What happened in Kabul?
On 20th July, during Eid prayer, Taliban had launched multiple rocket attacks near the area of Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace. The sound of the attack can be heard from the recording that went viral globally last month. In the video some of the officials left the prayers due to shock, but many others impressively stayed until the prayer finished including President Ashraf Ghani. After the event, President Ashraf Ghani made a press stating, “The Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace”. And it was undoubtedly true. The attacks near Presidential Palace in the main city of Kabul was not something new, every now and then, the Taliban had launched multiple attacks as a warning sign to conquer the city and bring down the government. Their actions have been even bolder ever since the US announced the troops’ withdrawal from the country in April, and informed that the evacuation will be effective in September this year.
A month later, on August 15, the world was shocked by the breaking news of Taliban taking over Kabul. The fighters were reported to had controlled over the borders and had surrounded Kabul at every corner. Immediately after, the President Ashraf Ghani was seen leaving his Presidential palace and fled out of the country for his own safety, leaving his people behind in panic, terror and desperate. Weeks and days before the event, Taliban had already conquered other main cities that was under the government control, one by one in Afghanistan, to the point that their advance towards Kabul should have been calculated. During the chaos, the US forces promptly evacuate the city despite announcing to leave in September. In fact, they left the country in silence without informing the Afghanistan commando. Quoting from The Guardian, “US forces plunged their main operating base in Afghanistan into darkness and abandoned it to looters when they slipped away in the middle of the night after two decades at the site without notifying their Afghan allies”.
The whole event happening in Afghanistan was captured by every news outlet worldwide, making it the among the top stories until today.
Days after the incident, the blame game started. The international community put the blame on US for almost everything that happened to the country, from funding the Mujahideen (Operation Cyclone) in 1979, invading the country in 2001, to leaving the country helpless when Taliban took over last two weeks. President Biden defended his country by stating that the blame should be put on the Afghanistan Army and President Ashraf Ghani because they did not used all the resources and capability to defend the country and let Taliban took over the city. The statement was supported by Afghanistan’s representative in Tajikistan, quoting his statement from India Today, “…there was no logic in believing that the Afghanistan Army, which was trained by the US and NATO forces for the last 20 years, lost the battle to a group that was neither heavily equipped nor well trained”. Which was quite convincing. President Ashraf Ghani later went to the press explaining that he left the country without a fight because he wanted to avoid bloodshed. But it was pointless, deaths were unavoidable, the people in Kabul were desperate and in chaos as they swamped the Kabul’s airport to flee from the country and escape from the Taliban. Few have died, falling off the US airplane, and some other getting stomped in the massive crowds. Regardless of the crammed situation in the airport, thousands desperately took the risk at stayed around the airport area, waiting for their turn or chances to fly away from the country. They do not want to live under the brutal rule of the Taliban, especially when they are used to the freedom given by democracy.
The latest tragic news that just came in few weeks ago, was the bombings of Kabul’s airport. The bombings had taken over 60 to 90 Afghans’ lives and killed 13 US service members that have not evacuated yet. It was another terror and tragic scene to the Afghan people. According to reports, ISIS-K or the Islamic State Khorasan was the group that is responsible for the planned bombing happening just outside the Kabul’s airport, by setting two suicide bombers in the midst of the chaotic situation in the city. It is important to note that, ISIS K and Taliban is not affiliated with one another. Although both aims to establish Islamic state with Islamic jurisprudence, ISIS K considered Taliban and the Al-Qaeda as enemy. They are divided ideologically, and constantly competing for resources and territory, which somehow explains the attack. The US President, Biden responded with the promise to take immediate action and revenge upon ISIS K for the killing of 13 US service member
Historical Points of View
Afghanistan is a very beautiful country blessed by unique mountainous geography and landscape. The size of the country is twice the size of Malaysia with the estimated population of 38 million people. The people of Afghanistan can be divided into 14 ethnic groups, which mainly is the Pashtuns, followed by the Hazaras, and Uzbeks. It is located at the central Asia, bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. Despite having the geographical beauty and rich diversity, the country is constantly on the global spotlight, mainly because of the invasion of the United States, and the lingering history of invasion by foreign powers.
Back in the 50s and 60s, Kabul was once a very peaceful place for living. There was no segregation, education and employment were available for everyone and war was something beyond their imagination. It was a modern city, with lots of restaurant, jazz everywhere, and complete with cinema. They were living in a western lifestyle, probably more western than the Europe at that time. Back then they were ruled by Monarch named Zahir Shah. But the modern pleasurable lifestyle was only enjoyed by 20 percent of the total Afghan population, the other 80 percent of the population lived in the rural area of the country where they lived according to their tribal custom, embedded with Islamic teaching in a very humble lifestyle, a parallel world from Kabul. Even today, the population of Afghans in Kabul is around 4 million out of 38 million people in the country. Hence, they have different opinion on the westernized lifestyle practiced by the people in Kabul.
When westernization of culture was at its peak, a group of students set up a movement of anti-western begun to take place. These group started to talk about communism, revolution, and woman’s right. They were very influenced by the communist ideology and begun to grow its followers in the country.
In the 1970s, the first Islamic organization was established with the purpose of restoring the dying traditions in Kabul which emphasize Islam (according to their clerks’ interpretation) as the fundamental way of living. The people were divided into two classes, the Islamist (left) and the communist (right). Both groups often clash ideologically. In 1973, the Afghan communist group succeeded in consolidating the power and supported military coup to take down the monarchs from power, they turn the country into Republic. Not long after, the April revolution happened, with the killing of Daoud Khan, who was the President of Afghanistan (1973-1978) and his family by the Communist group in order to seize the power for themselves. They tried to transform the country into a communist country through radicals’ reform. It was the harshest time for the Afghans as the Muslims and anyone who oppose the communist government were repressed. All the freedom was taken away
In 1979, the Soviet Union had sent thousands of troops to Kabul to support the communist government from the uprising all over the country, they installed Babrak Kamal as the President. At that time, the Islamist group set up a rebellion army to fight against the communist and to establish Islamic system, freedom, and liberation of Afghanistan, they called themselves the Mujahideen, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In effort to stop the rise of Soviet Union influence in central Asia during the era of Cold War, The United States and Saudi Arabia had assisted the Mujahideen resistance by supplying weapons and provide financial support to the group. The Soviet Union left the country in 1989, along with the fall of communism in the country few years later. Unfortunately, peace was not restored. The struggle over power began and created torment years of civil war, dividing the people in the country into factions. This was the era where Taliban beginning to establish.
Being one of the strongest resistance groups during the Soviet invasion, the former Mujahideen group of people, had come together and united under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was also member of the Mujahideen. They called themselves Taliban, which derived from the word ‘Talib’, meaning student, as most of them studied in Madrasa (Islamic school). Their aim was none other than to establish the Islamic state, and to restore and enforce (their interpretation of) Islamic law. They became stronger with the support from Pakistan. In 1996, Taliban had taken over Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In the conquest to have control over the country, Taliban have been brutal and had massacred many lives to have control over town and cities. Under the Islamic laws that Taliban implemented, women were unable to have better future as they were not allowed to pursue study, travel without male company, work, and wear what they want. The country did not develop under Taliban’s administration. At that time, the infamous Osama bin Laden came to the Taliban to gain protection and became close with Mullah Omar. It was due to him that Taliban became the target of United States and resulted to the invasion of US in the country for two decades.
In 2001, Taliban lost Kabul and escaped when US-backed Northern Alliance reconquered Kabul. Although they lost, they manage to regroup, and strengthen the group economically, militarily, and systematically. Economically speaking, the world, especially the Muslims would be surprised to know that the Taliban generates income more than a billion, mainly by producing opium (even though drugs are prohibited in Islam), selling valuable minerals, collecting taxes, receiving donations, exports, and real estates.
The truth is more to discover.
Aisyah Hadi is a Political Science degree holder from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Currently pursuing her study in Master of Strategic and Defense Studies in Universiti Malaya (UM).
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Ajar Demokrasi editorial stance