Thursday, 29 September, 2022
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Taliban cabinet looks like a most-wanted list. Bush to Biden, not much has changed

Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said they wanted to ensure Afghanistan is no more the field of conflict. What's happening in Kabul betrays this promise.

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From Bush to Biden, what one infers, haplessly watching the new appointments in Taliban’s interim government, is that America’s longest war was a crude joke on the world, especially South Asia. If anything, it added one more point of conflict between India and Pakistan.

And that is why the Taliban’s interim government is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

The US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan was nothing short of irony playing out in a loop. When images of the last American soldier Chris Donohue leaving Afghanistan started doing rounds on social media, the world unanimously stated that the US’ longest war has come to an end. Nothing can be further from the truth. The war has just begun. Even as US President Joe Biden said “the war in Afghanistan is now over”, he also stated “we will hunt you down”. Hunt he sure did as he ordered drone attacks and bombing in Kabul to kill ISIS-K terrorists. But characteristic of such attacks, innocent civilians, including children were also killed.

Also read: Biden just listed Taliban terror threat as non-priority. That’s invitation to second 9/11

Taliban showing true colours

Since coming to power, the Taliban have made sure they do two key things that might otherwise look commonplace but have a lasting impact. They have ensured that these actions create a dreadful atmosphere that instil terror in the minds of not just common Afghan men and women but also the international community.

First, within minutes of them capturing Kabul, the Taliban fighters made sure to fire not just bullets in the skies but also tweets with as much speed and zeal. There is an attempt to manage social media like a pro.

Second, they removed graffitis from Kabul’s walls that showed happy faces of girls; people with hope; and even an image of Zalmay Khalilzad (US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation) and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Taliban co-founder) signing the peace deal in Doha, washing them away with their colours that are mostly black and white, and spreading their messages of victory. This was enough to spread fear in the minds of common Afghan people.

When the Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, who is now the deputy minister for information and broadcasting, held his first press conference right after taking over Kabul, he had said, “We know that we have been undergoing really challenging periods and crises, a lot of mistakes that were made that were an advantage to the occupiers. We want to make sure that Afghanistan is not the field of conflict, a battlefield of conflict anymore.”

However, in less than a month from the presser, we are seeing the Taliban do exactly the opposite. From appointing dreaded and sanctioned individuals, to launching a massive offensive against the National Resistance Force at Panjshir valley, to beating up journalists, the initial signs are clearly what can be called as Taliban redux.

Also read: World wanted a Berlin moment in Afghanistan. It got a Taliban flag over Panjshir instead

So what did the US withdrawal achieve, anyway?

When US President George W. Bush gave the war cry on 18 September 2001 under a joint resolution — Authorization for Use of Military Force — he said: “On my orders the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.”

Fast forward 15 August 2021, the Taliban enters Afghanistan’s so-called secured and protected capital Kabul in full force and on 7 September 2021, the Islamist group announces formation of an interim government that has ministers who are blacklisted by the UN due to terrorism and an interior minister who is on FBI’s most-wanted list.

Essentially, these 20 years haven’t made Afghanistan or the region any safer.

According to a study by Brown University, from the last year of the Barack Obama administration to the last full year of recorded data during the Donald Trump administration, the number of civilians killed by US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan increased by 330 per cent.

US Army Chief Gen. James McConville has now said “terrorism is not going away”, adding that America’s main mission “to hold Osama bin Laden accountable” for the 9/11 attacks has been accomplished.

However, he also stressed that “lessons must be learned.”

The US has already expressed concerns over the new Taliban dispensation. So unless you are all living under a rock, you know these are all tell-tale signs that the ‘War on Terror’ is far from over.

It now remains to be seen whether this caretaker government of the Taliban turns into a permanent one. But for that, it has to have a parliament where all the new cabinet ministers will have to be sworn in. And Afghanistan’s parliament is missing because it’s not clear what will the Taliban do with the Afghan constitution.

The Taliban is expected to, however, hold a grand inauguration ceremony, which many see as an effort to “troll” the US since it is likely to take place around the rather somber 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But it is time for the group to act, to do some real governance and somehow make the economy walk, which at present is not even in a limping state.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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