Dr. Hatef Mokhtar is a Chair of Afghanistan International Strategic Studies Center (AISSC). He is an expert on Taliban insurgency.
The reasons why the Republic of Afghanistan failed over the time by the creation of an Emirate created by the Taliban
The article answers all the questions related to the reasons behind the failure of the US created the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan over the 20 years of intervention in the country's social and political structure in the name of the War on Terror which got collapsed in wink of the eye by the Taliban irregulars, therefore; leading to the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan witnessed great changes in governments and systems over the past five decades. The monarchy of Mohammad Zahir Shah was transformed into a republic during a coup by Sardar Daud Khan on July 17, 1973. After five years of rule by Sardar Daud Khan, the Khalq Democratic Communist Party carried out a bloody coup against Sardar Dawood Khan on March 27, 1978, during which Dawood Khan was killed along with seventeen members of his family and many members of the Presidential Guards. The Khalq Democratic State of Afghanistan was declared under the leadership of Noor Mohammad Taraki. The state system, with the direct support of the Soviet Union, was said to have been set up to pave the way for the direct invasion of the Soviet Union. The communist government, which ruled the people by force and underestimated the religious and national values of the Afghan people, faced a strong reaction from the Afghan people. On September 9, 1979, Noor Mohammad Taraki was assassinated by Hafizullah Amin and Hafizullah Amin came to power. By the end of the mentioned year (September 9, 1979), the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, assassinated Amin and submitted the power to Babrak Karmal. With the Russian invasion, the reaction of the Afghan people against the communist state became more and more widespread. Mujahedin groups were getting stronger day by day. The Russians removed Babrak Karmal from power and brought Dr. Najib to power of the Communist Government. Due to fierce struggle by the Afghan people, the Russians were unable to capture Afghanistan. They conceded defeat, and withdrew their troops from Afghanistan after that, the communist state collapsed. The Mujahidin declared the Islamic State of Afghanistan, but because of disagreements, conflicts, and the monopoly of power by some groups and foreign interference, the conflicts among them increased. Finally, civil war started among various Mujahedin Groups. Because there was no central government and due to increasing arbitrariness, the fate of the country went in an unknown direction. At this time, the Taliban Islamic Movement emerged in Kandahar and in a short time, it turned the atmosphere of conflict between different groups of Mujahidin into a comprehensive peace and took control of most of the country. The Taliban also captured Kabul on September 27, 1996 and declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but its rule was short and fraught with difficulties and threats. After the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, a dispute arose with the United States over Osama bin Laden and the US invaded Afghanistan on October 7 of that year. Within a month, it had overthrown the Islamic Emirate and established the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. But the Taliban became stronger, reorganized and strengthened their groups, and waged a 20-year war against the United States and the Afghan government. The United States and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with the financial, political, and military support of the United States, used all kinds of weapons, technology, and military force against the Taliban, but were not able to crush the Taliban resistance. The Taliban would take over new territories until a peace agreement was signed between the United States and the Taliban's Islamic Emirate on February, 2020 after 11 rounds of talks in Doha, Qatar. The Allies withdrew their troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban assured them that they would not attack American troops and that Afghan soil would not be used against anyone else. On August, 15, 2021, Taliban captured Kabul again, overthrew the republic and once again the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan came to power.
1. Democracy in Afghanistan was established as soon as the US invasion started which was considered a colonial game by many Afghans.
The republic (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) came into being when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The reality is that many Afghans were against the US invasion. Therefore, Afghans believed and believe that the republic was a foreign phenomenon that the US and its allies use for their own colonial purposes. As a result, it did not have the support of most Afghans. Also, almost all Republican officials were loyal to the interests of the United States and its allies and were not well regarded by the general public. This aroused the sensitivities of the general public against the republic system. These sensitivities increased when the Taliban's armed opposition to the United States and the Afghan government arose under the name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and took the control of many parts of the country which received a warm welcome and support from the Afghan people.
2. Most Afghans, especially people of the rural areas, believed that the republic is against the religious, national, social, and cultural values of the Afghan people.
To Afghans, especially those in rural areas, the republic seemed to be against the religious, national, social, and cultural values of the Afghan people, which they opposed. On the basis of it, the Taliban were able to easily attract most of their fighters from the rural areas. It is a historical fact that Afghans are committed to their religious and national beliefs and values. With the advent of the republic, they saw many freedoms that they thought were in conflict with their religious and national values. Due to the arbitrariness of the media, which broadcasts whatever it wanted, also the demands of various political affairs and groups, some of whose demands and actions were against Afghanistan's national unity and religious values, many people turned away from the republic and joined the Taliban. Taliban had convinced them that they fought for their homeland, religion, and values. These people provided shelter and food to the Taliban fighters and gave them full support against the republic system and its foreigners.
3. Widespread financial and moral corruption in the republic widened the gap between the state and the people
The republic established such a system for Afghans that was full of financial and moral corruption from the very beginning. Therefore, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was on the top of the list of the most corrupt states by international anti-corruption agencies for several years. Government institutions became hotbeds of corruption, theft, smuggling, kidnappings, abuse of state power, and injustice had become routine for many Republicans. The United States and its allies had also provided large sums of money to a limited number of individuals, leading to the creation of an unfair class system. Political figures from the state who had relations with foreigners could easily have project contracts. They had tens of buildings and financial resources, but others found it difficult to find even a loaf of bread for their families. It widened the gap between the state and the people.
As a result, government agencies and foreigners were no longer trustworthy for the people of Afghanistan. In return, public sympathy for the Taliban increased because the Taliban solved all types of social and legal disputes in a short time and without taking bribes. In most of the districts where the government should have provided services to the people, after 2010, only the surroundings of the district buildings were under the control of the government and were more like military posts. With all-sided support of people, the Taliban were able to bring many areas under their control.
4. The United States and its allies invested in Afghanistan on people who were involved in financial and moral corruption, usurpers, smugglers, war criminals, and ethnic extremists.
In order to implement a republic system in Afghanistan, the United States invested heavily in individuals and groups who were neither committed to the republic nor to Afghanistan. There were many people who only valued their personal benefits. They misused the power of the government and with the support of the Republic Government and the USA, they annihilated their ethnic and political competitors. In addition, they were involved in encroachment on state lands, drug trafficking, financial and moral corruption, and ethnic prejudices, as well as sectarian, and religious prejudices. Due to the said factors, the national unity of Afghanistan and the spirit of support for the system among the people had been weakened. Many people believed that the government did not belong to them and they can only be safe if the Taliban take control of Afghanistan.
5. Pakistan's two-faced policy with the United States
The United States of America provided Pakistan with substantial financial resources to achieve its goals in Afghanistan which they call the war against terror, but Pakistan has not been honest with it and has been playing a double game with it. On one hand, they assured the United States of America that they were fighting the Taliban and the enemies of the United States of America, and on the other hand, they were supporting the Taliban, providing them with shelter, weapons, and financial resources to fight against the foreigners and the Afghan government in Afghanistan. The reason Pakistan did so was that it had a large number of sympathizers in its military, intelligence, and other government agencies who were sympathetic to the Taliban, with the aim of thwarting the US mission in Afghanistan and establishing a state of their own interests and benefits in Afghanistan. General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) once said, “It is a historical fact that we defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with US money, and it is also a fact that we defeated the US in Afghanistan with US money."
Another thing about Pakistan is that the ISI and its government have a lot of experience in exploiting the religious sentiments of the people, which they have used against the Soviet Union as well as against the United States. Pakistan was not honest with the Taliban, either and the Taliban were aware of this. They did not consider many of Pakistan's demands for the goodness of their country. Both Taliban and Pakistan became friends because they did not have any other option. The growing influence of its rival (India) in the ruling regime and the presence of the United States were intolerable for Pakistan. In addition, the growing influence of Iran was also a threat for Pakistan. These were the factors that Pakistan continued to support the Taliban despite increasing pressure.
6. Competition of Afghanistan's neighboring and regional countries with the United States
The two largest countries in the region, China and Russia, were against the United States of America. China and Russia believed that large US military bases in Afghanistan could be a threat to them in the future. Iran also did not want a democratic country in its neighborhood under the US-dominated control forums. China, Iran, and Pakistan, however, did not want the Afghanistan Governmental system to be self-supporting with the growing economy because Afghanistan was a good market for their products. They had commonly shared goals therefore they strengthened the opposite sides of the United States and the Afghan government.
It is also a fact that with the arrival of the United States in Afghanistan, Iran had the opportunity to thoroughly intervene in all sectors and to openly work for its cultural and religious interests in Afghanistan. Iran established universities, madrassas, and others, and strengthened its Shia religious groups, both politically and militarily, both inside and outside the state, and also had strong bonds with the Taliban. Iran was against the United States and the Taliban and had considerable influence in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. From cultural aggression to having Afghan Revolutionary Guards (Sepah-e-Pasdaran) fighters in the central areas of Afghanistan, they were allowed to do everything. Despite this, Iran also had close ties with the Taliban and it widely supported them. Iran had to choose between the bad and the worse and it chose the Taliban. Although Iran was not sure that the Taliban would soon and completely rule Afghanistan. Now the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban is a great threat to them which can harm them religiously, culturally, and politically. Why neither the United States nor the Afghan government stopped Iran's growing influence in every part of Afghanistan; is still a vague topic for many people.
7. Taliban fighters fought for their religious ideology and national and patriotic aspirations, but Republican soldiers fought for salary and power.
It is something usual and common thing in the world that the feeling, spirit, and aspiration of the fighters is the first condition to win a war. Afghan fighters have won many battles throughout their history by the spirit of their religious ideology and national independence. This time too, the Taliban leaders trained their fighters with the spirit to fight the invaders and their slaves of the republic, in order to liberate their country. In contrast, Republican fighters were forced to fight only because of poverty and unemployment. With this, we saw resistance against foreigners, and the republic system, began all over Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Taliban fighters were killed, but still they were not defeated. They even agreed to wear vests full of explosives for killing their enemies in which the attackers could never survive.
8. Free operation of spy networks of some rival countries
Over the past four decades, Afghanistan has become the center of intelligence networks of neighboring and regional countries and superpowers due to the absence of a stable and strong state. Every one of them was openly operating to achieve its goals without feeling any threat. It became more complex when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The troops from various countries came to Afghanistan, and Afghanistan's neighboring countries and countries of the region became more interested in Afghanistan than they were before. These countries not only interfered in the internal affairs of Afghanistan in every possible way but also interfered in appointing and suspending senior military and government officials. Besides, they perpetuated their culture and worked within the state against the benefits of their rivals. It further weakened the republican state of Afghanistan. Afghanistan's two main neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, were not honest with each other. Iran openly supported Shiite religious groups in various ways, while Pakistan supported the Taliban. Nonetheless, the Taliban movement was a single entity operating both militarily and had a strong intelligence network as well, in many areas they received weapons and ammunition in exchange for money and other deals from government officials which were then used against foreigners and the Afghan government.
9. Within the framework of the Republic of Afghanistan, there were many political parties, civil societies, religious groups, ethnic councils, political leaders, and interests of various countries that followed different ideologies and approaches to Afghanistan.
Over the past 20 years, more than 100 political parties were licensed. Hundreds of different communities, tribal councils, and other religious and political groups were working and most of them were supported by other countries. Their aim was to prevent the formation of a united, powerful, and centralized system. Among them, there were people who openly called for the partition of Afghanistan, which caused concerns among patriotic Afghans. In return, the Taliban wanted Afghanistan's independence, a strong Islamic and centralized system that had the increasing support of the people.
Human Rights Abuses by the US
Cruelty to civilians by foreign forces and the Afghan government, night raids on their homes, and brutal bombing -
US and allied forces have committed more war crimes in Afghanistan during their 20 years mission to defeat the Taliban, brutally bombing people's homes, mosques, madrassas, schools, mourning ceremonies and large gatherings. They raided people's homes at night, killing their elders in front of their families, and many other atrocities were committed by foreign and Afghan forces that provoked strong public discontent and strengthened the Taliban's regime.
Final nail in the Coffin
10. Excessive reliance of the republic on foreigners
The foundations of the republic in Afghanistan, as mentioned above, were laid by the arrival of foreigners and had no national roots in the country. From the very beginning of the Republic system of government was run by the financial support of foreigners especially the United States. When the US and other foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the foundations of the republic collapsed as well.
11. The establishment of the republic was based on the expediency that power was distributed into a number of hateful and corrupt groups.
Many analysts believe that the foundation of the Republic State of Afghanistan was largely laid in a wrong way because the US and the international community did not call on the Taliban regime to join the conference for establishing a new regime in Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, in 2001. Afghanistan's two main political and military movements (the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami) were not invited to share power. Instead, power was given to their rival groups. Later, they strengthened their fighters against US and Afghan fighters and became serious trouble for them. Finally, they were able to overthrow the Republic government which was established in Bonn.
12. People's distrust of Afghanistan's electoral system due to corruption and lack of independence
Holding elections are an important principle of every Republic system, but in Afghanistan, largescale fraud, corruption, direct interference from the countries involved, and the appointment of foreign-imposed officials became an object of ridicule among Afghans.
13. Excessive freedom of media
With the advent of the new system in 2001, the media underwent many changes, with hundreds of TVs, radios, newspapers, and others operating. Only a few of them had known sources of funding. The rest had unknown donors. It was known, however, that they were openly supported by some countries that wanted to work for their culture in Afghanistan. These media outlets had the power to cover everything, much of what the Afghan people consider to be against their religious and national values, which made them sensitive to the regime and strengthened the Taliban.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Hatef Mokhtar