The basic challenge for the opponents of the Taliban

Transition Plan and Feasibility Assessment for an Alternative to “Emirate”


It has been almost two years, since the Taliban took control, setting Afghanistan back at least fifty years. So far, the question rarely asked is, ‘What should be done?’ or ‘What can be done?’ The question on everyone’s mind is, ‘What will happen?’ or ‘When will the era of the Taliban come to an end?’ The answer to this question lies in finding an answer to another: Will an alternative force emerge? Is the possibility of a strategic alliance among the Taliban’s opponents feasible? If an alternative force does not emerge and a strategic alliance among the Taliban’s opponents is not possible, will Afghanistan become a secure home for the Taliban or a stable, prosperous, and developed country for its people, particularly the Pashtuns? Will neighbors, the region, and the world remain unthreatened by Afghanistan?”.

In this outline, which is a summary of a more detailed note and may be published in a different format, an attempt has been made to briefly answer the above questions within the framework of the “SWOT” model. Given the existing weaknesses among the Taliban’s opponents mentioned in the text, it seems unlikely that a significant change will occur in Afghanistan by the end of this decade. However, if the situation among the Taliban’s opponents changes and there is a continuous effort towards a strategic alliance among them, the duration of the emirate system’s sustainability will decrease proportionally to the situation of the opponents.

The points raised in this writing are not merely an analysis but, to the best of the author’s ability, an expression of responsibility towards society and the country, to break the silence and open the door to mutual thinking, collaboration, and at least discussing “what should be done” and “what can be done.” The author does not claim to have all the answers or to provide definitive solutions, but would be pleased if they could initiate a discussion in various forums, where those with valid opinions can provide valuable insights, speak candidly, and propose new approaches.

It is worth noting that the writer, considering the bitter social realities and the characteristics of the agents who neither learn from history nor possess a scientific and sociological understanding of the current society (both the pre-Taliban and Taliban agents), has very little hope for the improvement of society’s future or the nationalization of conflicting identities. Just as always, the writer only hopes, to the extent of their own understanding and capacity, and with that very little hope, they have drafted this note.

1.  Prerequisites for the End of the Second Emirate

1-1.  Formation of an Alternative Force

The continuation of Taliban rule is primarily attributed to the same factor: the internal factor that brought the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, which was the dispersion and corruption within the Republic front. This factor still persists. The online environment is witnessing “a war of all against all” filled with mutual hatred, interethnic and intranational conflicts. On the other hand, the exclusivity of the Taliban’s ideology should be acknowledged, and one should not expect the Taliban to embrace everyone without external pressure (from opposing forces and the global community). Therefore, the first condition for the end of Taliban rule is the emergence of the necessary capacity, will, and wisdom for a strategic alliance among the Taliban’s opponents, and this requires the removal of most hindrances.

1-2.       An alternative force can only succeed when it gains the support of the global community, and the global community will take this force seriously when it demonstrates its capacity and ability to create either benefits or harms for the global society. In pragmatic international politics, human values and what is stated in resources related to democracy and human rights are not the determining criteria. In the international arena, any player (a state or organization, movement, etc.) will be taken seriously based on its level of power and influence.

2.      Feasibility Assessment of the Emergence of an Alternative Force and a Strategic Alliance among the Opponents of the Taliban

From one side, this alliance is now more challenging than the unity and common sense that prevailed in the years before the collapse. However, on the other hand, if there is a commitment to learning from past experiences, the groundwork for this alliance must be laid. There is no doubt that the challenges of this strategic alliance are numerous. Opponents share one common point and fourteen points of divergence. In the following, we will address this issue.

2-1. Strategic Evaluation of the Alternative Force with a ‘SWOT’ Approach

We will evaluate the status of the forces and the opposition to the Taliban briefly using the SWOT analytical model, which is based on the assessment of four elements: 1. (Strengths) ، 2 (Weaknesses)،3 (Opportunities) 4. (Threats). 

1-1-2. Strengths

Some strengths of the Taliban’s opponents include:

A) Cultural capacity: Generational change, awareness, and a wide spectrum of educated and culturally active individuals worldwide who possess discourse and literature aligned with a global narrative.

B) Social capacity: The presence of migrants in various countries who have the exceptional capacity to influence public opinion worldwide.

C) Military capacity: A sufficient and motivated force with expertise and experience ready for combat. They have been forced to leave the country due to the absence of sound management and proper leadership. If the conditions and leadership are available, they will be willing to engage in battle. There is also a serious motivation for armed struggle among various segments of the population inside the country, especially in large cities and northern and western regions.

D)   Economic capacity: There is significant economic capacity among migrants outside the country, which can only be harnessed by a reliable and trustworthy political and military front. It will not be trusted by scattered and capacity-lacking groups making claims.

2-1-2.  Weaknesses: Lack of a strategic alliance; one similarity and fourteen disparity.

The most significant issue is the existing weaknesses within the spectrum of the Taliban’s opponents, which have made change virtually impossible. The only common point among the opponents of the Taliban is opposition to Talibanism, but this commonality is also influenced by ethnic affiliations and other weaknesses within the spectrum of opponents. Points of divergence and multiple conflicts within the spectrum of Taliban’s opponents include:

A) Conflict and lack of trust between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.

Despite a significant portion of Pashtun youth, intellectuals, and women opposing the Taliban’s approach and suffering from it, there is still conflict and distrust among other ethnic groups and this spectrum of Pashtuns based on tribal, linguistic, and national identity differences. One of the serious factors in the collapse was this very conflict and distrust, which still persists.

B) Ethnic conflict among Tajik-Hazara-Uzbek.

Among Persian-speaking ethnic groups, who have suffered the most under the Taliban’s rule and will continue to do so, there are destructive conflicts underway, including:

First ,  Tajik-Hazara conflict: Despite the willingness of many Tajik and Hazara intellectuals for a strategic alliance based on linguistic and cultural affinities and their shared experiences of historical deprivation and discrimination, they have not yet successfully built trust. The shadow of bitter memories from the 1970s still weighs heavily on their relationships, and trust and strategic thinking have not developed among them to make their commonalities the basis for a strategic alliance. Tajiks and Hazaras lack sufficient shared historical understanding and consensus on interpreting and drawing lessons from historical turning points.

Second, Uzbek-Tajik conflict: Uzbeks and Tajiks have never had a strategic alliance. There have been numerous disputes between Uzbeks and Tajiks, and there is currently no necessary trust and strategic alliance between these two ethnic groups.

Three, Hazara-Uzbek conflict: Despite a temporary alliance in the 1970s between Uzbeks and Hazaras, this alliance did not persist in subsequent eras. In some cases, such as the Enlightenment Movement phenomenon, conflicts occurred without any apparent reason for confrontation.

C) Intra-ethnic differences among the Tajiks.

Tajiks, in terms of intra-ethnic dynamics, are also grappling with three challenges and conflicts:

First, ideological conflicts: A segment of the Tajik society still supports political Islam. Over the past twenty years, Taliban’s resurgence has also found increased support among Tajiks, and other fundamentalist movements like Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Reformist Society have attracted the youngest Tajik individuals. This has made Tajik society, in terms of ideology, if not multipolar, at least bipolar.

Second, regional differences: Geographically-based regional differences, especially the division between Panjshiri and non-Panjshiri factions, are among the internal conflicts within the Tajiks, which have at times spilled over into the virtual space.

Third , leadership challenges and the absence of a system: Tajiks currently lack charismatic leadership like Rabbani-Massoud, and they have not been successful in institutionalizing a party or system that is determined by a collective will instead of an individual’s will, in line with the new conditions. Two major leadership challenges among Tajiks include: 1. Nepotism and family-based leadership among Tajik political leaders, and 2. Incompatibility among claimants to Tajik leadership, the fragmentation of the Islamic Society, and the emergence of new parties and movements from within the society.

D) Intra-ethnic divisions among Hazaras.

In terms of intra-ethnic differences, Hazaras or, in general, Shi’as, if considered as a single spectrum, are more plagued by numerous conflicts and tensions, and their dispersion compared to other ethnic groups is several times greater. However, trust, strategic alliance, and stability among the three religious’ tendencies among Hazaras (Imami Shia, Ismaili, and Hanafi) have not been established.

First , ideological differences: Some Shi’as and Hazaras are ideologically inclined towards political and fundamentalist Islam (in a Shi’a context), while others are secular (opponents of Islamic politics). Some are also quite skeptical of religious practices and clerical institutions, and both virtual and real spaces witness widespread disputes among them.

Second, ethnic and racial conflicts: Widespread racial disputes, which have recently intensified, including disputes between Sayeeds and Hazaras, are among the internal conflicts within the Hazara community.

Third, party conflicts: Party-related disputes based on the Hizb-e Wahdat movement and the intensified conflicts based on the dissolved party categories (Nasr-Sepah, etc.), which have intensified further after the fall of the previous government, have entered a new phase.

Forth, generational conflicts, leadership challenges, and failure in systematization: The conflict between the new generation and the traditional party leaders in the Hazara society is even deeper compared to this divide among the Tajiks.

Fifth, regional conflicts: Sometimes regional conflicts have also ensnared Hazara elites.

E)      Internal ethnic conflicts among the Uzbeks

First , ideological differences: Salafi and fundamentalist groups among the Uzbeks have been very active, and over the past twenty years, the Taliban, among others, extensively recruited Uzbeks. In the fall of the north, young fundamentalist Uzbeks and Turkmen played a central role.

Second, leadership challenges and cronyism: Many Uzbek intellectuals and the younger generation are also highly dissatisfied with cronyism of Dostum.

In summary, the schematic model of the main challenge or weakness of the Taliban opposition can be depicted as follows:

3-1-2. opportunities

A)     The lack of acceptance of the Taliban’s ideology and rule in the global public opinion.

B)     The political non-recognition of the Taliban.

C)      The accessibility of a platform to convey the message of the Afghan people to the international community.

D)     The ability to establish communication between intellectual, cultural, and military forces worldwide.

4-1-2. Threats  

A)     The entrenchment of Taliban ideology within a segment of society and the spread of religious extremism through educational institutions.

B)     Cooperation and complex interactions of neighboring countries with the Taliban.

C)      Afghanistan’s exit from the global community’s priorities and the reluctance to support scattered opposition forces.

2-2. Strategy for the emergence of an alternative force,

The four strategies that can be extracted from the combination of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and can be pursued simultaneously, are briefly outlined below:

2-2-1. Assertive Strategy: Strategic Alliance; Global Presence and Infiltration into the Country

Assertive Strategy is the result of the intersection of strengths and opportunities, and it is designed with the goal of optimally utilizing opportunities, taking into account strengths, and enhancing these strengths. In our specific context, the assertive strategy should involve a strategic alliance with the aim of ‘establishing a presence in the global public opinion, lobbying with international political actors, mobilizing and organizing forces, and striving for internal infiltration.’ This strategy requires the synergy of two types of essential strategic alliances: interethnic alliances and intra-ethnic alliances. As the saying goes, ‘If you can’t drink the sea, you have to quench your thirst to the extent necessary,’ or ‘We don’t reach all the goals, but we don’t abandon all the goals,’ absolute strategic alliances are also not a philosophical and impossible”

It is factual that a strategic alliance makes sense and will be sustainable when it is based on the following axes:

1-      A common understanding of discrimination, tyranny, and monopolization in the past;

2-      A shared belief in the equality of all citizens regardless of ethnic, racial, religious, political, or gender differences;

3-      A shared belief in universally accepted human rights and citizenship values at the global level;

4-      An interpretive and adaptable reading of Islam that promotes moderation;

5-      Belief in the regressive and detrimental nature of Talibanism for the country and the impossibility of ensuring security, political stability, and lasting peace under a Taliban regime.

This strategy can be pursued and realized through the following actions:

A)     Establishing a common thinking room among society’s intellectuals;

B)     Creating consensus, establishing regular communication, and maintaining continuous liaison;

C)      Continuous lobbying with the global community and international political middlemen;

D)     Repeated and uninterrupted awareness-raising of the hardships and problems of the Afghan people through organizing protests and demonstrations against the Taliban’s ethnically-based exclusionary policies and intensified discrimination and oppression against women;

E)      Pursuing discussions on genocide and war crimes committed by the ruling group in international courts and parliaments;

F)      Increasing women’s activism worldwide in the campaign against the Taliban regime.

2-2-2. Adaptive strategy

The adaptive strategy of matching weaknesses with opportunities (WO) is created with the aim of mitigating weaknesses and leveraging opportunities. The adaptive strategy in our subject matter should focus on “reconstruction, empowerment, and capacity enhancement” and should be pursued in the following dimensions:

A)     Efforts for coexistence and avoidance of intra- and inter-ethnic conflicts.

B)     Efforts for the complementarity of two strategic alliances (inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic

C)      Creating audio and visual media for reflecting news and the situation of the people of Afghanistan.

D)     The third way and the third approach: among  the Taliban and representatives of the former government, new forces enter the battlefield. Due to the significance of this matter, we will revisit it at the end of this note.

3-2-2. Competitive strategy

A competitive strategy is the fusion of strengths and threats (ST), and its aim is to confront threats using strengths. In our topic issue, it can be interpreted as “informing, mindset shaping, and advertising” and can be pursued through the following means:

1.      Expanding democratic and human rights literature and preserving the fundamental aspirations and demands of the people of Afghanistan.

2.      paving the groundwork for online education to combat the strategy of Taliban-induced ignorance.

3.      Explaining the risks of the Taliban for neighboring countries through conferences on various platforms.

4.      Clarifying the risks of the Taliban and a Taliban-led government for the global community.

4-2-2. Defensive strategy or survival strategy

A defensive strategy involves the alignment of weaknesses with threats (WT) and is essentially a survival strategy focused on preserving existence, mitigating weaknesses, and striving to neutralize threats. In our context, it may manifest as a military withdrawal and efforts to rejuvenate in this arena, assessing ways to revitalize these capabilities.

It is natural that many important points, solutions, and detailed operational plans should be carefully considered and designed within the framework of each of the four strategies. For specific reasons, their placement in this diagram is not appropriate.

The outcome and summary of the strategic analysis regarding the situation of the Taliban’s opponents can be depicted in the following schematic model:

3.  The third line and third way

According to  the existing views on former leaders and actors, most members of society, from intellectual and cultural elites to the general public, may have come to the conclusion that an absolute authority of any group over the fate of the entire society is unacceptable, even though some level of authority is a reality in society. Former leaders and actors are often seen as ineffective and corrupt, and testing the proven is a mistake. So, what should be done? If the global community wants to take action, who should they support, and who should they work with? Or if there is to be a dialogue with the Taliban for the formation of an inclusive government, who is qualified to represent the people or the opposition to the Taliban?

It appears that we are not facing a shortage of capable individuals. There is a third spectrum, consisting of those (inside and outside the country) who have not been part of the government over the past twenty years, primarily playing a cultural role. They have not been accused of project-based activities or civil commerce. They carry the concerns and issues of the country, and they possess expertise as well. Among the experienced and young experts from the previous government, those who have not had a negative or corrupt role can also be utilized.

In general, if we also consider the future as a national game, each ethnic group and social group should first make efforts to reach a consensus  of (1_+50) within themselves, unify their demands and aspirations, and then establish a joint council that can unify the demands of different communities.

Another approach could be to create a National Salvation Manifesto or Charter of Afghanistan under the supervision of elites representing all ethnicities and sectors, with a focus on individualism and citizenship rather than ethnic or tribal affiliations. Then, through promotion and active engagement, gather individuals who are capable and aligned with that manifesto, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. With this approach, a strong organization can be established that relatively represents the diversity in the country. This approach seems to be more adaptable compared to the first one, especially considering that ethnic divisions have been a factor contributing to corruption, the growth of mafias, and a culture of plunder.

From one perspective, it can be said that the fundamental problem really boils down to two things:

1.  How can various factions resolve their differences (the fourteen points of assertion) and reach a unified discourse? This issue is better addressed within the framework of conflict resolution theory, and a way can be found to move forward so that the opposing parties can at least come together in a coherent and theoretical discourse and be better equipped to delegitimize the Taliban at both the national and international levels. In fact, the opposition should effectively utilize domestic and international capacities.

2.  The absence of internal protests and the erosion of independent and capable social institutions within the country that can engage in dissent and disobedience appear to be significant challenges. It seems that the strategy of intensifying internal protests and disobedience, along with external support (through lobbying, demonstrations, and protests in various countries), may be the most feasible, and perhaps the only, solution. Military intervention at the regional and global levels is unlikely to be supported unless it reaches a level of severity that poses a significant threat to the world. International tools for changing the Emirate system through dialogue, sanctions, and non-military pressures are also limited and ineffective.

External pressure is currently at a necessary level, but because international pressure is not and will not be effective anywhere in the world without internal struggle, these pressures will not be effective and will gradually diminish and fade away. The global community never negotiates for democracy and regime change because it is not their duty or within their jurisdiction. The international community will only support the will of the people who are fighting in the field, and from the perspective of international norms, negotiations will only take place regarding a government’s human rights obligations, and nothing beyond that. Our Achilles’ heel is the lack of internal political struggle, and nothing else.

Indeed, the world is no longer inclined towards military intervention, and the effectiveness of sanctions is limited. The world has been waiting for internal political struggle, but it has not materialized. If such a struggle existed, with global support, the Taliban would have fallen very quickly. The world believed that the people of Afghanistan had changed over the past 20 years, and due to national policies and a feminist approach, they would face protests and disobedience until political and civil disobedience occurred. As long as political struggle and civil disobedience do not take place, the world’s hands are tied, and no one will wage a military campaign for human rights and democracy. Intervention may only occur for crisis management purposes.

3.  Worst-case scenario: Who will Afghanistan fall to?

In the midst of two plausible scenarios (continued Taliban rule and the emergence of a people-based system), let’s assume that, given the challenges and obstacles, the second scenario does not materialize, and Taliban rule persists. In this case, will Afghanistan become a secure, prosperous, and developed country for the Taliban or even for the Pashtun community as a whole? Will neighbors, the region, and the world not be harmed by Afghanistan?

It appears that even under the assumption of the first scenario, Afghanistan will not become a country solely for one ethnic group, the Pashtuns. The reason for this is clear, and history supports this fact. Assuming the first scenario materializes, here is a list of challenges that would prevent Afghanistan from becoming exclusively a country for the Pashtuns:

1.  Intra-Pashtun tribal disparity  (Pashtun tribes only unite against non-Pashtuns in times of war, but they will never have any unity when there is no external threat).

2.  Ideological disparity  among the Pashtuns.

3.  Personal and familial rivalries and feuds among Pashtun leaders.

4.  Challenges of the Taliban among non-Pashtuns.

5.  The Taliban’s development-averse mindset that will leave little room for the country’s growth.

6.  Gender discrimination and keeping half of the population illiterate and marginalized

7.  The resurgence of democracy from the ashes (no exclusive and authoritarian rule can endure).

8.  Conflict with Pakistan and the issue of Durand and Greater Pashtunistan.

درباره ی jamal

مطلب پیشنهادی

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تاریخ معاصر افغانستان روایت بحران سیاسی مداومی است که از همان بدو شکل گیری همزاد …

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