The Taliban militia, an Afghan fundamentalist armed group, has managed in about three months to put the Afghan Army in check, trained and supported in the last two decades by international contingents, in a rapid offensive that has been advancing from the perimeter of the provinces, towards the smaller capitals and, now, the big cities like Kunduz, Herat and Kandahar. Almost 20 years after the Taliban surrender in the face of the military campaign launched by the United States and the Northern Alliance (Afghan) against the considered sanctuary of the terrorist network Al Qaeda, the insurgent guerrillas threaten to regain full control of Afghanistan . These are the keys to understand what is happening:
Who are the Taliban? The armed group of the Taliban, the “students”, according to their translation from the Pashtun language, took shape in the early 1990s. In 1989, mujahidin (armed jihad fighters), Afghans and foreigners, had defeated Soviet Union troops in Afghanistan after a decade of war. The Taliban, from the Afghan-Pakistani border, born in the fundamentalist religious seminaries, promised order and security in their offensive to rule the country.
In 1996, the guerrillas took control of Kabul and wrested the government and the presidency from the leader mujahidin Burhanuddin Rabban, one of the heroes of the victory against the Soviets. In their advance, the Taliban established a fundamentalist regime on the rigorous interpretation of Islamic law that, among other things, imposed physical punishment, from capital punishment in public places, to whipping or cutting off limbs for minor offenses; stripped women of any rights, forcing them to fully cover themselves with the burka, and the girls, who were forbidden to go to school from the age of 10, and eradicated any cultural expression (cinema, music, television) or even archeology —the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed in March 2001.
After the seizure of power in Kabul, only three countries recognized the Taliban: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. The intelligence services of the latter country, despite denials from Islamabad, have been accused by the United States of supporting the Taliban insurrection. The West Point Center for the Fighting of Terrorism He estimates that the Taliban have around 60,000 combatants, to which would be added tens of thousands of related militiamen and collaborators.
Why did the US declare war on the Taliban in 2001? Five years after the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, on September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the attacks on the Twin Towers, with a death toll of around 3,000. Washington blamed the attack on the terrorist network Al Qaeda, born in the late 1980s and then led by the Saudi Osama Bin Laden. The government of Republican President George W. Bush declared war on terror and its sanctuaries, including the Afghanistan of the Taliban, where it was estimated that Bin Laden had found refuge and the leadership of Al Qaeda sheltered from the mujahidin Mullah Mohamed Omar.
In October 2001, the United States launched an offensive (Operation Enduring Freedom) against the Taliban forces together with the Northern Alliance, a coalition of rival militias born after the fall of Kabul, which staged its capitulation in Kunduz, on the border towards Tajikistan in just two months. However, the invasion of US troops, later supported by dozens of countries in their administration of the new Afghanistan, did not find the whereabouts of Bin Laden and Mullah Omar.
The Taliban admitted in 2015 that Mullah Omar had passed away two years earlier. Mullah Mansur, his successor, was hit by a US airstrike in 2016. Maulaui Hibatullah Akhundzada is the current leader of the Taliban. Bin Laden was found and killed by US special forces in May 2011 in the town of Abbottabab, Pakistan.
What have the Taliban done since 2001? After the victory of the US troops and during the transition stage towards an Afghan government under democratic standards, the Taliban have maintained their zone of influence in areas of the interior and the Pakistani border. The fundamentalist group did not surrender, but rather retracted its members in mountainous areas with difficult access or outside the country. The Taliban have maintained different strategies, from the gradual advance of their militiamen in a traditional guerrilla war to the terrorist attacks against security forces, officials, politicians – on August 4, they tried to reach the residence of the Minister of Defense in Kabul -, women, journalists … All this has earned him the condemnation of the United Nations in different reports for human rights violations.
In the sad retina of their violence are, without a doubt, the shooting against the minor Malala Yousafzai, in Mingora in October 2012, for raising her voice on the Internet in defense of the education of minors, and the attack in Peshawar, in the territory Pakistani, against a school in December 2014, with 156 dead. However, the arrival of the Islamic State (ISIS) brand in Afghanistan, through defections from other Afghan armed groups such as the Taliban, has complicated the authorities’ work to point out who was responsible for the attacks. terrorists of recent years. The Taliban often take responsibility for their attacks through their main spokesperson on the networks, Zabihullah Mujahid.
What is the cause of the current war in Afghanistan? In December 2014, 13 years after the war began, US President Barack Obama declared the end of major combat operations. The Democratic president, who raised the number of US troops on the ground to close to 100,000, opted to focus the efforts of his troops on training and handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan forces in order to be able to close the mission . His successor in office, Donald Trump, despite defending the return of soldiers from the longest wars, finally agreed to keep the contingent in Afghanistan until the war situation allowed. However, in February 2020, in the framework of peace talks in Doha (Qatar), Trump agreed with the Taliban that he would remove the troops from the country in 14 months.
Last April, the current occupant of the White House, Joe Biden, reported that the United States would withdraw its troops in a withdrawal that began in May and that it is expected to conclude no later than September 11, the date on which they are fulfilled. two decades since the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. In May, precisely, the Taliban began an offensive to extend their area of control in the south, north and the western fringe of the country, with a strategy of attrition from the capitals of the 34 provinces that divide the country towards the big cities, such as Herat, Kandahar or Kunduz.
Although the US intelligence services estimated in June that the country could fall into the hands of the Taliban six months after the withdrawal of foreign troops, these same sources now believe that Kabul could be controlled by the Taliban in 90 days. Only between July and so far in August, a thousand civilians have lost their lives due to the violence unleashed in the Taliban offensive, according to UN figures. Around 250,000 people have fled their homes since May. Despite the fact that on paper, the Afghan forces, trained and supported by the international coalition during the last two decades, have more troops, around 288,000 police and military, the Taliban advance is being rapid.
Can an agreement be reached between the parties to stop the violence? In February 2020, the United States, under the government of Donald Trump, and the Taliban reached an agreement in which Washington committed to withdrawing troops in May 2021 and the insurgent militia not to attack them and to initiate dialogue with the Government of Kabul , directed by Ashraf Ghani. The pact was signed by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban militia. Also last year, talks began between the parties in Doha, the capital of Qatar, but without much success. On August 12, precisely through Qatar, the Afghan Executive sent the Taliban a proposal to share power in exchange for the end of the war escalation. For the moment, the insurgents have not ruled on a possible agreement and are continuing their offensive.