After almost 20 years, the occupation of our beloved country has finally come to an end. The aggressors, the US government and NATO’s inciting war machine, arrived under the pretext of defending freedom, human rights, democracy, and women’s rights, as well as destroying their ideological and bloodthirsty sons, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They dropped thousands of bombs and deployed more than 100,000 troops in this valley that is so tired of war.
Masture Hares is from Afghanistan, where she worked as a journalist and collaborated with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and other women’s organisations. She has lived in Berlin since 2013.
To achieve their goals, the US and their allies installed various puppet and mercenary governments. It is well-documented that US foreign policy contributed to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, especially with regard to the plague that is the Taliban and ISIS. The US and NATO bolstered and empowered the hated jihadists of the Northern Alliance and bankrupted an already dependent economy. In the wake of their actions, interventions by neighbouring countries, in particular Pakistan and Iran, intensified. Today, Afghanistan is the most corrupt and least secure country in the world, with millions of drug addicts and raging ethnic and religious wars.
Now, realizing this situation and saying goodbye to the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, I want to share my thoughts on the end of the occupation and the future of the country.
The withdrawal of the US and its allied troops does not mean the end of the occupation altogether, and it certainly has not brought peace to the region. ISIS has already conducted terrorist attacks in Kabul and the US has warned of more attacks to come. In a suicide attack close to Kabul Airport, at least 180 people including women and children who wanted to flee the country and 13 US soldiers, were killed, and approximately 200 people were injured. The death toll from these inhumane attacks is increasing every day.
The US claims to have executed a drone strike on a car belong to the ISIS branch ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) car in Kabul city. However, one rocket hit an apartment building and killed a small child. On 30 August, five rockets were fired, probably by ISIS-K, at Kabul Airport. The US knew about this attack and had issued warnings about the imminent threat.
The US has used the intensification of the attacks by ISIS-K to support the idea that the airlift and evacuation operation should be finished within their previously stated timeframe. Although the US government and their allies had promised to evacuate thousands of people who were able to obtain legal documents, they now pretend that they cannot do so because of security concerns. This means that the promises given to thousands of people who worked with the US over the past 20 years and who risked their lives to get to Kabul were broken, causing deep disappointment and resentment.
Peace with the Taliban?
There will be no peace with the Taliban in any meaningful way. The totalitarianism of their Islamist regime will allow fundamentalist ideas to flourish and lead the country into a deep social crisis. Some observers are now expressing their hope that with the victory of the Taliban, the cycle of jihadi mercenaries will be ended. I view the situation entirely differently. I am convinced that until aggression at the hands of foreign masters ends, other mercenary groups will enter the fray, as they have done since the year 1353 (1974 in the Gregorian calendar). Already, ISIS-K and Hizb ut-Tahrir have begun operating within Afghanistan.
The Taliban regime is stifling public freedom and narrowing the field for democrats, nationalists, libertarians, and leftists. We witnessed how they brutally killed Kandahar comedian Khasha Zwan and we know that they will go after other artists, human rights activists, NGO employees, and women. Since their arrival on 15 August, the once-vibrant Kabul has become a ghost town. People are afraid to leave their homes and have thus been trapped in their houses for weeks. This has depressed and traumatized many Afghans, in particular girls and women who can no longer freely go to school or work. Many people lost their jobs, and hope along with it. Most people do not know what to do next. Banks were closed for ten days and now people can only withdraw 200 dollars per week. Daily life has become unbearable.
If our nation is not united and if the organizations claiming to be liberal and progressive do not form a united front against their patriots and regional and international supporters, a worse fate awaits our oppressed people, who will suffer the consequences of this occupation and withdrawal for countless years to come.
The future of Afghanistan is unclear. Currently, there is no structure or government in place. Now that US troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban will have a more authentic claim to power and will no longer fear being targeted for their brutal acts and illegal activities.
Afghans understand that the Taliban are currently pretending to be a legitimate political group in order to be recognized by the international community. The Taliban, however, do not realize that the Afghan people have not forgotten their previous behaviour and believe that Taliban mentality has not changed and will not change. The Afghan people know that the Taliban attacked and beat men, women, children, and even infants who were attempting to get to the airport in Kabul. The only change is that the Taliban now project a sanitized image for international cameras and journalists.
To make things worse, interventions by neighbouring countries will accelerate existing problems, such as issues around access to water, drug usage, mining, and cultural conflict. In addition, the number of mercenaries and corrupt activities are likely to increase.
Poverty and Social Conflict
With the imposition of free market policies and neoliberalism, the occupation built a mountain of poverty. In the future, underlying social conflicts will intensify and political crises arising from endless cycles of poverty will destroy the palaces built with plundered wealth.
The costs of food, clothing, and utilities are already rising. Soon people will have emptied their savings and be left with no money to buy necessities. Then, poverty will cause even more social unrest because people who cannot pay for basic expenses are left with a simple choice: join the Taliban or steal to make a living. Theft for survival was rife even before the Taliban seized power.
Despite repeated suicide attacks perpetrated by the Taliban, there was a great interest in the field of science among the young which provided a sense of hope for the population. Education is the basis of a country’s development. However, the shadow of the American and regional powers was always present. Now, under the rule of the Taliban jihadists, the future of science and technological advancement in Afghanistan is bleak. The Taliban will revise the curriculum and implement reforms in accordance with their extremist ideology. According to their view, female teachers should not be allowed to teach at universities, while should girls want to study, they must do so in a separate classroom, taught only by female teachers. The Taliban are going to remove or replace the sciences with theology, which in turn will promote their views and aim at slowly changing the minds of the children studying under their regime.
In addition, the Taliban have not allowed women return to their jobs.
A Bleak Future
Countless people want to leave the country in the current situation, particularly those who worked with the US or their NATO allies. They are mainly intellectuals and skilled citizens who studied abroad and have many years of experience in various fields of studies. The US may profit from the influx of all these young people with experience, talent, and knowledge. Their home country, however, will experience a brain drain and lose its most promising citizens. The result will be an Afghanistan crippled by a lack of experts in the fields of economics, education, politics, and social sciences.
The current situation in Afghanistan is still unsettled and what happens in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen. Personally, I think that once the Taliban are fully back in power, they will continue to carry out the barbaric acts we all remember only too well from before 2001.
This is why the country needs the people to be united, aware, and to persistently fight to recover their rights and create a free, independent, democratic, and secular Afghanistan. Nothing less will suffice.