Islamic Emirate in the Heart of Asia
آسيا يک پيکر آب وگل است ملّت افغان در آن پيکر دل است
از فساد او فساد آسيا درگشاد او گشا د آسيا
تا دل آزاد است آزاد است تن ورنه کاهي در رهي باد است تن
همچوتن پا بند آين است دل مرده ازکين زنده ازدين است دل
قوّت دين از مقام وحدت است وحدت ار مشهود گردد ملّت است
Asia is like a body made of clay and water and Afghanistan like a heart in that body. If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be tranquility in entire Asia. But if there is chaos in Afghanistan, there will be disorder in the entire Asia. Like the body, the heart too is bound by laws — the heart dies of hatred, lives of deen (Islam). The power of deen (Islam) derives from unity; when unity becomes visible, it is a nation. - Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938), Javed Nama.
The prophetic words of Iqbal came true as we noticed how Afghan conflict created instability in the entire region, for almost 2 decades that US occupied the country after 9/11. As US withdrawal nears we can also foresee Iqbal's prophecy of Deen (Islam) as a major uniting factor for all Afghans resulting in stability for entire Asia being fulfilled. After spending more than a trillion dollar, deploying 140,000 troops, 20 years fighting, losing thousands of troops and no victory in sight against the Taliban, the US and their NATO ally has decided to finally withdraw and end the endless war. The Qatar based US-Taliban deal reached in Feb 2020 will allow all international forces to withdraw by deadline of May 1, 2021. The deal did not include any reconciliation between Taliban and the Afghan government, whom the former consider as puppet of the United States. The Taliban, however, did agree to intra-afghan dialogue with all sincere independent parties that hold influence and authority in the Afghan society for the formation of an Islamic Government, which is their ultimate demand and purpose of struggling against the foreigners. This writing aims to present the correct picture of Taliban which has been largely blurred through their victimization by the international media terming them as violent and uneducated backwards individuals, Islamic Extremists, women rights abusers, supporters of terrorism etc. On the contrary Taliban have proven to be that formidable force that have the potential to bring peace to the heart of Asia.
The Emergence of Taliban
After Soviet withdrawal in 1980 Afghanistan descended into civil war. With plenty weapons, fighters and a collapse of the Soviet backed government in Kabul, independent commanders began asserting their authority. To fill this security vacuum regional and international players threw their weight behind their choice of commanders. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and others began supporting influential commanders like Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Mazari, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and the famous Tajik fighter Ahmad Shah Masood, often backed by either one or two of these countries. While these groups fought for control of territory, lawlessness spread throughout Afghanistan and it was during this chaos that a movement from Kandahar, Southern Afghanistan emerged. A handful of fighters decided to put an end to the lawlessness and infighting. The Taliban came to power after capturing Kabul and setting up their government in 1996. They declared their new state as Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They remained in power till 2001 and then overthrown by US invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11.
Who are The Taliban?
The word Taalib means student and the Taliban is a plural of Taalib. The movement’s leadership consisted mainly of Taalibs that were graduates of Madrassah’s hence they became referred to this term. They are religiously affiliated with Deobandi tradition within the Hanafi school, one of the major four schools of thought in Islam. The Deobandi tradition originated from Deoband city in India. This school is known to produce personalities that have struggled with sword and pen against colonialists during British Raj. Names like Imdadullah Mohajir Makki, Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi, Mahmood ul Hassan Deobandi, Ubaidullah Sindhi comes to mind when struggle for independence against British is mentioned. The Taliban are mainly graduates of Deobandi Madrassah’s spread across North West Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan, the Pashtun heartland. Many of the movement leaders in their youth had fought against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Mullah Zaaef Abul Salaam, the former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan writes in his "My Life With Taliban" how the movement began in mid-90s: “All over Afghanistan people faced the same situation; the entire province of Kandahar was crawling with rogue commanders and bandits lingering along the roads and cities.” Rogue commanders practiced stealing, looting, women were being raped, there was no police force. It was late autumn 1994 when a couple of Taalibs including Mullah Zaeef, and the late Mullah Omar, the Ameer of Taliban, along with other likeminded ones started their movement that had no logo, no name, no money, no cars, only a few weapons but carried the ambition to bring peace to their country by implementation of Shariah law. After establishment of their first checkpoint on Herat-Kandahar highway they started to establish law and order. Due to their sincere efforts to bring about peace and stability several volunteers started to join their ranks, businessmen started donating money, there was hope in hearts for the first time in years, and many were quick to embrace what they were standing for.
As the Taliban continued capturing territory and establishing justice, it was not long before they became a formidable force strong enough to take over Kabul by 1996, and began controlling 90% Afghanistan. They declared their new state as Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which was officially accepted by only 3 countries: Saudi Arabia, UAE & Pakistan. The remaining 10% was under Northern Alliance, an alliance of political leaders and commanders backed by regional and international countries like Russia, US, Iran, India, who opposed and resisted the Taliban movement. The Taliban leaders were mainly from Pashtun background while Northern Alliance included members from other ethnic groups such as Hazarvis, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtuns etc. It was this alliance that would later form the chore of US installed Afghan government post 9/11. Despite being ousted from power after US invasion, Taliban continued their fight from their rural stronghold for the next almost 20 years against more than 140,000 US/NATO troops and 250,000 Afghan forces backed by coordinated air support. As a result of their relentless struggle, despite against all odds like technical superiority of the enemy, they managed to win back half of the country and have succeeded in establishing a functioning state in that part.
How did the Taliban Succeed against International Forces?
Being local Afghans, the Taliban are not only resilient fighters resisting against what many Afghans see as foreign occupation, but they also succeeded in providing swift justice where they established themselves after winning territory from US and Afghan forces. A 2019 news report shows that across the country, an increasing number of Afghans are seeking justice in Taliban courts, citing frustration with the state’s bureaucracy, corruption and lengthy processing times. Today nearly half of the country remains under Taliban control and their courts are organized and documented and its often mullahs and religious leaders who act as judges and lawyers, enforcing sharia law. What was almost impossible to be resolved before would be solved by Taliban courts within a matter of days.
A US analyst and expert on Afghanistan predicted in a recent report that in addition to military tactics, providing justice through Shariah will help Taliban gain further ground in the event of a US withdrawal. The report agrees how such strategy has helped Taliban win hearts and minds of local populace. It notes that Afghan citizens have cited the expediency, limited cost, and access to Taliban courts as notable advantages over the formal Afghan government system. A local resident of Paktika Province stated, “The Taliban courts don’t disturb people and tell them to wait for a long time before hearing a case, or demand bribes.” In addition to providing justice, the Taliban government is also providing public services. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in their report “Life Under The Taliban Shadow Government”, surveyed millions of Afghans living under the group’s influence and stated that the Taliban with their honesty, despite minimum resources, are providing services such as building roads, bridges and religious schools. On the other hand the corrupt US backed Afghan government in last 20 years have wasted billions of dollars provided by their partners for construction and development. One of the primary reasons for the loss is state corruption. The injection of billions of dollars, largely unmonitored, fueled runaway corruption among both Afghans and international contractors.
Since Taliban have managed to maintain law and order during war times against Afghan government and foreign forces, there is no doubt that they can do even a better job in governing the country when in power after withdrawal of International Forces. It was in 2000, the Taliban Ameer was successful in eradication of the opium within its own territory, what hundreds of experts and millions of dollars and several international forums could not achieve. On July 2000 Mullah Omar gave a fatwa (decree) for a complete ban on Opium production that reduced 86% of all the production of Afghanistan, greatest that there has ever been since its boom in 80s and early 90s, as per United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes Report in June 2001. The remaining growth was taking place in areas under control of Northern Alliance opposition, backed by Western countries. After 2001, champions of human rights, free thinkers and women rights supporters decided to invade Afghanistan and production was back up and running.
Propaganda Machine against Taliban
As the US President has announced a final withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan, a wave of propaganda similar to the months leading to 2001 US invasion has already been unleashed by Western media houses. The world is being frightened that Afghanistan will descend into a civil war and once again become a safe haven of international terrorism and launchpad for attacks by ISIS and Al Qaeda. While this is being pushed through media it is being ignored how Taliban succeeded to disarm independent groups under their rule and have even managed to defeat ISIS that mysteriously made its way into Afghanistan during foreign occupation. As per Voice of America, top U.S. official Central Command’s General Kenneth McKenzie admitted Taliban's success against IS-Khorasan, an affiliate of ISIS/Daesh. "We've watched the Taliban compress and crush ISIS’s presence on the ground in southern Nangarhar province," Last year Taliban did a 14 day military operation against ISIS and claimed “The entire province of Kunar was cleared of Daesh criminals and the people were rescued through this victory,” The Taliban's claim to defeat and clear Kunar province from ISIS was also confirmed by US intelligence. “The Taliban’s campaign against ISIS-Khorasan in Kunar province is consistent with Taliban public statements to rout the group from Afghanistan,” a U.S. counterterrorism official told VOA.
A misconception weaponized as propaganda against the Taliban is that they are women rights abusers. The Western media usually interviews women in urban centers to share their viewpoint on Taliban who normally remember their rule from back in the 1990s. These critics normally ignore international and domestic challenges when Taliban came in to power in 1996. Crippled by 10 year soviet war, then 5 year civil war and then Western support of armed opposition (Northern Alliance) against Taliban, including international sanctions and the UN pressure to eradicate opium, need to be kept in view before blaming Afghan Taliban for not providing women rights and opportunities for work. What Taliban were specifically demonized by international press was after their refusal to allow co-education system and removal of headscarves at institutes and workplaces. When inquired by Al Jazeera about fear of ban on women education, Taliban spokesperson made it clear “Women have the right to seek education but should follow the Islamic law. Women are supposed to be covered before they step out of their homes. We will make sure they get an education, but they cannot mingle with men whether in schools or in offices.” In 2019 Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanakzai was inquired the same to which he replied “Islam has given women all fundamental rights, such as business and ownership, inheritance, education, work, choosing one’s husband, security, health and right to good life.” However, he added, “If the world thinks we give the women the rights America or the West gives to them, this is not congruent with the culture and tradition and our religion.”
Why World Powers fear an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan?
After the US-Taliban deal in Qatar, states like Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey, have come forward to persuade Taliban to give up a few things: First, that they should forgo the name "Islamic Emirate" of Afghanistan. Second, to take part in so called democratic elections and form a joint government in cooperation with extremely corrupt US backed Afghan government. Thirdly, for Taliban not to govern based on Shariah, which the Wests and its allies call a Draconian law. All praise is due to Allah ﷻ, the Taliban have rejected all such demands and have continued to remain steadfast on their mission for implementation of Shariah in Afghanistan, which they firmly believe is their right as Muslims and no one can deny them. In last month Moscow Conference representatives of China, US, Russia, and quite amazingly Islamic Republic of Pakistan, made the above demands. Khairullah Khairkhwa, a member of the negotiating team, who was one of five Taliban freed from the US prison on Guantanamo Bay in 2013 responded to the three superpowers in the room “I started ‘jihad’ [holy war] to remove foreign forces from my country and establish an Islamic government, and jihad will continue until we reach that goal through a political agreement,” What really concerns the geopolitical powers is that Taliban's ability to defeat foreign occupiers through consistent and steadfast resistance for many years and eventual formation of an Islamic State, will make them a prime example for other resistance movements fighting against technologically advanced occupiers in Yemen, Gaza, Kashmir, Uighurs, Syria etc. Hence, despite Taliban’s assurances to these powers that Afghan territory will not be used by groups to harm other states, they insist that Taliban give up the Islamic dream. The dream which when becomes reality provides an alternative to the corrupt and manipulative Western democratic model, a model which was imposed on Muslims post-colonial era.
As we near the May 1, 2021 withdrawal deadline, the new Biden Administration has declared to delay the withdrawal to September 11 which is a violation to the Qatar agreement. Its important to note that so far Taliban did not breach any part of what was agreed in Qatar and were hoping to receive the same from US but did not. They have promised to resume attacks against the foreign troops post May 1. What's more important to note is that the Afghan government and its army is heavily dependent on foreign financial and military support, especially airstrikes to keep Taliban away from urban centers. Once all international troops leave, and in the absence of airstrikes, experts are already predicting that it would not be long before Taliban overrun Kabul and soon the entire Afghanistan.
 Iqbal, Sir Muhammad. Javidnama. Translated by Arberry, Arthur John and Dar, Bashir Ahmad. Lahore: Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 2014.
 Zaeef, Abdul Salam, My Life with the Taliban, Columbia University Press, 2010
 Afghans flock to Taliban courts seeking swift justice, Got a problem? The Taliban could solve it in a day, The National, Stefanie Glinski, May 20, 2019, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/asia/afghans-flock-to-taliban-courts-seeking-swift-justice-1.864063
 Have the Taliban Changed?, Combating Terrorism Center At West Point, MARCH 2021, VOLUME 14, ISSUE 3, Authors: THOMAS RUTTIG. https://ctc.usma.edu/have-the-taliban-changed/
 From road tax to courts: The Taliban’s attempts at state-building, Al Jazeera, By Ruchi Kumar, 26 Aug 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/26/from-road-tax-to-courts-the-talibans-attempts-at-state-building/
 US wastes billions on reconstruction and vehicles in Afghanistan, TRT World, 1 MAR 2021
 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes Report, June 26, 2001, Global Illicit Drug Trends 2001, Afghanistan, https://www.unodc.org/pdf/report_2001-06-26_1/analysis_afghanistan.pdf
 US Admits Taliban Offensive Is Whittling IS's Grip on Afghanistan, Voice of America South And Central Asia, By Jeff Seldin, March 20, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/us-admits-taliban-offensive-whittling-iss-grip-afghanistan
 Afghans fear the rising influence of Taliban, Al Jazeera, By Shereena Qazi, 12 Oct 2015, https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2015/10/12/afghans-fear-the-rising-influence-of-taliban
 Taliban expect US withdrawal in May; vow to restore Islamic rule, Al Jazeera, 19 Mar 2021,https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/19/afghan-president-replaces-security-ministers-in-surprise-move