A game-changing event
The Taliban's assumption of power in Afghanistan has sent global and regional politics into a spin. How things will unfold in the coming days is now being discussed across the world. In this context, The Daily Star recently talked with Prof Shahab Enam Khan of Jahangirnagar University's Department of International Relations to get a picture of the whole situation.
The Daily Star (DS): Why couldn't the Afghan Defence Force form any resistance against the Taliban?
Shahab Enam Khan: The Taliban used multi-pronged strategies, ranging from military to non-military tactics and diplomatic efforts. Moreover, the Afghan national security forces were incapable of dealing with even low-intensity conflicts without support from international forces. Reports earlier published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction indicated that there were no qualitative changes in the Afghan Defence Force. That's why when the Taliban regrouped, they did not face any obstruction either from the defence force nor from the people.
DS: Is there any difference between the incumbent Taliban and the one that ruled Afghanistan before?
Khan: The Pashtun community dominated the Taliban force before they entered a dialogue process in 2014 to rebrand themselves as an all ethnic entity by getting Tajiks, Shias, Hazaras and others on board. That's why people from different ethnic groups are in leadership positions of the Taliban force.
But the biggest concern for the Taliban is to maintain unity among the different ethnic groups within its hierarchy.
DS: With the Taliban in power, what does the future hold for the Afghan people?
Khan: If the Taliban sticks to its pledges to Beijing or Washington (during negotiation) and to the Afghan people, there can be stability. But, if they back out from promises and resort to pre-2014 extremist ideology, it won't be good for the region, let alone the Afghans. We have to wait a few more weeks to see how things unfold in Kabul.
Till date, there has been no alarming bloodshed in Kabul. The incident at the airport took place centring mob control. Some Taliban were entering houses to ask whether there were any arms and government vehicles. But we are yet to get any evidence of strong retaliation from the Taliban against pro-Ghani or pro-Western people. This situation may change though. There might be some looting or robbery, which sometimes happen during a transition. Nonetheless, the fear of returning to extremism is very much real among the Afghans.
Women's rights is also a big concern with the return of the Taliban in power. This is something that has to be monitored. Without women's empowerment, no development will be real.
DS: How will this event impact global and regional politics?
Khan: This is a game-changing incident because two different trios have been formed. One is Beijing-Kabul-Islamabad and the other is Tehran-Ankara-Kabul. Besides, Delhi is a big factor and so is Dhaka.
Bangladesh has a key role to play in this situation. Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the senior most political leader in South Asia, she can reactivate Saarc. It's a big opportunity for the South Asian countries to resume regional cooperation centring Kabul. Bangladesh is a firm believer of multilateralism and regional stability, which is required to contain extremism, so it can take the lead.