Monday, 6 December, 2021

The death of Democracy in Afghanistan – opinion

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 29th August, 2021 10:10:29 PM
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The appeasement of the Taliban by the US and NATO are reminiscent of the appeasement of Hitler and has started the countdown to World War III. If former US president Barack Obama’s inability to enforce his “red line” on Syria or the failure of the Arab Spring were foreign policy disasters, US President Joe Biden’s bumble with the Taliban has all but destroyed any credibility of America and its European allies on the global stage leaving the world leaderless and imperiled.

August 15, 2021, will be a memorable day in global history in the decades to come. Since the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, the values the country has defended and exported were sacrificed in one move by Biden. While the fall of Kabul in 2021 will be analyzed by history, Biden has hastened the demise of Pax Americana, reconfirmed the epithet of Afghanistan as the “Tomb of Empires” and in his blundering retreat destroyed any pillars of democracy left in Afghanistan imperiling the security of South Asia and the world. Biden’s bumbling speech in the defense of his actions, which ranged from bizarre to illogical, left no illusions that the president is no longer fit to lead the free world. It also makes the case that democracies must have a retirement age for heads of state.

Democracy in Afghanistan 


The bizarreness of the matter is that this same president, less than a year ago, invoked the supremacy of due constitutional process and demanded the constitutionally mandated smooth transfer of power when Donald Trump called for a march of his own supporters to Capitol Hill. 

Ironically, the US is now pandering to terrorists that it has spent more than three decades trying to annihilate, while the same group suspends the Afghan constitution. Leading international politicians are even thinking of engaging with the Taliban despite the group not maintaining its commitments at every step. 

Article 60 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan states that in the absence, resignation or death of the president, the first vice-president shall act in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. By this article, Amrullah Saleh should be now sworn in as president, given that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani abdicated and fled by his own declaration. However, the US and its allies have passed the baton to a self-appointed troika of Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hemaktyar, suspending any credibility to the democratic process the US strove to create with more than $2 trillion and thousands of Afghan, American and allied lives. The White House has put more than 11,000 American lives at risk by handing the country over to the Taliban, not to mention sentenced the whole of South Asia and Europe, if not the world, to Islamic terror for decades to come.

The new Taliban


The concept that the Taliban can change is ridiculous. They have adopted the concepts of deflection and their version of taqiyya brilliantly into their operation, a playbook that the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI), as well as the Turks, have admirably continued with successive US administrations. They were never serious about the negotiations in Doha and delayed until Biden had to withdraw the troops. They announced they wouldn’t enter Kabul without an agreement, again to renege on the promise within 24 hours. Whether there was a strategic reason why they waited for a day or it was symbolic to time the fall of Kabul with India’s 75th independence anniversary to give joy to the Pakistani ISI, one will never know. They swore they would form an inclusive government and have gone on to declare the foundation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), unconstitutional as per the Afghan constitution.

Openly the mysterious Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has underlined in his maiden public press conference, that they will govern as per Sharia. One cannot expect a Deobandi group such as the Taliban to implement any version of Sharia that allows for any liberties. It is naïve to assume any form of democracy from them or any rights to the ethnic minorities, women, religious minorities or otherwise. The Taliban in power will mean an Islamic emirate, a Sunni theocracy, with the Amir-ul-Momeen fulfilling the role of a supreme leader for life and a shura-elected president and council of ministers. There is no real role for any other ethnic or religious minority in this structure, especially in a tribal and clan-based society like Afghanistan. The negotiation itself is now rather absurd. The negotiators from both sides are Pashtun, having smartly exiled other leaders during the Taliban’s march onto Kabul. The audacity is not just the fact that a fascist narco-terrorist group such as the Taliban is declaring  an amnesty for all Afghans who have invested their blood, sweat and tears in building a democratic and free state, but that western media reports it as some form of achievement.

The price of liberty

One of the few advantages of democracy is liberty. The declaration of the Islamic Emirate on the 102nd independence anniversary of Afghanistan is ironic. The loss of liberty to all Afghans on this day to a Pakistan-backed, Wahhabi salafi inspired, Deobandi system begins a complex process of empowerment of all extremist Islamic factions from Southeast Asia to Africa. The Taliban strategy is rather simple, delay evacuations until they can establish a government that is potentially acceptable by the west. They, along with their Turkish and Pakistan advisers, are certain that until Karzai, and through him, Khalilzad think that they are serious about a compromise, no major western power will support or recognize Amrullah Saleh’s role as the caretaker President or allow any of the exiled warlords (Dostum, Ismail Khan etc) to join the Panjshir resistance. The western nationals are an insurance policy that the US troops stationed at the airport won’t move against them as most of their government is formed of terrorists who still have a valid bounty on their heads. The price of liberty is the international, Western and Afghan lives held hostage in Kabul. 

The new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: IEA 2.0

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 2.0 is the first Frankenstein child of the China-Pakistan-Iran-Qatar-Turkey alliance. While Iran is still very doubtful of the IEA’s long-term treatment of the Hazara’s and its future relationship with a Shi’ite Iran, it is playing along. Russia is skeptical, however, the centrality it enjoys now in the Afghan situation, makes it hope that it will be able to use the IEA, if it takes foot, as an ally to keep radical Islam in check-in central Asia while it assumes the role of power broker with the west. China hopes it will be able to use the IEA to keep the Uighurs under check and it will become a preferred economic and industrial partner to the new IEA. Both regimes have their doubts and a lot to lose if their worse fears were to come true.

The IEA 2.0 will become a haven for every extremist group, who now considering the Taliban’s defeat of mighty America, will want to emulate this in their jihad against India, Israel and every other moderate Islamic country. If Israel believes that the IEA will keep Iran busy and on its toes, it has misread every scenario. It is a matter of time before the Taliban will look to absorb the finesse of ISIS in Raqqa with the financial power of Hezbollah and extend support to Hamas. IEA fighters will show up from Libya to Kashmir, passing through the holy land, bringing with them technology, money and inspiration. While  Afghanistan is estimated to be sitting on over $1 trillion of precious metals and rare-earths, having their own high-tech sovereign state will empower them to take control of the much lucrative drug and antiquities trade, so far controlled by the ISI. With a narco-fueled empire and enriched by Chinese funds for their natural wealth the IEA expansion will have no bounds. 

Pakistan: Punjabi’s and Pashtuns

The biggest risk of the IEA taking root is to its inventor and benefactor Pakistan. The world cannot afford Pakistan as a failed state as it is a nuclear power. For decades the Pashtuns (Afghan and Pakistani) have had to suffer the Pakistani Punjabis in power. The dramatic change in the Afghan Taliban’s fortune risks the capitulation of Pakistan to extremist powers in a couple of years. With money, sovereignty and recognition, the Taliban and IEA will not require the ISI anymore and they will be a thorn in the expansion of the IEA’s Deobandi-Pashtun dominated agenda, and therefore an eventual victim. 

The gloomy future

The West will have to re-enter Afghanistan. Whether it does now or under another US president is what the global powers need to decide. There needs to be a UN Security Council mandate to unseat the Taliban from Kabul and restart discussions that are inclusive, without the interference of Qatar or Pakistan and if such discussions do not result in an agreement, an empowered inclusive constitutional Afghan government that has to take responsibility for its people. 

The first step is to recognize Amrullah Saleh as the constitutional caretaker president. Ghani has abdicated, and bringing him back to try and keep the negotiations with Karzai and Abdullah is an underhand move at best. The Afghan Parliament must be able to reconvene without armed intimidation. The Taliban must agree to disarmament, with a schedule.

The US has several pressure points on Pakistan and Turkey. The generals in Islamabad and Pakistani politicians have amassed large fortunes which are primarily stowed away in Dubai and the West. The threat of freezing these assets and sanctioning them and their family members should produce immediate results. Either they will make the Taliban heal or provide intelligence such that they can be destroyed.

Europe needs to stop pandering to American whims and needs to dictate its own foreign policy for a change. The world's powers fleeing and climbing over each other to “get citizens and Afghans out” isn’t great optics or strategy. Terrorists and bullies must be dealt with firmly and there can be no negotiation with people who have proven time and again are untrustworthy and unwilling to keep their word.

While Afghanistan cements the end of Pax Americana, it opens the door to a new era of fluid geopolitics which must be values-based. If we have learned any lessons from World War II, the most important is that dictators must not be appeased. What stand we take today, as a civilized democratic society will determine the future of the world and the future of liberty.