The rapid victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan

By Thomas Gaterud
Since early August 2021, the world’s attention has been focused on Afghanistan, where the Taliban was already securing victory after victory in its fight against the incumbent Afghan government. Still, the world, including the residents of Kabul and Kandahar, was confident of the military’s capacities and firepower in defending the country without the need for help from the U.S. armed forces and its NATO allies. However, the Taliban did not only blitzkrieg its way to finally take control of the entire country in late August, but also obliterated the last pocket of resistance in the Panjshir Valley, with the help of the Pakistani Intelligence Agency (ISI).

Panjshir Valley.  Courtesy of Unsplash.com.

Panjshir Valley.
Courtesy of Unsplash.com.

This comes as no surprise because the Afghan army was just not up to the task of defending the country against an enemy that was not only fierce, but also motivated by religious zealotry. The soldiers went to battle prepared to die and welcomed the prospect of dying in war for a holy jihad that they believed in with all their heart. And despite the insistent perception and sometimes arrogance of the world, that the national army would not be defeated because the U.S. equipped it with some of the best military equipment ever produced and that it was well trained and funded, this is one of the elements that proved to be catastrophic overall. Also, the Afghan army was totally demoralized and only a few wanted to continue the fight against the Taliban – whereby the remaining few anti-Taliban forces gathered in the the Panjshir valley to continue the fight there. Against this, they were facing an enemy of such determination and ferociousness, it was no surprise that they took the country so quickly. And as the country felt in the final days of August, the president of the US, Joe Biden, said in a press conference: “we gave that nation everything we could, so that they could determine their own destiny…”.
Ahmad Shah Masoud, The afghan Hero.

Ahmad Shah Masoud, The afghan Hero.

To this, some critics might say that the government or the military could have suppressed this enemy, if they had more time and the US did not withdraw so quickly and suddenly. But with what has happened in the country goes to show how incompetent, corrupt, and despised the government was with most of the Afghan population, especially in the rural communities, where the Taliban had ample support among the general population. And even when the Taliban began entering major cities, some people went outside to cheer them on as they took the country at what must have felt like a dizzying speed to the rest of the world. To add to this point, the Taliban had patience and could have waited many more years until the coalition forces withdrew from Afghanistan. As they say: “the Americans have watched, but we have the time.”
Courtesy of Unsplash.com

Photo credits, Unsplash.com

Some people also entertain the idea that the war could have been won if we just stayed there one, five or 10 more years and that there was this widespread idea that everything was going well in Afghanistan and that America would eventually win the war. However, as Craig Whitlock revealed when he published the book The Afghanistan papers, he said: “not everything was going as well as the mainstream media and public discourse thought it was.” In his book, the author gives a picture of what I have always thought that the war was not only going terribly wrong, due to many factors, including corruption at all levels of government, ineptitude, embezzlement, and abuses the authorities were committing towards the people in Afghanistan but that this also served to embolden and strengthen the Taliban forces in the region and they also failed to understand that this so called country that they were invading wasn’t a united people or nation, like Poland or Estonia, but that this territory is home to many ethnicities that are hostile towards each other and that some people there have only know war since the time they could stand on their own two feet.
All in all, I hope that going forward the country finds peace with itself and can help the region to become more peaceful and encourage trade and a bright future for its people. However, in this case, I would encourage extreme caution and patience.