It’s Back to Square One For Afghans

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed and marking the end of the 20-year war in the country. “The Taliban have won … and are now responsible for the honor, property, and self-preservation of their countrymen,” announced Ghani.

As the Taliban fighters entered Kabul and took control of the presidential palace, Ghani published that he had to flee to “avert bloodshed in the capital” on a Facebook post. He further added that “countless patriots would be martyred, and the city of Kabul would be destroyed” if he stayed. It is believed that he is in Tajikistan, but he has not confirmed his location.

The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council. “God should hold him accountable.”

Ghani’s first bid for the presidency was in 2009 but did not become President until 2014. Those elections were tinted with “accusations of widespread, government-assisted fraud by his rival, Abdullah”, as Al Jazeera recalled. After months of contention and a United Nations-backed audit of all votes cast in the second round, he became the president and Abdullah the new chief executive in a national unity government. Those accusations of fraud also happened in 2019.

On Saturday, one day before the Taliban surrounded Kabul, Ghani repeated that the fight would go on and that he would try to restore the security forces.

Taliban blitzkrieg

Since August 6, the Taliban had stepped out of its offensive and rapidly controlled provincial capitals all over the country and rural areas. The group had captured 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, before reaching Kabul, “despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly 20 years to build up Afghan security forces”, Al Jazeera explains.

On Sunday, Taliban fighters had deployed across Kabul, taking over abandoned police posts, but without forcibly entering the city and prepared to discuss the transfer of power. It is still unclear what the transfer is going to look like and who among the Taliban will negotiate. From the side of the Afghan government, former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah are going to be the possible negotiators.

Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” and that “the Afghan people should not worry … There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government.”

What is the immediate future going to look like?

The Taliban have tried to calm the residents of the capital by saying that they will not harm them and that they would offer an amnesty to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces. Nevertheless, as Al Jazeera reports, “there have been reports of revenge killings and other brutal tactics in areas of the country the Taliban has seized in recent days.” Additionally, the US embassy has suspended operations, commercial flights seem to be suspended, evacuations are on military flights, and ordinary Afghans have little or no chances to escape the country. Countries such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the U.K. are flying out diplomatic staff, interpreters, and contractors. Meanwhile, US President Biden is unlikely to reverse the withdrawal plan despite the growing criticism, as Journalist Rosalind Mathieson from Bloomberg has reported.

The next Taliban government should include some elements of the previous administration to gain any kind of legitimacy and be accepted internationally, some analysts are saying. Moreover, the “international forces sent to Afghanistan to evacuate foreign nationals should remain in the country until the Taliban keep their promises”, a former advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, Shafiq Hamdam, has told Al Jazeera. They should not attempt to create a ruling state such as the one before 2001, he added.

More than 60 nations have released a joint statement distributed by the U.S. State Department late Sunday, the AP has reported, where they pledge for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of the security and civil order while roads, airports, and border crossings must remain open.

Afghans are in utter panic, and yesterday the whole world was able to see impacting images of people frantically trying to flee Kabul, collapsing the city roads, trying to withdraw their savings from the banks, and climbing onto planes. Afghans fear that the Taliban could reimpose the old rule. During its rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban imposed harsh restrictions, including on women who, generally, were not allowed to work or study.

In addition to the feeling of fear, the runaway of former President Ghani has infuriated and disappointed many Afghans. Over the past months, many have criticized Ghani and accused him of lying when districts and provinces began falling to the Taliban. These critics have been now heightened since on Saturday he said that the fight against the Taliban would go on while on Sunday he left the country with some members of his cabinet. He is not going to be remembered very fondly, but as a divider of the country and the people.

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