Will the Taliban Last?

Many both within and outside of the country are inquiring as to how long the Taliban will remain in power. Those living in Afghanistan are feeling a sense of helplessness and uncertainty; those within the country in one way, and those abroad in another. This helplessness and despair is expressed in various ways, sometimes with aggression, sometimes with apathy and lethargy, and sometimes with worry and anxiety, particularly for those living in the country who find themselves captive to a repressive and hazardous system.

The survival of the Taliban is a serious matter to consider. The answer to this question is not as straightforward as mathematical or physical formulas, as it depends on a variety of factors. One of the main elements of the Taliban’s control of the country was the alteration of the strategies of the world’s major powers. The strategies of the major powers are based on their macro-national interests and can vary in the way they interact with regional issues such as Afghanistan, changing depending on what is occurring on the ground, rather than something that is decided upon and then followed without deviation. In reality, there is a great deal of flexibility at this level and plans can be altered in response to any developments on the ground. To put it another way, while the internal developments of countries do not alter the strategic approach of the major powers, they do have a direct effect on their short-term work plans.

The most important internal factor that has a direct impact on the short-term plans of the major powers is the formation of a replacement force for the Taliban. External observers perceive there to be two main forces in Afghanistan; one is a regressive and reactionary force that impedes the development of Afghanistan towards modern values and resists any radical change by relying on the values of the traditional and rural society of the country, with the Taliban currently representing this part of the population. On the other hand, there is a progressive and pro-modernization force that seeks to establish a democratic system and a society based on urban and civic values. Additionally, there is a third force that is neutral in terms of values and does not fight for either side, but in practical terms is opportunistic and weighs the balance in favor of whichever side it finds to be stronger, this group will lean towards.

During the twenty-year period of the Republican system, the progressive force was fragmented and lacked strategic vision, leading to its defeat by the reactionary force and a shift in regional and global equations in favor of the Taliban. Although the Taliban are a minority and would not be anything more than a political party in a peaceful competition, its rise to a level where it could interact with the world was enabled by the fragmentation and failure of the other side. This has resulted in the victory of this group, though they remain unrecognized by any country due to their awkwardness in the new world. This weakness of the Taliban is a strength for the progressive groups, making them more acceptable to the world. The question now is whether a grand front of progressive forces can be formed to change the equation, separating neutral groups from the Taliban and mobilizing them in favor of progressive values. Rather than questioning the survival of the Taliban, it is better to ask whether non-Taliban forces can prove their worthiness as a replacement for this group.