The Afghan Republic government fell on August 15, 2021, and the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the country’s capital. On August 30, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. local time, the last American military aircraft that carried the last American soldier—Major General Chris Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division—departed Kabul, bringing an end to the country’s almost 20-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
There have been several areas of progress over the last 20 years, most notably in education, civil government institutions, the media, the economy, civil society, healthcare, and regional connections.
The sudden departure thus led to a political vacuum, which in turn led to a humanitarian and political catastrophe with far-reaching effects. There have been several areas of progress over the last 20 years, most notably in education, civil government institutions, the media, the economy, civil society, healthcare, and regional connections.
The literacy rate increased dramatically, which is very crucial. The predicted adult total literacy rate (those over the age of 15) in 2018 was 43%; this included 55.5% men, 29.8% women, and 13.3% seniors (those over 65). The anticipated overall youth literacy rate (ages 15–24) in 2018 was 65.4%, with males making up 74.1% and females 56.3%. The achievements from the last two decades that were so laboriously gained now run the danger of being undone under the present conditions. The United States of America, the United Nations, the European Union, China, Russia, and neighboring Central Asian republics should use preventive diplomacy and find a workable solution to the crisis in Afghanistan in order to preserve the hard-won gains of the last two decades and prevent the impending socio-economic and political-security negative spillover effects.
Women and girls make up 49 percent of the estimated 40 million Afghans who are barred from participating in public life, including a prohibition on attending high schools and colleges and limitations on employment. Studies indicate that Afghanistan is among the most oppressive nations for women and girls because of the Taliban’s stringent regulations. After the Afghan Republic government fell, direct foreign development aid, which made up 75% of state spending, was halted. Two-thirds of Afghans, or 28.3 million people, need immediate humanitarian aid in 2023, and 17 million more will be in danger of hunger.
Afghanistan is seeing a resurgence of insurgent organizations, notably the self-declared Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K), an ISIS offshoot. ISIS-K allegedly developed “strength and visibility” in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the nation, and the organization could cause problems outside of Afghanistan, according to a U.N. Security Council report.
Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, who oversees U.S. Central Command, recently warned that within six months, the terrorist group will be able to carry out attacks against American and European interests outside of Afghanistan “with little to no warning.” Afghanistan’s potential decline as a state might make it an unsuspecting home for terrorist organizations, and the Taliban’s refusal to break with Al-Qaeda could worsen security conditions in the region and beyond.
Since August 2021, fewer casualties have occurred due to the lack of hostilities and increased general security. However, rising inflation, unstable economies, widespread human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, abductions of children, exclusion of women and girls from secondary and higher education, bans on working for international NGOs, claims that “female NGO staff had broken dress codes by not wearing hijabs,” and international sanctions made the situation even worse.
Regardless of gender, all Afghan residents should have access to high-quality education since it is a basic human right. Thought and speech freedom are fundamental human rights that should not be criminalized or interfered with extrajudicially. Since the Taliban took control of the country, 1.6 million more Afghans have entered the neighboring nations of Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.
A new Afghan administration with assistance from the West was established due to the Bonn Accord, which was reached in 2001 between Afghan political leaders under the auspices of the U.N. The E.U., the U.S., and other nations provided the newly elected administration with significant political and financial help for the country’s restoration and rehabilitation. Despite many obstacles, the support aided in guiding the nation toward development.
The Taliban, a religious organization, now controls Afghanistan without receiving internal legitimacy via elections or international recognition from any nation. Their exclusive strategy might make the countries political and security situation worse. They have not shown a desire to organize elections and do not intend to since they consider religious interpretations the source of their authority. This political impasse might push the nation into yet another conflict or disaster.
The U.S., U.N., E.U., Russia, China, and Central Asia can prevent the delicate situation from imploding by preventative diplomacy before it worsens. The United States is the major supplier of money to Afghanistan. For the years 2021 and 2022, respectively, the E.U. budgeted €222 million and €174 million for humanitarian assistance provided by aid agencies working in the nation and the area.
The U.S., E.U., and other nations’ humanitarian assistance may momentarily ameliorate the humanitarian issues. However, a developing socioeconomic and political security crisis would affect more than just Afghanistan and might also have repercussions for the surrounding area. The nations in the area and beyond, especially the U.S., China, Russia, and the E.U., must increase their diplomatic, political, and economic power to prevent Afghanistan’s socioeconomic and political-security ramifications from increasing.
The E.U. and the U.S. have the resources and ability to step in and prevent a possible crisis from becoming worse. In particular, the E.U. has diplomatic representation and special envoys in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, allowing them to use their political influence and leverage to pressure the Taliban to start a dialogue to reach a political settlement considering all facets of the Afghan political landscape. The most recent talks in Brussels between the E.U. and Central Asia Special Representatives and Special Envoys for Afghanistan are successful measures, but a real push is still needed to alter the leadership of the Taliban’s behavior.
With the help of relief agencies working in Afghanistan and the area, the U.S., E.U., and China can alleviate the present humanitarian situation while enlisting other nations’ help. Furthermore, the U.S., the E.U., and China can persuade the Taliban to demonstrate their willingness, initially through a conventional Loya Jirga, which could open the door for more representative government, elections, meaningful representation for women in all socio-political spheres, and respect for human rights.
Using their politico-religious influence, Gulf nations, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, might play a significant role. In addition, several neighboring nations, particularly Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, often worry about potential spillover effects. These nations might be persuaded to take on user roles.
Program Offices and Field Missions for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are in Central Asia. These offices might aid in addressing certain Afghanistan-related side effects, including drug trafficking and human rights violations.
In conclusion, throughout the last forty years, Afghanistan has endured turbulent political upheavals that have led to the present political deadlock, resulting from repeated political mistakes. To avoid escalation, the U.S., the E.U., China, and other regional players should constantly watch the quickly changing situation in Afghanistan.
Establishing a broad-based and inclusive government is essential to ensuring political stability and full representation across all social strata. An inclusive government can uphold human rights, provide adequate representation for women and racial and religious minorities, and combat the threat of terrorism and extremism. Additionally, it can guarantee everyone has access to education, which might aid Afghanistan in resolving its lengthy issue.
Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals.