- The article makes an elaborated analysis on the recent political crisis in Afghanistan.
- It looks into the history of the country at a glance and the emergence of the Taliban groups.
- The country had an unstable political history wherein different world leaders had some or the other roles to play.
- The Taliban takeover has created a huge impact on world politics, therefore, it is also important to analyse the implications that it has caused in the international legal system.
We all must have come across the current crisis in Afghanistan through various media platforms. TVs, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, and all other media of expression are busy analysing the various legal and political aspects of the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan is a country that has been in controversy since the past. From the British invasion till the recent Taliban takeover, the country is always caught in a political uncertainty, which gives way for new questions to pour in. Though this particular takeover has led to debates and discussions, it is important to note that this is not the first incident that happened in this country. Therefore, it is important to know the history of Afghanistan and the circumstances that led to the emergence of the Taliban therein. The Taliban played a major role in strengthening the Islamic resistance in the country which served as a power to some, whereas a threat to many. On one hand, Afghanistan was striving for peace and security, and on the other, it welcomed these Islamic notions on the plain belief that the same would add value to the country's development by giving it uniformity. However, the Taliban laws were so amorphous that it deteriorated the condition of the country further. It was only after the US intervention in 2001 that it had managed to at least come out of the rooted trap. Thereafter, the international communities began to show due importance to the development of Afghanistan.
However, this US invasion did not mean that the Taliban were wiped out altogether. These young fighters kept waiting for a suitable opportunity to show their strength. Almost after two decades, the Taliban finally succeeded in getting back their lost territory. But this time, it was not a result of war, but a peace negotiation between the US and the Taliban made this take over possible. When the US declared its withdrawal from Afghanistan, it was least aware of the immediate possession of the Taliban that would follow. This indicates that the US were definite about the takeover of Taliban, but just predicted this to happen at a later date. In fact, leaders, including the experts, had the same opinion. However, what matters the most is that the future of the country is in the hands of these extremists. Questions like why is the country so afraid of the takeover and what are the causes that are prompting Afghans to run away from the country, needs consideration. But to understand the same, it is essential to look back into the history of the country, the rise and fall of the Taliban, the US invasion, etc. This is important because it enables us to understand the current crisis more precisely. Similarly, the situation has created a huge impact on the international system too. Therefore, we need to also look into the stand of Afghanistan in international law as well.
AFGHANISTAN: A BRIEF HISTORY
Afghanistan is a landlocked country surrounded by Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and China. It is a home to dozens of major and minor ethnic groups including Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Baluch, Arabs, etc. It is a country that has a population of about 12 million people approximately, and is dominated mostly by the rural population. The growth of industries and modern technologies was generally slow here. The primary occupation was raising livestock, agriculture, and other related activities. There were also towns, and migration was common. Trade was most prevalent in towns wherein agricultural and pastoral products were exchanged for manufactured goods. Afghanistan is an Islamic state that saw religion as not merely an ideology but a way of life, and therefore, it became almost impossible to separate religion from society and politics. Some of the prominent cities in Afghanistan include Herat, Balkh, Qandahar, Peshawar and Kabul. Earlier, Afghanistan was controlled by foreign invaders mainly because they viewed it as an excellent trade route to other parts of Asia.
Politics in Afghanistan
Like any other country, Afghanistan too had a long political and social history. It will cost a new book to explain the same, so we may just briefly note the evolution of Afghanistan starting from the 20th century. Countries, all over the world, witnessed radical changes in the political, economic, and social history of countries in the 19th century, and so did Afghanistan. However, development was concentrated majorly in the religious sector, which was considered important for regulating the code of conduct, since the country’s law was largely based on religious texts. There were attempts to colonize Afghanistan by various dominant nations, and the British finally succeeded in doing so in 1839. The Afghans retaliated. Initially, they worked as ancillaries in the Ottomon and Turkish politics, however, soon they felt the importance of having their own revolutionary group. Consequently, a group of young reformers, named “Young Afghans”, was formed by Mahmud Tarzi to reform and reorganize the country’s political, cultural, and educational systems.
Amir Habib Allah Khan was one of the most powerful rulers in the early 1900s. Under his reign, the country saw an expansion of international relations. It was even reported that he had visited India in 1906. Despite such developments, there lacked a sense of national identity in the country. When Aman Allah Khan succeeded, he published his intention of ruling Afghanistan as a fully independent nation. With this, he also ended the country’s relation with the British, which marked the beginning of the bitter relation between the two nations. Afghanistan saw a lot of fluctuations in its political history. There were parties coming and going, and a Constitution too was designed in 1964.
WAR AND PEACE
The country never had a steady state of affairs, and was always finding a way out of one or the other conflicts. There was strong inner politics and presumably, due to its relatively lesser significance at the international level, Afghanistan decided to remain neutral in the First as well as the Second World Wars. However, its struggle for development and international recognition continued for decades. So, as stated before, several countries had an eye on interfering with the country's affairs, mainly because it was positioned in such a way as to give easy access to other Asian nations. The most interested nations were the USSR and obviously the USA. They wanted to have a strong hand in Afghanistan. In the meantime, different ideologies supported by various revolutionist groups emerged, and the Afghan Government too had extended its support to some.
The Saur Revolution 1978
In the early 1970s, the Afghanistan citizens saw their first President, Daud Khan, who was said to be an authoritative leader. His leadership policy was more like a dictatorship, and therefore, people were in constant fear of the long term consequences. However, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) designed plans to overthrow the Government, and finally succeeded in 1978. Daud Khan was killed and the entire country was in bloodshed. This revolution also gave way to the People's Republic Party of Afghanistan to gain access to the Government seat. However, since the party had a strong mark of Marxism and Leninism, it stressed out the Muslims. This led to the formation of Islamic revolutionary groups. The USA found this problem as a good opportunity to interfere, and therefore, it began to openly support these Islamic groups by aiding the Pakistan Intelligence Services (Pakistan funded the Islamic resistance), and this gave way to a stronger resistance movement named, Mujahedeen. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the USA's financial support multiplied, and without weighing the consequences thereof, it kept assisting the movement so far as it killed the Soviet troops.
However, little was known before about the movement turning into a militant group. After almost a decade, in around 1989, the Soviet withdrew from the country, politically and militarily. It must be noted that an agreement of withdrawal was signed between the USA and the Soviet Union, under which the USA agreed to stop funding the Mujahedeen and the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its control over Afghanistan. This promise was actually performed by both the countries, and, thereafter, the country saw a heavy political crisis as its polity was highly influenced by the Mujahedeen. The Mujahedeen is not a single group, but consists of several different groups within it. However, one must not confuse Mujahedeen for the Taliban as both are different groups. There were conflicts between the PDPA and the Mujahedeen, however, it was more of a personal kind of conflict and had nothing to do with ideologies. After some period, the two groups maintained good relations. This indicates that the politics in Afghanistan was not ideologically influenced. The system of governance became a mess after the withdrawal of the two dominant nations. It was in such a state that foreign countries even refused to officially engage with the country. Afghanistan was in such a tragedy that made it look as if the country was suffering from an autoimmune disease wherein its own divisions and movements, though unintentional, turned against the country. It was in such a circumstance that the emergence of Taliban was witnessed.
THE RISE OF TALIBAN
The Taliban movement and the ideology attached thereto had its roots in Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan. The movement had close ties with the regional parties of Pakistan. While going through the governance in Afghanistan so far, it is clear that there was no uniformity of practice. Though Islamic faith was given utmost importance, yet the intervention of the Republic Party had somewhat disrupted the flow. This resulted in a muddle that was more like an autoimmune disorder as already mentioned. So, the main motive of the Taliban movement was to reorganize Afghanistan and make it a pure Islamic nation. The Taliban were unique in their approach. When the Mujahedeen had lost their respect among the Afghans due to their lack of social interest, Afghanistan was in a desperate need for a new and ideological leadership. The Taliban had taken this situation as favorable to them and started actively working towards building their influence over the people. They did succeed in it by implementing various strategies however one of the most distinctive policies was their promise to give the "truer version" of Islam to Afghanistan. They also promised to provide security to life and property. This impressed people at large and they began to openly support the Taliban movement.
Expansion and Fall:
The exact year of their existence is ambiguous, however, in 1994, the Taliban organised themselves in Qandahar. After taking control of Qandahar, the Taliban movement expanded rapidly. There was rarely any need for a war to capture cities except for Kabul, and the Taliban had experienced a defeat against Commander Masud. This defeat encouraged other leaders to fight against them but in vain. The Taliban successfully conquered most parts of the country, and established their own government. Their policies were comparatively mature, but were not people-friendly. They banned all forms of entertainment, music, and denied almost all of women's basic rights. The authority of Mullah Omar, who took the title of Amir- ulMomineen (“Commander of the Faithful”) of the Islamic amirate of Afghanistan, was absolute because obeying his commands was religiously obligatory, as the same was considered as a demand by God. Even though earlier records showed that the British were against this law and that they hadn't allowed it to continue longer, the same was not the case with the Taliban.
However, their influence was fading away when the dominance by Pakistan prevented them from getting legitimacy. Thereafter, several controversial incidents took place in Afghanistan that made it difficult for the Taliban to survive therein. They were under pressure not just internally but also from the international communities. One of the main sources of conflict between the Taliban and the international system was the presence of Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Countries across the world openly condemned this, but dared not to interfere in it. To all these warnings, the Taliban Government gave just one assurance that they would prevent Laden from any illegal/improper activities in the country. However, the matter took a different turn when the Al Qaeda operatives struck New York and Washington, DC, in a series of airline suicide attacks, on 11th September 2001. The USA counterattacked by threatening the Taliban to either expel Laden and Al Qaeda immediately or face destruction. Almost all the neighboring countries, including Pakistan, withdrew their support by cooperating with the US. Since the Taliban were left alone, they were unable to fight the war against the US and soon Afghanistan came under the influence of the USA.
POST THE 9/11 ATTACK: THE ROLE OF THE USA AND NATO IN SHAPING THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT
When the USA had arrived in Afghanistan, it was caught up in a great responsibility of restoring stability in the country. Surprisingly, there wasn't much opposition to its arrival. In fact, in the same year, the world community was striving to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. The country witnessed several radical changes in this period, but not without hardships. Yet, the citizens were so determined to cooperate in the rebuilding of their country that their only concern was whether these outsiders would leave before stabilizing the country. The main reason was that they believed that the US intervention had helped in ending the civil war that they viewed to be mainly responsible for ruining the country. The Bonn Agreement was one of the earliest signed agreements by Afghanistan with an aim to establish peace and security, restructure the country, reestablish important institutions, and above all, to also protect human rights. It was signed in Bonn, Germany on 5th December 2001 as a closed-door negotiation. This gave way to the adoption of a new Constitution in 2004, and presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Hamid Karzai became the first elected President of Afghanistan.
Two military commands, namely the US-led coalition and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), existed in Afghanistan. The coalition aimed at helping the country against the insurgency, whereas the ISAF visioned to ensure security to the citizens. The ISAF was established on 20th December 2001 by the United Nations Security Council in accordance with the Bonn Agreement. Upon the request of President Karzai, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation took command of the ISAF. The increasing role of the UN in shaping the Afghanistan administration mandated the Security Council to establish the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The ISAF, UNAMA, and the US coalition, together, made progressive contributions in ensuring security and stability in the country. Further, they also helped in revolutionizing the shattered economy by coming up with some developmental reforms. One of the drastic measures was with respect to the empowerment of women and their position in the society was substantially raised. This also meant that the country was deviating itself from the age-old Islamic practices, and decided to go for a more progressive approach. This encouraged it to get a decent standard of living, despite getting recurrent distractions outside, mainly from the Taliban.
THE TALIBAN TAKEOVER 2.0
Ever since the Taliban were driven away by the United States, they were allegedly involved in waging insurgency against the US. However, for two full decades, it did not get any chance to get back the lost land. However, in August 2021, when the US officially announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban got an excellent opportunity to enter the country. The group initially remained at the outskirts of the country, and within some time, it was reported that they entered the President's palace. The Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani, was said to have left the country on hearing of the takeover of the Taliban.
Actually, in 2020, it was purported that the Taliban had a talk with the US authorities and a peace agreement was signed on 29th February 2020 at Qatar between the Taliban and the US. By virtue of this agreement, the US said that it would withdraw all of its military forces of the United States, its allies, and coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel within 14 months following announcement of this agreement. Accordingly, in April 2021, the Biden Government expressed its intention of withdrawal, and affected the same in August 2021.
As we have already discussed before, the Taliban had believed themselves to be a truer version of Islam. This attitude of theirs has still not changed, and this indicates that there would be more stringent laws in Afghanistan in the coming days. Already, there has been chaos in the country as people, including mainly activists and journalists, are attempting to move out fearing the security of their lives. Women are once again caught in an extreme trap. Due to the progressive measures of the US and NATO, women were able to come out of their veil and stand up for themselves. But the Taliban takeover would largely affect their growth and is therefore a set back for women.
There were protests and blasts in Afghanistan which turned the country into bloodshed. In the midst of this chaotic situation, the Taliban officially announced the formation of their new Government with Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund as the new acting Prime Minister. The new Government also expressed its intention of enabling women to join and also advocated independent media. Nevertheless, it also stressed that journalists should not go against national values.
However, there have been reported violence against journalists, and women are subjected to discrimination by the new Government in all terms, including education, politics, etc. With special focus on education, the future of girls in the country is uncertain because of the confusion as to whether the new Government would allow them to continue their secondary education and further. Not only the future of girl education but even the fate of the country is uncertain.
IMPLICATIONS IN THE INTERNATIONAL LAW
Before understanding the impact of this crisis on international law, it is important to know the compatibility of the Afghanistan legal system with the international system. Afghanistan is a country the governance of which was highly affected by international interventions. Every party, including the Taliban, was highly influenced by other countries. However, the official involvement of the international organs was witnessed only post 2001 when the US decided to invade Afghanistan. However, none of the international agencies had recognized Taliban as a worthy group to lead the government. Consequently, the takeover shook the entire world.
The United Nations Secretary-general, Autonio Guterres, expressed his concern over the takeover stating that there are high chances of growth of terrorism in the world. The Taliban takeover is seen as a threat that may encourage other such groups to follow the same. The Afghan Army disappeared in seven days, and there is threat of increase in terrorism. Many countries would not be able to fight it. We need a stronger unity and solidarity of countries in the fight against terrorism, Mr. Guterres opined.
The Taliban Government has not been recognised under the international law. There are two ways by which a State is recognized, one de jure recognition, and two, de facto recognition. De jure recognition is the recognition of a new state by the existing state when the new state fulfils all the essential characteristics of a state. When a state is given de jure recognition, it means that it has been given a permanent status as a sovereign state.
On the other hand, de facto recognition is a provisional recognition. You may have seen that sometimes colleges allow us to be provisionally admitted to a course on the condition that we fulfil all of its requirements within a stipulated period. The same is the case in this kind of recognition too. This means that a state has sufficient territory and control, but other existing states might fear some instability in the country because of some unfulfilled conditions required for de jure recognition. Therefore, they don't really want to give it a permanent position. Afghanistan, under the regime of Taliban, is exactly placed in the similar position. However, the international system is unsure whether to give or not give the country even a de facto recognition.
Though it is a puzzling issue, yet, it is important for the world leaders to see the implications of non-recognition at the global level, and particularly the country. There are exactly no specific criteria for state recognition in international law except that there should be a stable control of the government over the country's territory. With regards to Afghanistan, the fall of Panjshir Valley gives us little scope to question the effective control of Taliban over Afghanistan. Therefore, it is not wrong to grant it a de facto recognition, if not de jure recognition. Obviously, we cannot directly give it a permanent status because the new Government has not complied with the provisions of the international law yet. The Human Rights Council had expressed its concern over the prevailing violence of human rights in the country. There are many other factors that are currently preventing the government from getting de jure recognition.
However, there is practically no need for any hesitation in recommending a de facto recognition to the newly formed government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In fact, there is a benefit of it too. If the government is not given state recognition, then it cannot be controlled or regulated in accordance with the system of international law. Whereas if recognition is granted then the conduct of the government comes under the purview of the international communities. This is crucial, especially in the present situation, where the country is caught in a highly prejudicial and oppressive trap. It would then have to carry the international legal responsibility that would bind itself to human rights enforceability and anti-terrorism commitments.
HAS THE WORLD EXPERIENCED SUCH EVENTS IN THE PAST?
As normal people, when we came across the Taliban takeover, it would have fascinated us in the sense that such incidents were quite rare in the global phenomenon. A question within us, as to whether our world has seen such situations before, is inevitable. Though it is claimed that the Taliban takeover is unique in its own way, yet people can't stop comparing it with the well-known fall of Saigon, 1975.
The Fall of Saigon, 1975
The Fall of Saigon was a consequence of the Vietnam War that ended with North Vietnam seizing control of South Vietnam. The War was between North Vietnam on one side, and South Vietnam and the US on the other. The US was the principal ally of South Vietnam, while the North was supported by the Soviet Union and other communist allies. It was quite a lengthy war that lasted for 20 years and ended in 1975. The US decided to withdraw South Vietnam in 1973, and sooner, Saigon, capital of South Vietnam, was captured by the North in 1975. This takeover was again earlier than expected. It forced South Vietnam to surrender and consequently the war ended with this Fall of Saigon.
Though the US President Biden rejected the comparison between the Kabul takeover and the fall of Saigon, yet there are some similarities between the two, mainly the US involvement that draws us closer to such comparison. However, this is just a widely acknowledged incident that made it stay in the books of history and accordingly helped us to analyse it. There are few more similar circumstances as the US have had connections across the world. This country is aiding and assisting many unstable countries, and therefore any withdrawal notification from its side threatens other countries' future. For instance, the withdrawal of the US from Iraq in 2014 had led to the growth of ISIS.
Therefore, the Taliban takeover cannot be said to be the first to have happened. Even in Afghanistan, this is not the first time that the country has fallen in the clutches of such events. The country of Afghanistan has a long political history that mostly shows its instability and mismanagement.
The history of Afghanistan and the events that followed subsequently shows that the country is stuck in uncertainties throughout. There might have been some hope when the US along with NATO attempted to reorganize the country. Afghanistan also saw the intervention of international communities during this period. However, with the Taliban taking the control of the country, it is apprehended that the country may once again go into the backward phase. Only if the new Afghanistan Government gets recognition under the international law, that the country may expect to at least get some relief from the oppression of the Taliban. Otherwise, there is no chance for a changeover in the absence of any regulation or control over the group. Nonetheless, it is important for the international community to give due importance to Afghanistan, despite its uncertainties, for its growth and the development of the world as well.