By: Mir Ahmad Mashal
The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan and the collapse of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, made all the forces inside and outside Afghanistan’s establishment to flee to other countries. Meanwhile, the only opposition force that was formed against the Taliban and even controlled the Panjshir province for two or three weeks was the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud. After the capture of Panjshir by the Taliban, no opposition force was formed for several months. But with the arrival of spring, the military movements of the Resistance Front in Panjshir and Andarab were resumed.
Although these military movements are very limited and ephemeral, they are considered to be the least military efforts against the Taliban now. In the political sphere, however, the confrontation with the Taliban came later. The first significant move was the meeting of some anti-Taliban Afghan politicians in Ankara. At the meeting, which brought together a significant number of prominent anti-Taliban figures, a statement was issued that clarified the opposition’s approach towards the Taliban.
Here, there are some questions that must be raised about these issues: What is the connection between the existing military activity and the gathering of politicians in Turkey? What are the capacities, capabilities and efficiencies of the two military and political spheres? What is the view of foreign countries towards the Taliban and anti-Taliban movements?
The connection between the military and political fronts
Although no military action had taken place against the Taliban before the beginning of the new solar year, widespread propaganda campaigns on cyberspace and social media were promising that a nationwide war against the Taliban would take place in Afghanistan from the beginning of spring. Now, almost two months after the beginning of spring, there have been some movements in the Panjshir and Andarab, but the situation is almost normal in other provinces of Afghanistan. Beside the fact that these movements were not significant, in several cases it was the Taliban who launched a purge operation and the opposition forces forced to respond to it. However, if we assume that this is the beginning of the road, the Panjshir and Andarab movements will have a long way to go. First, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that these conflicts are the beginning of large-scale organized battles that could lead to a massive wave. Second, these conflicts have not been coordinated and it can be said that there is no connection between the recent military conflicts and the newly established political front.
There are three major issues that indicate the recent conflicts are completely apart from the Ankara political movement.
The first issue is the spontaneity of conflicts in Panjshir and Andarab. The reports of military attacks in the Panjshir and Andarab show that what has happened so far is not the result of a codified and strategic war plan to seize territory or strike at the Taliban's military corps. In both districts, only the locals motivated by personal motives, were engaged in skirmishes with the Taliban.
The second issue is lack of a clear reference and source for recent military actions. According to what was propagated on the social media, it seems that the clashes of the last one or two months in Panjshir and Andarab have been organized by NRF under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud.
The third issue is lack of recognition of NRF as an acceptable and formal force, by the participants of the Ankara summit. As said above, the military movements of the last two months did not have a specific political address, and so the political privilege of it - intentionally or unintentionally - goes to NFR led by Ahmad Massoud. Even If this is true, what makes the recent clashes unrelated to the Ankara summit was the absence of a representative from NRF in the meeting. Now, one may ask whether the presence of Ahmad Zia Massoud and Ahmad Wali Massoud in the meeting could indicate the indirect presence of Ahmad Massoud and his front. The answer is no, because Ahmad Massoud, after about a year of being in the Afghan political arena, has shown that his political and possibly military activities were carried out without the presence, involvement and participation of his uncles. Therefore, the presence of Ahmad Zia and Ahmad Wali Massoud in the Ankara meeting does not indicate the participation of Ahmad Massoud. So, the absence of Ahmad Massoud or his representative means that the two fronts are separated on the issue of war and peace with the Taliban.
Military-political activities against the Taliban government; Capacities, capabilities and efficiencies
The military option against the Taliban has not been very successful since its inception. There are several reasons for this, if we look at the internal factors: First, the Afghan people have no desire to start another civil war. Decades of fruitless war have left ordinary people - who were the main victims of the conflict - reluctant to take part in the war. The second reason, which somehow overlaps with the first, is the Afghan people's sense of distrust of the leaders who have been in charge of the country for the past three decades.
The people of Afghanistan do not distinguish between Ashraf Ghani’s team (as it referred to in one of the clauses of Ankara summit’s declaration as a "traitorous team") and all of those who attended the summit.
Over the past twenty years, the performance of Afghan politicians, who have played a major role in previous governments, has severely suppressed the people’s motivations. If any action is supposed to be taken to destroy a powerful force called the Taliban (as the declaration of the Ankara summit also stressed the need for a "public uprising"), it is unlikely to receive the Afghan people’s support.
The third reason is lack of unity between the political and even military forces that are opposed to the Taliban. If we consider the political forces opposed to the Taliban to be the same ones that were in power in the past, we will see that there was no unity among them in the past and there will be no unity in the future. Today, these forces may chant the same slogans due the existence of a common enemy, but in practice they follow different paths.
Moreover, the fact that representatives of NRF not present at the Ankara summit indicates the existence of divisions among the resistance groups. Perhaps Ahmad Massoud does not want to be on a same train with those who are hated by the Afghan people.
In addition to the internal factors for any battle, the external factors also play a very influential and even decisive role. Now that the Taliban is in power, its opponents must take advantage of the domestic opportunities and meanwhile gain the foreign support too, especially from Afghanistan's neighbors and the world powers.
Despite the fact that the Taliban used force to overthrow the previous government, the foreign countries’ view towards the Taliban government has changed compared to the past.
In other words, most of the countries that considered the Taliban as a terrorist group before their victory, now have established a level of relationship with the Taliban government. Although no country has yet formally recognized the Taliban government, some neighbors and regional countries are interacting with the Taliban government through their political missions in Afghanistan. Likewise, the western countries, which should be the main opponents of the Taliban, are interacting with the Taliban government and try to change the Taliban's behavior more through giving concessions. Meanwhile, the case of the United States seems more unique. US behavior toward the Taliban shows that Washington has accepted the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan, and is using concessions, more than any other country, to put the Taliban on the right path. Furthermore, the country's special envoy to Afghanistan has made it clear that his country does not support any military action against the Taliban.
Therefore, it can be said that the international community not only does not want to overthrow the Taliban government, but also is using the option of luring or concession to change the Taliban's behavior. According to this analysis, if Turkey or another country hosts the political opponents of the Taliban government and even allows them to gather and issue a statement, it does not mean helping the opposition to overthrow the Taliban government, rather this shows that these countries are seeking concessions from the Taliban. In fact, in this particular case, the Taliban's political opponents have become a tool for gaining concessions.
At the domestic level, although the people are not happy with the Taliban, there is little desire to rise up against them, because the bad performance of the fugitive politicians as well as uncertainty about the post-Taliban era have made people prefer the bad situation to the worse one. On the other hand, there is little hope for current military movements. Moreover, the scattered political activities, led by the unpopular figures, have left no hope for the people.
At the external level, adoption of a same approach by all countries (i.e. all countries not recognize the Taliban, but at the same time, all accept the Taliban rule and want to interact with them, and all use the option of luring and concession to change the Taliban's behavior), and not supporting options that would help overthrow the Taliban government shows the futility of the internal military activities as well as the ceremonial meetings of the opposition abroad. The only logic of such activities is that the host countries are demanding concessions from the Taliban in line with their own interests.
Mir Ahmad Mashal, is an afghan expert