Special Envoy to Islamabad, Pakistan
The new era of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan begins after two decades of American occupation. The Taliban waited patiently for the 31st, but they did not give an extra second to the enemy. When the last C17 from Kabul International Airport at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, the sky over the capital was filled with gunfire, although this time it was with joy. In the morning it was time to tour the airport, the last point in which the Americans busied themselves in a chaotic evacuation that left thousands and thousands of collaborators on the ground. Taliban spokesman Zabihulá Mujahid, declared the “final victory” and defined Afghanistan as “a free and sovereign nation” that now has “complete independence.”
Mujahid also recalled that “our nation has suffered wars and invasions and the people have no more tolerance”, but looking ahead he wanted to show the more diplomatic face of the movement and said that they want “a good and diplomatic relationship” with Washington. That conversational tone changed to issue a warning “to those who see Afghanistan with bad eyes” because, according to the Islamist spokesman, “they will suffer the same fate as the Americans.”
The entrance to the airport was an event that was joined by the political and religious leaders of the group. Escorted by the elite unit ‘Badri’ they toured the military zone and inspected the planes and vehicles left by the enemy. When the USSR withdrew in 1989, it left behind a sea of scrap metal that was still visible in the valleys and deserts of the country. The United States left an entire arsenal in the hands of the Islamists, most of which belonged to the defunct Afghan Army.
Taliban officials once reminded Afghans wishing to leave the country that “We will not stop anyone from leaving, regardless of whether they have collaborated with foreigners”, But to do so, they must restart an airport that, since the United States’ farewell, has remained silent. From NATO, the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, declared that “it is essential to keep it open both for the arrival of humanitarian aid and to guarantee the safe exit of those who have not achieved it these days.” The final decision now does not depend on the Pentagon, it is in the hands of the Emirate.
The aerodrome, which retains the name of the former President Hamid Karzai, has become the symbol of withdrawal for the defeated and the symbol of reconquest for the victors. Two decades later the Taliban regain power and are much stronger than in the 1990s, when they faced fierce internal opposition from the Northern Alliance, today only the small valley of the Panshir resists. The great battle now facing Islamists is to start ruling and Mujahid called on Afghans to “overcome internal differences and be united.”
This call for national unity should also be reflected in the new government, which, according to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi, will be one of “consensus” and will be formed “in the next few days.” Qureshi received his German counterpart in Islamabad, Heiko Maas, And again it became clear that neighboring Pakistan is a key country to understand the situation in Afghan territory, not in vain this was the sanctuary of the Taliban leaders for twenty years and here is one of the most important shuras of the group, that of Quetta. This inclusive character could be given by the entry into the political game of the Emirate of figures of the previous system such as Karzai or Abdulá Abdulá, chief negotiator who could also serve as a bridge to try to resolve the crisis in the Panjshir because he was one of the lieutenants of the mythical Ahmad Sha Masud.
Stronger than in the 90s
Taliban and the United States fulfilled the agreement in Doha in February 2020 and each won their award. The Taliban have the power and Americans have been able to withdraw without being harassed by the TalibanOn the contrary, coordination with the Islamists has been key to face the threat from the local arm of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in the last days of the chaotic evacuation. It is a mystery to know what the future relationship will be like, but countries such as Turkey, Russia, China or India have already begun their contacts with the Emirate.
“You have to be cautious, but apparently so far we are not facing the Taliban of the nineties. They just wanted to fight, they sat down to negotiate in Doha and have respected their agreements with the United States to the end. They are much stronger than before, if they achieve internal stability and a certain regional complicity, the country will not again become a sanctuary for terrorists, “says the Pakistani analyst Humayoun Khan, one of the most media faces in the country on issues related to neighboring Afghanistan.
In the streets of Islamabad, disbelief at the speed with which events have developed in the neighboring country is mixed with the pride that is not hidden by Islamist movements that admire the Taliban strategy and consider them heroes after defeating the greatest military power of the world. Pakistanis already host 3 million Afghan refugees and as soon as the border crossings open, thousands of people are expected to arrive.