New Taliban rulers in Afghanistan face major security and economic challenges after returning to power in one country totally different who they left 20 years ago.
When they ruled the previous time in the late 1990s, Afghanistan was a poor farming nation, and the Taliban were concerned about imposing their strict version of Islam on a very traditionalist and mainly submissive population.
This time they are inheriting a more developed society with a small educated middle class, but also an economy ravaged by war and corruption.
Even before the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15, the unemployment rate exceeded 30%, and more than half of Afghans lived in poverty, despite two decades of US intervention and billions of dollars in assistance.
Afghans queue up at a bank in Kabul. Photo: EFE
The Taliban have tried to reassure Afghans that they have changed since 1996, when they ruled with a heavy hand. Men had to grow beards and women had to wear a burqa, a garment that covers them from head to toe. Girls were excluded from education, and entertainment such as music and television should be avoided.
The past haunts many Afghans, and fears persist that the Taliban of yore will lurk behind the facade of the country’s new rulers. That fear means that many people do not want to return to their jobs, despite the guarantees of the Taliban, and thousands have chosen to seek their future. outside of Afghanistan.
“The biggest challenge for the Taliban is to bring others into the government of Afghanistan,” said Torek Farhadi, a former adviser to the overthrown government who had the support of the West.
“They feel that they won a military victory and it might surprise their ranks that they now have to give away positions of power to othersFarhadi noted.
But, he added, a new government can only be consolidated if all Afghans, including women, they can feel represented.
Several of the Taliban leaders now in charge in Kabul they were part of the strict regime from the 1990s, but they seem to have changed during his years in exile.
Taliban guard the entrance to the Kabul airport. Photo: EFE
In 1996, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar hardly wanted to travel to Kabul; he was satisfied to remain in the Kandahar provincial town. But in recent years he became the main political negotiator and lives in Qatar, where a Taliban political office was opened. Baradar has appeared alongside high-level political leaders from Russia, China and even the United States.
Today’s Taliban has been conciliatory, and he has exhorted his former opponents to return to the country and has vowed not to exact revenge.
One government, the acid test
Its first great test is the formation of a new government. They promised to include non-Taliban figuresBut it is not clear if they are really willing to share power.
An inclusive government could achieve that decrease the exodus of Afghans, particularly of young and educated people, and persuade the international community to continue sending much needed assistance.
The Taliban have conflicting demands and supporters to satisfy. Even among the Taliban leaders there are contrasting views on how to rule. Additionally, tribal elders in Afghanistan are another powerful group that it cannot be ignored.
Then there are the thousands of fighters whose formative years were spent on the battlefield and now have a sense of victory over a superpower. Many young fighters are intoxicated with what has been achieved, and convincing them that reaching an agreement is for the common good could be difficult, if not impossible.
Taliban fighter in Kabul. Photo: EFE
In the past, groups of Taliban fighters who believed that the movement had betrayed their original radical beliefs defected to join the ISIS group, which is now a major threat to the country’s security.
Last week, an ISIS suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside the Kabul airport, where he killed 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen, in addition to affecting the actions of the Taliban to facilitate the evacuation of the United States.
Time is not in the Taliban’s favor either.
The economy has been down for years. If peace comes to Afghanistan, the population increase your demands for financial assistanceThis is almost impossible if the international community _ which financed 80% of the government of President Ashraf Ghani_ withdraws its support.
A new government must have achievements soon and ease the economic crisis, said Michael Kugelman, an analyst with the Wilson Center, a think tank based in the United States.
If it fails, “you have to start looking at the possibility of large-scale protests against the Taliban, which would clearly present a great challenge to it as it tries to consolidate its power,” he added.
But how much the Taliban is willing to give in to international concerns while staying true to its beliefs could further widen divisions among the leaders, particularly those with a more rigid ideology.
Taliban celebrate the departure of the United States. Photo: AFP
Farhadi noted that the Taliban could draw on numerous experts among expatriate Afghans, but much of it depends on the image of the new government.
Kugelman noted that the Taliban you need that experience.
“You have a regimen that has no political experience at a time when you have a great political crisis, aggravated by the fact that the international community is going to cut off access to funds for this Taliban government, ” he said.
“And as always, it is the people, the Afghan people, the one who will suffer the most ‘‘he added.