Horn Of Africa Have the Taliban substantially changed, or were we wrong...

Have the Taliban substantially changed, or were we wrong about them all along?

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While the Taliban was capturing city after city in Afghanistan, it also maintained negotiations in Doha with the U.S. and Afghan governments. The Taliban’s advance and, most recently, its seizure of Kabul unfolding more rapidly than anticipated, seemed at first blush to be a contradiction since these negotiations were still ongoing. Thus, well-known U.S. stereotypes came into play once more.

There had to be a U.S. plan brewing in the background. It obviously left Afghanistan to the Taliban, and this abandonment must have involved far deeper and more conniving plans.

What could this plan be, for example? Perhaps to form a legitimate atmosphere with the Taliban’s primitive appearance for new Islamophobic wars with the litany of horrific images it would produce worldwide and in the name of Islam and Sharia (Islamic law)?

Would this really be worth the U.S. risking the loss of its honor and dignity, its charisma, reliability, reputation, and image in front of the whole world?

Regardless of the statements made, this led to the blatant annihilation of the American image. A deluge of events exhibiting the collapse of the American legend has been engraved in the world’s mind. The picture presented not only by its own troops but everybody else who cooperated with the U.S. during the two-decade process at the airport, at the country’s border, showed the world that trusting the U.S. and cooperating with it against one’s own country will eventually lead to grave consequences. Who would dare cooperate with the U.S. against their own country now?

This is a stark and critical aspect of the matter. However, some still insist on lending further support to the U.S. legend, despite America’s withdrawal and the Taliban’s clear victory. Yet, U.S. President Joe Biden explained this withdrawal and the Taliban’s capture of Kabul in a far more reasonable and convincing manner: “The U.S. gave the Afghan government everything it needed. We trained 300,000 Afghan soldiers and established a regular army. These were able to fight 75,000 Taliban fighters. Their surrender and escape were inevitable. Afghan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” What more is there to say?

As a matter of fact, during negotiations in Doha, the U.S. and Afghan governments were both relying on the presence of this 300,000-strong army, which even the Taliban had taken into consideration. This military hindered the Taliban from advancing further, and it was considered in the negotiations as a trump of the opposite party. However, what neither the U.S. nor the Taliban expected was the psychological breakdown this army experienced against the rapidly advancing Taliban.

Before taking over Kabul, the Taliban had captured up to 30 city centers, including Kandahar and Mazar e-Sharif. Yet, seizing these areas did not solidify the Taliban’s capture of Kabul. Its objective was to advance during negotiations as far as it could until a ceasefire was signed. However, when the news of the president, interior minister, and many other ministers fleeing the country spread, the Taliban’s advance into Kabul became inevitable. Even then Taliban’s spokesperson said, “We were not expecting to enter Kabul.”

This outcome was certainly something President Biden could not foresee. Surely the plan was to deposit Afghanistan into the hands of a political formation partnered with the Taliban; however, abandoning it completely to the Taliban was not in question.

None of this was planned, but it happened anyway. No matter how you cut it, the situation today is a result of the Taliban’s two-decade-long patient wait and determined resistance. Paying no attention to the perception operations launched against it, it silently managed to draw the support of the vast majority of the Afghan public against the results of the invasion, corruption, and poor administration. Hence, it did not take any city by force. The takeover in all of them was as easy as it was in Kabul. The vast majority of the public in the areas it took welcomed the Taliban. Regardless, the Taliban did not commit massacres and shed blood in the cities it took – as was expected by some. Not only did it avoid spreading terror and fear, but it also did not even make a serious change in the administrative staff. It asked that everybody continue with their affairs as usual.

It gave unexpected messages regarding laws against women. In fact, instead of shutting women up at home or punishing them barbarically, it even declared that women can work in the government.

Contrary to what may normally be expected from an operation that achieved such success, there was no security void, looting, rape, or rampage in the city. On the contrary, Taliban commanders and troops, who took over the presidential palace, listened in submission and humility to the recitation of the Quranic chapter, Surah an-Nasr, with tears in their eyes.

It is obvious that we are at such a point today that we need to forget everything we have heard and know about the Taliban so far.

We will continue to watch with bewilderment the Taliban, which has once again topped our agenda with full speed and surprise. During this time, it is likely that we are either going to say that the Taliban has changed substantially, or maybe even surprisingly realize that we were victims of numerous perception operations set up against it.

Yasin Aktay
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