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As Taliban Advances in Afghanistan, Political Analyst Warns Civil War Might be a Matter of Days

© REUTERS / MOHAMMAD ISMAILAn Afghan police officer keeps watch at the check post on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan July 13, 2021.
An Afghan police officer keeps watch at the check post on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan July 13, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.08.2021
Although the Islamist group boasts up to 85,000 fighters, far fewer than Afghan government forces, it has managed to establish control of many provinces and major cities. The reason for this is their popularity with the public and the morale boost that followed the Doha agreement.
As the US and NATO continue to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban claims to have seized three more provincial capitals, which gave them control of 65 percent of the nation.
Other reports suggest that the insurgent group might isolate the capital Kabul within just 30 days. It’ll take them some 90 days to complete the offensive on the Afghan capital.

Living in Fear

Fahim Sadat, the head of the international relations department at Kardan University in Kabul, says that the general mood on the streets is one of "fear and anxiety". 
"After Eid Al Adha [the Islamic holiday of sacrifice that ended in July - ed.] they started to attack big cities. It led to enormous civilian deaths, not to mention the security forces".
According to a United Nations report, more than 5,000 women and children were killed in Afghanistan in the first half of 2021, one of the highest figures for this metric since 2009, when the UN started registering losses on the ground.
Nearly 300,000 others have been displaced since January. Millions of others live in poverty and are in constant need of humanitarian assistance.

Inevitable Fall?

Sadat explains the deteriorating conditions in his country by pinning the blame on the "abrupt" American withdrawal and their reliance the Taliban keeping their word that they would go by international agreements, and on the unpreparedness of the Afghan security forces. 
"The government claims that within six months from now they will be able to establish their control over the situation, but given their failure now, people are doubtful it will ever happen." 
In April, it was reported that the total number of the Afghan national security forces, including the army, the police, special forces and the intelligence, stood at slightly more than 300,000.
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The number of combat forces on any given day was estimated at 180,000 personnel. Compared to them, the Taliban boasts between 55,000 to 85,000 fighters.
However, despite their relatively low numbers, the Taliban seem to have the upper hand, and the reason for this, says Sadat, is a combination of factors.
"To start off, it is an insurgency with 21 years of experience. Plus, there are some countries that fund them, so they have enough means to get the war going."
Secondly, the recent Doha agreement that obliged the Taliban not to engage with any terrorist organisations and not to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks on any Western targets, provided the Islamic group with a political face and enabled them to engage with the US and other international players. It boosted their morale and marginalised the government.
And, lastly, it enjoys the support of many Afghan people. 
"In urban areas, where people are educated and where the government is helping out, the support for the Taliban is low. But in the periphery, where residents are deprived of services and protection, their loyalty to the government is limited and that plays to the hands of the Islamic group."

Civil War Looming?

Now, warns Sadat, this divide is threatening to only grow deeper, especially given the fact that more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's population is young, and they have no plans to live under the strict Islamic rules set by the Taliban.
"The younger generation is used to the outside world, to new technology, to openness and the free media. This new generation will find it difficult to live under the Taliban, and the group, in its turn, will struggle to subdue these young people."
And if this is the case, a civil war might just be a matter of when, says Sadat, not if. 
"People are afraid of the civil war. We all hope that a political settlement will be reached and we will be spared. But if the Taliban does advance and ends up capturing the capital, this fate is inevitable."
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.
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