The phenomenon of brain drain and its consequences for Taliban government
Following the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban to power, many young, skilled and educated Afghan forces left their own country. This brain drain will have a series of interconnected political, social and economic consequences. The inefficiency of the government will impose great financial and credit costs on the Taliban and will push the society towards hopelessness and distrust. Moreover, distrust of the political system will pave the way for people’s inclination towards joining the extremist groups as well as illegal organizations. The departure of young educated people from Afghanistan also destroys hopes for any change and reform in the country, as these forces are the main demanders of the society and their absence will prepare the ground for an uprising.
By: Aryan pourghadiri
Following the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the fall of the previous Afghan government, the Taliban - as a state - is facing many difficulties in rebuilding the ruins of the war and managing the country’s affairs. One of these problems, which has become the root cause of many other problems, is the issue of brain drain. Afghans make up one of the largest refugee populations of the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 6.2 million Afghan refugees in the world, of which 2.2 million people are living in Iran and Pakistan. This is the number of refugees that has been registered by the UNHCR. The unofficial numbers suggest that about five million Afghan refugees are living only in Iran.
Germany, Turkey and Australia are other destinations that Afghans choose for migration. However, it is worth mentioning that the phenomenon of migration and brain drain from Afghanistan is not a new issue, and it is for decades that war, instability and the uncertainty about the future of the country have forced the people of this region to leave their homeland. This process, while creating numerous problems in the host communities, will have serious consequences for Afghanistan itself. During the first period of the Taliban’s rule, from 1996 to 2001, large numbers of Afghans left the country. Following the overthrow of the Taliban regime and since 2002, more than 5.3 million Afghans returned to their country. But, the trend was reversed as the Taliban regained the power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s rise was an alarm for non-Pashtuns, women, highly educated people, journalists, civil society activists, foreign entities and high-ranking officials. Some of these people fled the country, because they felt that everything they have gained over the past 20 years is in danger. After this massive migration, Afghanistan lost a significant portion of its experts, whose presence was naturally necessary to run the affairs.
Main reasons behind Afghans collective escape
After the fall of Kabul and the overthrow of the previous Afghan government, thousands of Afghans fled the country. According to UNHCR, migration from Afghanistan will continue in the future and about 500,000 Afghans will flee the country. Of course, the number of immigrants who have entered Iran during the recent wave is estimated at about one million. What are the reasons behind this mass migration?
A.Economic crisis: Afghanistan is facing a severe financial crisis. Afghanistan's financial system is experiencing a free fall since the Taliban took the control of Kabul. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan was used to gain about 40 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through the international aid over the past 20 years. The Taliban's rise to power not only led to the termination of foreign aid, but also made the western countries to seize Afghanistan’s assets. Moreover, lack of international recognition has halted the country's economic relations with others. These two factors have led to rising inflation and poverty. According to the United Nations, about 24 million people in Afghanistan (60 percent of the population) are suffering from acute hunger. Many Afghans have sold their home furnishings and, in some cases their children and kidneys, due to the deteriorating economic situation. Moreover, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 97% of Afghanistan's population may fall below the poverty line by mid-2022. Lack of economic security and welfare are among the reasons why many Afghans emigrated after the Taliban regained the power.
B.The model of Taliban’s ruling: Following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the Afghan people, who were well acquainted with the Taliban’s mindset, knew what awaited them. Violence, religious extremism, and ethnicity and gender discrimination are among the reasons that can persuade many citizens, especially the young generation of the country, to leave their homeland. For example, the Taliban recently announced that women are not allowed to get on a plane without being accompanied by a male family member. In another example, the Taliban forces are accused of executing or disappearing more than 100 former police and intelligence officers since taking control of the country in August, despite announcing a general amnesty. As a result, such actions will lead the society to the conclusion that the Taliban has not changed, and thus will decide to pursue their destiny in another part of the world.
C. Insecurity and instability: Many people these days prefer to leave Afghanistan because of insecurity. After the re-emergence of the Taliban, we are witnessing a period of disorder and killing, because the security and military forces have not yet managed to fully control the affaires. In addition, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has carried out numerous bloody attacks in different provinces. The social crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, theft, rape, extortion and etc., have also increased because the police, security and judicial apparatus of the country has not yet reached the necessary stability. This insecurity is forcing some people to leave their country.
Consequences of brain drain
The most important consequence of brain drain, which is well manifested in Afghanistan these days, is lack of specialized forces to manage the country’s affairs. Given the fact that most of the Taliban forces are low-skilled and non-specialists, immigration of employees, journalists, professional managers, professors, skilled forces, and other educated people from the country has created a serious crisis for the new government. The lack of specialized forces comes at a high cost to the Taliban government, and of course the Taliban themselves are aware of this problem. That is why Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman, urged the people not to leave the country in the first days of the group’s rise to power, saying that “this country needs its own experts.” However, the demands of a group that has spent the last 20 years on violence, such as cutting the voters’ finger, bombings and killing of innocent people, cannot be a source of influence in the society, especially since many of their promises, including amnesty, later proved to be unreliable. But regardless of all these issues, the immigration of experienced and specialized forces from Afghanistan has grave consequences for the country in general and the Taliban government in particular.
A. Inefficiency and rising the costs of governance: The Taliban have been an insurgent group for the past 20 years and do not have the necessary expertise for running a country. In the previous government, 450,000 people were directly employed by the government, 20% of whom were women. Now, not only all those women have been fired, but also a large number of staff have either fled the country or are reluctant to work with the Taliban, and the country’s affairs are in the hands of the people who lack the necessary knowledge. Lack of expertise can lead to more duplications, mistakes, and parallel working which would impose heavy costs on the government. The trial and error method of managing the country by immature and unprofessional people is wasting Afghanistan's limited financial resources. The inefficiency of the government, especially in the two administrative and economic fields, can cause great dissatisfaction in the society and reduce the credibility of the government.
B. Increase of discrimination and frustration: Inefficiency in the management of affairs, especially in the economic field, can deepen poverty and consequently discrimination. The Islamic Emirate of the Taliban, when faces with shortage of resources and economic crises, prefers to spend the available limited resources on keeping the Pashtuns satisfied, rather than managing these shortcomings properly, because the Pashtuns have shown the greatest amount of loyalty towards the Islamic Emirate. This will increase frustration among other ethnic groups.
C.Increase of distrust: As mentioned, poverty and economic crisis caused by the government’s inefficiency can lead to the deepening of discrimination. The sense of organized injustice itself becomes a factor that can increase distrust in the government. This would deprive the Taliban government of having the support and assistance of the people. In other words, political distrust will lead to more inefficiency in the government, because most of the government’s energy will be wasted on facing its own people rather than being side by side with them.
D. Extremism: As political scientist Ronald Inglehart argues, lack of political trust will push a society towards extremism. Increasing Poverty and deprivation in Afghanistan will pave the way for the abuses of the extremist groups, such as the ISKP, which may deceive the people, especially the illiterate rural population, with the promise of creating a global caliphate and giving significant wages. The drug cartels are also another group that can exploit the Afghan people's distrust of the Taliban. As Fukuyama puts it, "If the government fails to do its main tasks, then I will have to fight for my own interests." Some people in Afghanistan, when faced with poverty and a system that cannot solve their problem, try to save themselves by clinging to the only and perhaps the last solution, which is joining the groups that disrupt the stability and peace of the country. E. The spread of radicalism: Basically, in all societies, the educated youth as well as the middle classes are the main driving force towards change and reform. The immigration of young and educated forces not only eliminates any possibility of political, social and economic development in the country, but also, regarding the inherent tendency of the illiterate and poor classes to radicalism, will engage the country in constant turmoil and insurgency.
Following the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban to power, many young, specialized and educated Afghan forces fled the country. The brain drain will have a set of interconnected political, social and economic consequences. The inefficiency of the government apparatus as well as doing things incorrectly will impose great financial and credit costs on the Taliban government. Inefficiency, especially in the economic fields, will lead to poverty; and the ruling Pashtuns' ethnocentric attitude towards the lack of resources will lead to more discrimination. If this discrimination continues, it will aggravate the sense of hopelessness in society, and increases people's distrust of the government. This distrust of the political system will pave the way for joining the extremist groups as well as illegal organizations, because these groups can save the poor people from poverty through paying high wages. Moreover, the immigration of educated young people as well as the middle class from Afghanistan will destroy the hopes for any change and reform in the country, because these forces are the main demanders of the society and their absence opens the door for the illiterate classes, which will finally lead to rebellion and violence.
Arian Pourqadiri, is PhD student in Political Sociology