If we believed in superstitions—and we don’t—we would say that the month of August has always brought good tidings for the Taliban. It was in August 1996 that they first swept into Kabul to take-over from the warlords that had caused havoc once the Soviet army departed. And on August 15, 2021, the resistance movement entered the presidential palace to confirm their peaceful takeover of Kabul as the US-installed puppet president Ashraf Ghani fled the country and surfacing in the UAE. The Taliban also delivered a parting kick to India on its independence day. All Indian ‘diplomats’ including the ambassador fled Afghanistan. Most of them were agents of India’s intelligence agency, RAW, operating under diplomatic cover.
It was the culmination of not only a 10-day lightning campaign but also a 20-year struggle that pitted the lightly armed Taliban fighters against the heavily-armed US military machine. Add to that thousands of allied troops and one can see the rout the Western crusaders have suffered at the hands of people charged with the spirit of imaan (faith-commitment). It was a stunning victory of imaan over weapons, arrogance and hubris.
America’s last remaining troops flew out of Kabul airport just before midnight on August 30/31 ending their 20-year occupation. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid led a group of officials flanked by Badri Special Forces—the Taliban commando force dressed in sharp camouflage outfits—to the airport tarmac on August 31. He announced victory of all the Afghan people with the departure of US troops from Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is finally free,” Hekmatullah Wasiq, a Taliban official told the Associated Press on the airport tarmac. “The military and civilian side [of the airport] are with us and in control. Hopefully, we will be announcing a cabinet. Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe.”
Contrary to the doom and gloom predictions of a civil war, the Taliban have shown remarkable sophistication and magnanimity. There have been no killings in Kabul or elsewhere. The first deaths since the Taliban’s total victory occurred at the hands of the Americans. These included Afghans plunging to their deaths while clinging a US military aircraft on August 16 as it took off from Kabul Airport.
The Americans took their service dogs and gave them seats on flights but left the Afghans behind who had helped them for nearly 20 years. If the Afghan collaborators have any sense—and dignity—they should understand that the Americans for whom they put their lives on the line, attach more value to their dogs than humans.
The Taliban co-founder and deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in a video message said, “Now it’s time to test and prove, now we have to show that we can serve our people and ensure security and comfort of life.” This was an important message that the people of Kabul needed to hear.
The Afghans had been led to believe, by Western propaganda, that there would be revenge killings and a bloodbath if the Taliban returned to power. Instead, the movement assured people that they would not exact revenge even from those who had collaborated with the enemy or fought against the Taliban. This stood in sharp contrast to the US-backed Northern Alliance’s conduct in November 2001. Aided by American occupation forces, they indulged in horrific killings of Taliban fighters in Kabul.
The Uzbek warlord and criminal, Abdul Rashid Dostum who fled to Uzbekistan on August 14, had also massacred thousands of Taliban prisoners in Mazar-i Sharif who had laid down their weapons. In the end, even his thuggish allies saw the futility of fighting. Dostum’s fearsome reputation was banished into oblivion. If he dares to return to Afghanistan and the Taliban catch him, he may be shown any mercy although he has said he would like to negotiate with the new rulers.
The Taliban have told people to resume normal life. They should return to their offices and shops. No harm would come to them, assuring residents of safety of life and dignity. And they have not shut down any schools, including those for girls, despite Western propaganda to the contrary. In fact, most Kabul residents were surprised to discover that the Taliban did not harm anyone, as they had been led to believe.
The Taliban’s political spokesman, Mohammad Naeem announced: “Thanks God, the war is over in the country.” Al Jazeera TV further quoted him as saying: “Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years.”
It would, however, be wrong to assume that Western mischief-making is over, not least that of the US where a heated debate has erupted over the manner of US withdrawal. The Washington warlords have accused President Joe Biden of “abandoning” Afghanistan. They would perhaps have liked to see the war continue that the generals had known all along was unwinnable, especially after a couple of years of the US invasion in October 2001.
But as Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post tells us in his remarkable book, The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, US commanders were clueless within a couple of years of invading as to what their mission in Afghanistan was. Top military commanders consistently lied in public about ‘making progress’ when in private, they expressed grave doubts.
As a further step toward reconciliation, the Taliban spokesman Khalilur Rahman Haqqani said on August 23 that they were granting amnesty to ousted president Ashraf Ghani and his deputy Amrullah Saleh (who launched a short-lived rebellion in the north!). They were free to return to Afghanistan; “they are our brothers. Our struggle was against the alien-imposed system, not against any individuals,” said Haqqani. He also vowed that all ethnic groups would have representation in the future government in Afghanistan.