a financial loss of up to trillion dollars. Thousands of American soldiers also died. Ultimately, groundwork was prepared for peace talks with the Taliban. Despite the negotiations that were interrupted many times, the peace agreement to bring peace to Afghanistan was finally signed on February 29, 2020. It is unlikely that this agreement between the Taliban and the USA will result in favor of the Afghan people. There are many reasons for this. For a conflict resolution that leads to a result, the social, political, economic and psychological factors underlying the conflict should be clearly identified and resolved. For this reason, it can be seen that the withdrawal of only the coalition forces that exist in the country can serve the Taliban’s goal of an Afghanistan free from foreign powers, but even if the Taliban fully dominates Afghanistan, the Taliban terror will not end. It will only take a legal dimension. However, as a result of this agreement aimed at ending the war between the USA and the Taliban, American soldiers in Afghanistan will return to the country. Moreover, even after the agreement signed between the USA and the Taliban, the conflicts between the Afghan forces and the Taliban continued and more than 500 civilians lost their lives in the first three months of 2020. Another reason why the results of this treaty seem to have a negative impact on Afghanistan is that the Afghan government did not participate in the talks. The Afghan government did not become a party during the treaty, which could be one of the biggest possible factors for the disruption of the process or the further escalation of terrorism in the region. It should also be mentioned that; During the Taliban administration in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women’s and children’s rights were seriously ignored and strict penalties and methods were applied in accordance with the Sharia rules. Although the people saw the USA as the savior when the US coalition invaded the country in 2001, the war that lasted for years made the situation in the country much more unstable. The withdrawal of the US and coalition forces with this agreement will make the country even more complicated and problematic, and it is likely that the Taliban terror will increase further against the Afghan government and people. If the USA’s preventive power will disappear to some extent, and if the Taliban overthrow the Afghan government, it will fall into the hands of the Taliban, who will fulfill the strict Sharia rules throughout the country. Even if this situation will resolve the armed conflicts in the country, it is likely to increase the violation of human rights considerably. However, even if the people and other forces can be brought under control by the pressure of the Taliban in the country, it is also possible that such an organization with radical Islamist ideas will become even more radical and become a threat to the international community, as al-Qaeda did, by going beyond the borders of Afghanistan. It seems unlikely that this agreement between the Taliban and the USA will result in favor of the people of Afghanistan. There are many reasons for this. Social, political, economic and psychological factors underlying the conflict should be clearly identified and resolved for a conflict resolution that leads to a result. For this reason, it can be seen that the withdrawal of only the coalition forces that exist in the country can serve the Taliban’s goal of an Afghanistan free from foreign powers, but even if the Taliban fully dominates Afghanistan, the Taliban terror will not end. It will only take a legal dimension. However, even if the people and other forces can be brought under control by the pressure of the Taliban in the country, it is also possible that such an organization with radical Islamist ideas will become even more radical and become a threat to the international community, as al-Qaeda did. The war in Afghanistan from the past to the present must end as soon as possible. The country cannot tolerate more infants, children and civilian casualties. If there is a democracy and hierarchy in most other countries in the world, this order should be introduced in Afghanistan immediately. Such a war in the 21st century is at an unimaginable level. Because of the hostility of the two countries to each other, the innocent people of the country have been suffering from the war for years. In my opinion, the Taliban are concrete evidence of evil deeds. The best example of how to destroy a country is Afghanistan.

REFERENCES

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USLUBAŞ, Tolga/ DAĞ, Sezgin, İlk Çağlardan Günümüze Dünya Tarihi Ansiklopedisi (İstanbul: Karma Kitaplar, November 2010)

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WHITLOCK, Craig, ‘’At War With The Truth’’ The Washington Post, December 9, 2019. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/ (accessed on March 10, 2021).

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BBC NEWS Türkçe, ‘’Afganistan’da 14 yıllık savaşta ölen ya da yaralanan çocuk sayısı 26 bin’’. Available at https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-55044665 (accessed on March 10, 2021).

CFR, Timeline, ‘’The U.S. War in Afghanistan: 1999-2020’’. Available at https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan(accessed on March 10, 2021).

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BBC NEWS Türkçe, ‘’Biden: Diplomasi ilk seçeneğimiz olacak, sonu gelmez savaşlar bitecek’’. Available at https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-56278055 (accessed on March 10, 2021).

Footnotes

[1] BBC NEWS Türkçe, ‘’Afganistan’da 14 yıllık savaşta ölen ya da yaralanan çocuk sayısı 26 bin’’. Available at https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-55044665 (accessed on March 10, 2021).

[2] EFR, Timeline, ‘’The U.S. War in Afghanistan: 1999-2020’’. Available at https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan (accessed on March 10, 2021).

[3] BBC NEWS, ‘’Afghan conflict: US and Taliban sign deal to end 18-year war’’. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51689443 (accessed on March 10, 2021).

[4] BBC NEWS Türkçe, ‘’Biden: Diplomasi ilk seçeneğimiz olacak, sonu gelmez savaşlar bitecek’’. Available at https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-56278055 (accessed on March 10, 2021).

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Ecenaz Değirmenci

Ms Ecenenaz Değirmenci is studying political science and international relations. She is currently senior student at the Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University. Ecenenaz makes researches about Balkans, Northern Cyprus and especially Greek- Turkey relations mostly but she is interested in any international issue.
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