But getting global recognition could be far from easy for the Taliban because the Western countries have a negative perception about them, with many people in these nations still considering them terrorists, writes MD Ishtiak Hossain for South Asia Monitor
Afghanistan is a very mysterious place. From the Persian emperor Darius to Greek hero Alexander the Great or Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan, each one of them came to Afghanistan at some point in time. Surrounded by mountains, the Afghans lead an austere life. One of the unique characteristics of Afghan society is they are multiethnic, divided into different clans, tribes and sub-tribes.
These tribes and sub-tribes have different laws of their own and possess their unique languages and cultures. Among these tribes, Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Uzbeks are notable. Also, there is the Hazara community. By religion, the Hazaras are mainly followers of the Islamic Shia doctrine. Among the clans and tribes, Pashtun Sunnis have a very strong political influence.
For example, the Taliban is led by the Pashtuns. A substantial number of Pashtuns also live in Pakistan. After Afghanistan and Pakistan were divided arbitrarily by the British through the Durand Line, the Pashtuns suddenly found themselves citizens of two different countries. When the Taliban fighters had a tough time facing the US troops during the so-called war on terror after the World Trade Center bombings, the Pakistani Pashtuns sheltered the Taliban fighters.
Because of their Pashtun friends across the border, the Taliban was able to regroup and gave the US a tough time. If there is one country that has benefited the most from the Taliban's victory, it is Pakistan. Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban is very old and deep-rooted. From the very start of the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, Pakistan's intelligence service ISI has always kept close contact with Afghan militants.
Pakistan used to be a haven for the Taliban. For instance, when Taliban fighters were injured in fighting they used to be treated in the Pakistani hospitals. Recently, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran khan commented on the defeat of the Ashraf Ghani government by the Taliban. He said Afghans have "broken the chains of slavery" in the country.
Ghani's government was very much influenced by the US and India. Since the Partition of British India in 1947 and the creation of India and Pakistan, these two countries have fought three wars and another undeclared war, besides engaging in large number of border skirmishes. Recently in 2021, they involved themselves in armed clashes along the Line of Control in the Kashmir region.
Impact on India, Pakistan
Pakistan has always seen Indian influence on Afghanistan as a threat. Pakistan believed India with the help of the erstwhile Ashraf Ghani government wanted to destabilize Pakistan by using the issue of Baloch and Pashtun nationalists' demand for regional autonomy. For this reason, the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government has come as a relief for Pakistan. Moreover, as Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban is very deep, Islamabad hopes its Interest in Afghanistan will be safeguarded.
Simultaneously, India’s influence over Afghanistan also has virtually taken a hit with the defeat of the Ghani government. India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan. It could be said that for India this huge amount of money may turn out to be a wasteful expenditure. The fruits of this investment like the new parliament building and other development initiatives that happened in Afghanistan will now be used by the Taliban.
So, with the fall of the Ghani government, India seems to have suffered a big blow. In this game of profit and loss, the main player, the US, has spent around three trillion dollars in the 20 years of war. The total mineral resources that Afghanistan contains are estimated at about two trillion dollars. This gives us an idea of America's expense in the war.
So now the question that arises is whether, like India, this huge amount of money has been a wasteful expenditure for the US too? In America's case, the money didn’t go in vain. Rather all this money of the US taxpayers has filled the pockets of the US arms industry bosses.
But the biggest loser is the Afghan population. In the 20 years of war, almost 200,000 Afghan people have died. According to Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and the Brown University Costs of War project, almost 47,245 Afghan civilians were killed in the war. Another 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters, and 66,000 Afghan national military and police also were killed in the war. For the USA and its allies, the cost was almost 7000 lives. No one can bring back these lives with all the money in the world.
Now with the Taliban win what will be the position of China and Russia in matters concerning Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is very important to China for Its Belt and Road initiative (BRI) - a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries. In this case, even if any other group would have come to power, China would still maintain a good relationship with them. For example, China has balanced its diplomacy with the Taliban as well as with the previous Ghani government.
But China's relations with the Taliban were way deeper than its ties with the Ashraf Ghani government. On the other hand, the Taliban will need China and Russia's support in the future to tackle the US and Its allies. In the coming days, the US may well order a blockade of Afghanistan. If this happens Taliban will become more dependent on the Russians and the Chinese.
The Taliban has already held several meetings with China. They have assured China that nothing will be done to harm China's interest in Afghanistan. So those who were assuming that the fate of the Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinxiang province would change after the Taliban's coming to power may be proved wrong. The same holds true for freedom-seeking Chechens in Russia. Now the biggest challenge for the Taliban is to acquire recognition from different countries.
But getting global recognition could be far from easy for the Taliban because the Western countries have a negative perception about them, with many people in these nations still considering them terrorists. On the other hand, a considerable number of people in the Islamic world are happy with the Taliban's win. For example, in Bangladesh, many are expressing their happiness on social media over the Taliban's 'victory' over the US and NATO forces.
To gain international recognition the Taliban needs to develop Afghanistan. They have to work for protecting women's rights, which is a burning issue in the world right now. Without world recognition, it will be difficult for the Taliban to remain in power for long.
(The writer is a student of International Relations, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at Ishtiakhossain875@gmail.com)