The Taliban have taken power in Kabul. What kind of government do we have to prepare for?
It is not yet clear whether the Taliban government will be called the Islamic Emirate or not. You could already have proclaimed the emirate. A Taliban spokesman has said they want an open, inclusive Islamic government. That could be an offer to the former mujahideen leaders in Kabul and people like former President Hamid Karzai.
A spokesman for Karzais said yesterday that there are such talks.
It can be. But it could also be that they play it up a bit. I have not yet heard any confirmation from the Taliban.
Will the Taliban establish the same type of oppressive regime as they did in their emirate from 1996 to 2001?
One can only hope that the Taliban learned from last time that you turn the international community against you if you harbor terrorists and that you cannot rule for long if you isolate yourself through human rights abuses. Afghanistan does not have such a high level of income. The Taliban will depend on foreign aid. They understand that too. That is why they have communicated to the international community that they are not harboring terrorists and that they do not want to threaten neighboring countries or the population. But the population does not believe that the Taliban have changed. They are now intoxicated with their quick success, and one can only hope that those planning a campaign of revenge will be slowed by their leadership.
What can be said about the actions of the Taliban in the conquered cities so far?
So far there has been a very mixed picture. There have been revenge killings, but in some cases of people who have maintained torture rooms themselves. It is also unclear whether all of these were always Taliban. I would be very careful about reports of forced marriages. If there is an assault, the Taliban must be held accountable and made to investigate and comment on such allegations.
What can the international community do in this situation?
What is needed now is a strong UN presence with a strong human rights component that will still watch what the Taliban are doing when our attention wanes again. We also need an Afghan civil society that watches the Taliban and criticizes attacks that they themselves say they do not want. Whether the Taliban will allow this will be an important question.
How could the American and German secret services misjudge the situation?
I think everyone has underestimated the Taliban for 20 years and has not been put off by the findings that existed. I remember early reports from Helmand Province where British soldiers said the Taliban were a serious opponent. They are well organized and have been expanding their networks in these areas for months, if not years. They told people, either you go home, or you join us, or we will crush you. And then that’s exactly what happened, in one district after another. A former German general has just spoken of motorcycle gangs who are unable to operate the many American devices that have fallen into their hands by the Afghan armed forces. This is an example of how profoundly wrong the Taliban can be.
Where did the Taliban get the skills to operate the weapon systems from?
I assume that many people who once trained in the Afghan army ended up with the Taliban later.
Why did the Afghan government and its army collapse so quickly?
Because the carpet was pulled from under them with the US-Taliban agreement (from February 2020), with an unconditional withdrawal of American troops and without a peace agreement. Of course, that put a crack in the morale of the Afghan army. Also, the Western training programs have only focused on quantity. It was about having as many soldiers and police officers as possible, even if many were just on paper. You also need a government that people want to protect. But she thought too much of herself and enriched herself. The government was completely divided. Everyone saw the chair of President Ashraf Ghani together with the Americans. He, in turn, was completely isolated and only surrounded by a handful of people.
What role did foreign support play in the Taliban’s victory?
I do believe that the Taliban also take advice from Pakistan. But now they can do a lot on their own. We saw that many additional fighters came across the border, but the adolescents from the madrasas (Koran schools) were, to use a bad word, more like cannon fodder.