On February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund signed the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.” Touted as a peace agreement with the Taliban, evidence in the months to follow suggests the U.S. confirmed nothing more than a withdrawal deal to end America’s longest war — for now.
Immediately following the signing of the “historic’ deal, the Taliban were already considering large-scale attacks to gain control of Kabul and key provinces in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Urdu daily RoznamaUmmat. “As per the sources in the Military Commission, the Afghan Taliban have from March 1 until now made complete preparations and, whenever the permission is granted, the capital [Kabul] and important provinces will be occupied,” according to the May 16 report.
The Taliban have long contested a substantial number of the 398 districts in Afghanistan, having gained the control of more territory in Afghanistan since 9/11. Today, the Taliban controls approximately 19 percent of the districts, while directly contesting almost 48 percent of the others. Irrefutably, the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is the ultimate goal of the Taliban.
Thousands of U.S. forces and their allies have supported the successive Afghan governments of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani through previous decades. Their presence continued to provide the Afghan forces and the people of Afghanistan a glimmer of hope to defeat the Taliban. But now that the U.S. is withdrawing its forces, the Afghan people are rapidly succumbing to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In the three months following the so-called peace deal, approximately 900 Afghan forces and over 300 civilians have been killed.
While the Taliban continue their assault on the “enemies” of the IEA and “puppets” and “minions” of Afghanistan, the Afghan government is also left with another precarious situation. On a near daily basis, the organization’s official website, Voice of Jihad, published news reports about “enemy personnel repenting of their mistakes and leaving enemy ranks.”Each month, hundreds of Afghan military personnel consisting of army, police and local militia are actually joining the mujahideen of the IEA.
Islam is the most prominent religion in Afghanistan, as over 99 percent of Afghans are Muslims. Therefore, it is not surprising these defectors are willing to live under Sharia. For many, it is imperative to abandon the Afghan military and administrative ranks and yield to the influence of the Taliban before it becomes too late for them to make such a choice. The harsh realities of a country living under a strict interpretation of Islamic law are growing nearer.
In March 2020, up to 403 Afghan personnel reportedly joined the IEA. The greater majority of these were military soldiers and policemen. Four were commanding officers, and one was a lawyer and provincial council member. In April, 520 or more Afghan personnel attached themselves to the IEA. Three were commanding officers. One turned on his own forces within a post in the provincial capital of Kunduz province, killing three fellow soldiers. Also reported in April, 1,301 Kabul administration workers joined the IEA. In the month of May, no less than 364 Afghan personnel aligned with the IEA. Three were commanding officers. And making a few headlines around the world, one was the former police chief of Farah province, Major General Abdul Jalil Khan Bakhtor.
The steady number of defections following the so-called peace deal will have an impact on the future of Afghanistan. Excluding administration workers, at least 1,287Afghan military and police personnel — at an average ofnearly 15 per day — joined the Taliban. As the tipping point continues to fall from the dwindling control of the Afghan government to the influence and rule of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, there will be a mass exodus from the Afghan forces to join the Taliban. The transition may not necessarily be a difficult one, as at the core of their beliefs, the people involved are all indeed Muslims. Sadly, the gains made by a handful of democratic structures will soon become a faint memory, giving way to the jihadi proto-state of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Over two decades have passed since the Taliban began their rise to power — and Kabul is quickly finding itself in jeopardy once again.