The Taliban return

The whole region is challenged

It is all over bar the shouting. The Taliban have not just taken some more cities, but are taking back the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. Perhaps the only positive to be taken out of the situation is that there is none of the bloodshed of the Taliban’s 1996 takeover of Kabul, when former President Najibullah was taken out of the UN compound where he was holed up, strung up from the nearest pole and his corpse dragged through the city behind a truck. It was also to be noted that the USA succeeded in evacuating its embassy, while other foreign missions also evacuated their staff. Meanwhile, the UN was among those acting as intermediaries between the government and the Taliban so that there could be a peaceful transition.

The sheer speed of the Taliban advance throws into sharp relief the importance of the US and other NATO troops to the Kabul government. It has also shown the world the ineffectiveness of the training that the USA is supposed to have given the Afghan National Army. At the same time, there has been widespread panic among those who have worked with foreign forces in such ancillary roles as interpreters, and the refugees who had gone to the capital, now have to find refuge again.

While Pakistan has shown that it is willing to engage the Taliban, it does so from nowhere near the position it did the last time the Taliban were in power. The fairly common assumption that the Taliban are a Taliban proxy, if ever true now, is certainly not true now. How the two governments are to tackle the refugee problem that seems inevitably about to develop, is the most immediate question. Then there will be the issue of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which had taken refuge in Afghanistan, as well as the possibility of attacks launched against the Pakistani armed forces. The issues of the wider region, such as legitimate interests of China and the Central Asian republics regarding trade and connectivity, will also have to be addressed by the new Taliban government, leaving all of them with legitimate questions about the future. The Pakistan government has been in a constant state of crisis since at least 1979. The fall of Kabul does not show signs of bringing that crisis to an end.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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