Last year, the United States announced that, after a 20-year presence in Afghanistan, it would begin withdrawing its on-the-ground forces, a process expected to be completed by September 11 2021. While the United States has aimed to maintain peace in the country by attempting to secure democratic institutions, these efforts have thus far been futile. Now, the Taliban, a terrorist organization, has made significant territorial gains and fears of human rights violations, particularly among Afghani women and children, have surfaced. Western leaders must quickly step in to protect the Western-backed government and the democratic institutions it has worked hard to introduce.
In October 2001, following the September 11 attacks, the United States launched its War on Terror campaign by entering Afghanistan. Over the last 20 years, the United States has maintained a strong military presence in Afghanistan, attempting to eradicate the organization and instill peace. Last February, the United States and the Taliban brokered a peace deal. As per the deal, the United States and its NATO allies would withdraw all their troops from the country within 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban would halt its violent acts and agree not to let al-Qaeda or other extremist groups operate in its territory.
However, since U.S. and allied forces left the country, the Taliban has disregarded this peace deal, making significant territorial gains. According to an EU official, the terrorist group now controls 65% of Afghanistan. This past week alone, the Taliban captured four regional capitals — Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul, Taloqan, and Kabul. The group’s seizure of Kunduz is significant as the populous city is considered a key access point to Afghanistan’s resource-rich provinces and major cities, including the country’s capital, Kabul. Additionally, Kunduz is central to one of the most important drug smuggling routes in the region, which means the city’s seizure will have profound economic benefits for the Taliban.
As the Taliban expands its territorial gains, it has sparked significant panic and violence. According to the Human Rights Watch, Taliban forces have burned down houses and executed detained soldiers, police, and civilians who have ties to the Western-backed Afghan government. The group has also established checkpoints around the cities it has captured, forcibly searching Facebook accounts of innocent civilians to identify and interrogate who might have ties with the Afghani military.
Western policymakers have expressed concern over the timing of the U.S. withdrawal.In particular, lawmakers have warned that the Taliban cannot be trusted to hold up its end of the peace deal and the Afghan government and military are not well equipped to fight back against the Taliban. Despite this notice of caution, the U.S. and Australia have continued withdrawing troops. While the U.S. and Australia have strived to generate peace and stability by-way-of the peace deal, the Taliban, however, has demonstrated that it does not respect the terms of its peace agreement. If the group continues to expand its power and presence with no opposition, it will surely plunge Afghanistan into further conflict and disarray. The conflict-ridden country has already suffered through decades of instability, causing mass poverty and oppression. Global leaders must identify a new method to promote reconstruction and peace more constructively, given that the peace agreement is not generating the desired results.
Indeed, the withdrawal of U.S. and Australian soldiers have created a power vacuum, providing the Taliban an opportunity to re-establish its authority. With the terrorist organization’s take over, the people of Afghanistan are at risk of being victims of human rights violations as it is already taking place. Should the Taliban continue to gain power in Afghanistan, it will promote greater instability, violence, and conflict in the already war-torn nation. In order to save Afghanistan from becoming another terror state, it is crucial for the West to develop a more sustainable solution for peace and stability.