Afghanistan’s Political Crisis: An Analysis of the Future
By: Mohammad Nasser Watanyar
The fall of Afghanistan in August 2021 and the subsequent transition of power to the Taliban has caused a political–safety shock that is more dangerous than we initially thought. Many people believe that the transition was peaceful and without conflict or violence, but if you look more closely at the collapse and the chaotic withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan after August 15, 2021, you can see that there is a lot of optimism and ignorance surrounding the Taliban. This collapse has caused the loss of the norms and values that had been achieved in the past two decades, such as democracy, security, civil governance structures, economic infrastructures, intellectual society/elites, right to education, women‘s rights, human rights, political freedoms, and more. This has caused a massive transformation in Afghanistan‘s political history, pushing our society back to what it was like twenty years ago.
It has been almost two years since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. This is the second time they have come to power through war, bloodshed, political agreements, and deals. Initially, many people both domestically and internationally were hopeful that the Taliban had changed and no longer held strict Islamic beliefs and interpretations. However, the past 20 months have shown that the Taliban‘s values remain the same as they were in the 90s. This current situation is unacceptable at both the national and international levels, and everyone is exhausted. Afghans are wondering what the future holds and what scenarios exist for the political crisis of Afghanistan. Looking at the past two years, the diplomatic isolation, the illegitimacy of the Taliban at the national level, and the situation of Afghanistan under the rule of this group, three scenarios are predicted for the future of the country‘s political crisis.
First: Continuation of the Current Circumstances
The current state of affairs is one of the potential outcomes of the upcoming political crisis and Taliban rule. This outcome suggests that, due to the current global events such as the war in Ukraine and the potential Chinese attack on Taiwan, Afghanistan will be neglected for a period of one to three years, allowing the Taliban to remain in power, similar to the situation in the 1990s. This scenario is seen as the most pessimistic and has the most devastating consequences for Afghanistan, the region, and the world.
Consequences of this scenario
This scenario can have the following consequences:
First, there were armed conflicts and the National Resistance Front, an anti–Taliban group, expanded their activities in different parts of the country, including the north and northeast. This was followed by sacrifices from both sides of the war.
Secondl, ISIS‘s Khorasan branch is increasing its military activities and there is a potential for a conflict between the Taliban and ISIS. As ISIS seeks to gain control beyond Afghanistan, particularly in Central Asia, it is preparing for battle. There is a chance of a regional alliance being formed against ISIS and extremism (Russia, India, and Iran) and these countries providing support to anti–Taliban and ISIS forces such as the Resistance Front led by Ahmad Massoud, which puts Afghanistan in a precarious situation.
Third, the economic decline in Afghanistan will certainly cause an increase in poverty, leading to serious hunger issues in the country.
Fourth, further isolating Afghanistan from the international system.
The Second Scenario: Change in the Existing Situation
The second and most optimistic scenario involves a change in the current situation and the formation of an inclusive government. This is part of the Doha agreement between the Taliban and the United States, but after 20 months of deadlock, it seems unlikely. However, due to the prominent and influential role of external powers in the Afghanistan crisis, the regional and international supporters of the Taliban may pressure them to create a political policy that includes all ethnic groups and minorities.
Consequences of this Scenario
First, controlling the spread of crisis and civil war will reduce war, conflict, and crisis. However, the strength of political stability will depend on the commitment and honesty of political groups, particularly the Taliban.
Second, the termination of political isolation will bring an end to Afghanistan‘s current extreme political isolation, which is becoming increasingly severe. As a result, the world will acknowledge the consensual, coalition, and participatory government, which will also help to resolve many of the country‘s minor issues.
Third, once peace and stability have been restored in the country, the situation will gradually improve. This will lead to the recovery of stability and prosperity, and will prevent brain drain, capital drain, and economic disintegration.
The Third Scenario: The Collapse of the Status Quo
The status quo, or rather the decline of the Taliban, is the last predicted scenario. The Taliban‘s performance over the past twenty months in areas such as human rights, women‘s rights, education, suppressing political opponents, and links to terrorist groups like Al–Qaeda and Islamist groups has exhausted the patience of the people of Afghanistan, its neighbors, the region, and the world.
Because of the Taliban‘s oppressive and anti–human rights policies, it is not surprising that incidents like the 9/11 attack could happen again, as the world‘s opinion of this group becomes more negative and Kabul becomes more isolated each day.
The Consequences of this Scenario
First, the Taliban will be suppressed, causing some members to join ISIS, leading to a new war against terrorism.
Second, a new political system should be established in which all ethnic groups, particularly the four major ones, are able to participate, similar to the post–Bonn era.
Third, restructuring the political system with the assistance of foreign powers, granting autonomy to the Taliban in a designated region, and resolving the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
Finally, of the three scenarios presented, the first seems unlikely, while the second and third are more probable. The outcome of these two likely scenarios (change or collapse of the status quo) will depend on the decisions and interventions of the United Nations, the influence of other countries, and the unity of the anti–Taliban forces within Afghanistan.