The Taliban, a group that has become synonymous with fundamentalist Islamic radicalism, returned to power in Afghanistan after 20 years.
Its troops entered Kabul for the first time since October 13, 2001, when they had to withdraw from the capital as American and British bombs cleared the way for opposing forces of the so-called Northern Alliance.
This time, the entry went without resistance, despite reports of sporadic shooting in the early hours of Sunday.
Throughout the day, the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, continued to seek a negotiated solution with the invaders, who promised moderation to disbelieving Western interlocutors.
“We want a peaceful transition and avoid bloodshed,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC.
Did not work. According to the Interior Ministry, Ghani left the country in the early evening (late morning in Brazil). His government, launched in 2014 and seen as a puppet of Western forces, has collapsed. How the new government will be formed is uncertain, but the Taliban won the war.
It has been 19 years, 10 months and 3 days since that moment of defeat, which marked the beginning of the US-led occupation. Washington sought to punish the group for harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist network, which ordered the September 11, 2001 attacks, but found itself mired in its longest war.
Just as Western bombs removed the Taliban from Kabul in just seven days, their absence brought all of Afghanistan back to the radicals in exactly two weeks.
Last Sunday, taking advantage of the near end of the US military presence in the country following President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from Donald Trump and the Taliban in 2020, activists left rural areas that had partially dominated over the years. years and closed the headquarters of the provincial capitals. .
From Friday (6), the cities fell into dominoes. Avoiding leaving the north of the country as a pocket of resistance as in the years of their reign, 1996-2001, the Taliban first invested in the predominantly ethnic Tajik and Uzbek region.
The border regions were already in Taliban hands, so much so that Russia practically militarized its ally Tajikistan by sending forces for an exercise, thus preventing the conflict from spilling out.
Then come the south and southwest, areas traditionally associated with the Taliban because they mostly belong to the group’s ethnic group, the Pashtuns. On Saturday (14), the northwestern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif fell and, in the early hours of Sunday, Jalalabad, the city that connects Kabul to the Pakistani border.
With that, the Taliban entered the capital. Despite a few reported shootings in the early hours, no violence was reported during the sieges of towns such as Herat and Lashkar Gah.
“They entered trucks with .50 caliber machine guns in the back. A lot of people came out into the streets, but my family is locked up at the house. I don’t know what will happen,” he said. in Folha an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Salem. He, who is of Tajik ethnicity, has nowhere to go.
“They told the ministry that the Taliban would keep everyone at work and that there would be no retaliation. I have doubts,” he said. There have been reports of massacres of Western collaborators in some of the cities taken in this year’s offensive, such as Spin Boldak.
Ghani saw military commanders flee the city, most notably the powerful Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum – a figure in Afghan military and political life since the days of Soviet occupation (1979-89).
The president even met with the American envoy to the region, Zalmay Khalilzad. We still do not know if there will be any form of negotiation with what remains of his government.
The Taliban, according to international agencies, have promised a free exit to anyone wishing to leave the city. The obvious question is: where to go?
The Americans have promised to withdraw with a special visa program the approximately 18,000 Afghans and their families who have worked directly for them over the past two decades. But it’s a long process, which can take over a year, and there isn’t enough time.
In the meantime, the first images of the American evacuation, taken by the 5,000 or so Marines sent on mission, have surfaced.
If there were no diplomats hanging from a ladder trying to reach a helicopter, as happened in Saigon when the Communists won the Vietnam War in 1975, the image of large planes with two rotors and a line of fugitives is a disaster for Biden.
The American Embassy itself has been transferred to the airport. “The point is, the Afghan forces failed to defend the country. We equipped them with modern weapons, but it didn’t work,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN.
The fact that the evacuation is unaffected by the Taliban is a clear sign that at this first moment, the Taliban are trying to convey a different image than the one they imprinted when they came to power, when they first came to power. set up a medieval terror regime. in the countryside.
The reason is practical. To survive as a government, the group will need to have access to external funding and commercial relationships in addition to the funding it receives from trafficking opium for heroin production and other criminal activities.
The most obvious partner is neighboring Pakistan, a country where the Taliban were fed by intelligence agencies in the 1990s, hoping that victory in the civil war would give Islamabad an ally in the west.
Unlike the days when Pakistan was linked to the United States, the country is now in charge of China, its main economic and military partner. And the Chinese have already given their blessing to the Taliban, during a meeting three weeks ago between a delegation from the group and the chancellor of the communist regime.
The United States seeks to avoid defeatist rhetoric. “It’s not Saigon. We just didn’t want to be there anymore. We accomplished our mission,” Blinken said. But the geopolitical implications are still uncertain, in addition to other aspects.
Most striking is the type of government that will be put in place. “I am deeply concerned about women, minorities and human rights activists,” said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yusufzai, the Pakistani blogger who has championed girls’ education and made headlines when she was gunned down by the Pakistani Taliban wing in 2012.
Asked by the BBC, the Taliban spokesman said nothing would change regarding women’s rights. “The schools will work. We just ask everyone to wear the hijab [véu islâmico que deixa o rosto à mostra, mas cobre o cabelo]”Shaheen said.
But he said that “our government will be Islamic” and will apply Sharia law. [lei religiosa], even if he claims that “there will be freedom of speech and of the press”, which is often contradictory in the Muslim world. And he denied the return of the mandatory burqa, full body coverage that gained worldwide fame under the Taliban.
The point is, this traditional Pashtun dress has never disappeared from the streets of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it seems obvious that women will eventually resort to it to protect themselves from new holders of power.
Another central concern is terrorism. When meeting with the Chinese, the Taliban promised to cut ties with radical groups. But it is certain that what remains of Al Qaeda and operatives of the Islamic State are present in Afghan territory.
The fear is a repeat of the Iraqi scenario, where the US withdrawal ultimately led to the rise of ISIS, but there are important differences. The Taliban, although terrorists, are primarily a subnational force with a strong ethnic base that seeks power and territory.
Because of his first steps and the contact maintained in Doha with the United States last week, in addition to the smooth entry into Kabul, he seems to seek to be responsible.
In any case, according to the Russian government, militants of the group have left Syria for Afghanistan since Biden announced his withdrawal last April.
The late Osama bin Laden’s network reportedly maintained its bases both in areas dominated over the years by the Taliban and in Pakistani tribal territories along the Afghan border.
Bin Laden is at the heart of the story which opens a new chapter this Sunday. Son of a Saudi millionaire, he joins the fight of the mujahedin [guerreiros santos] against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
After the Taliban seized power in the civil war that ravaged the country in the 1990s, they returned from there, fleeing Sudan. In 2001, they planned the attacks that started the 20 Years War and spread to Iraq, Yemen and others around the world.
After being killed by American commandos in Pakistan in 2011, the United States began to think about how to get out of the quagmire it had found itself in. It was, according to a study by Brown University (US), $ 2.3 trillion spent in Afghanistan – the US government is talking about $ 900 billion, but this is an effort-driven account military, and not on indirect spending.
The human cost was enormous. About 170,000 people died, of which only a fraction (2,300 soldiers and twice as many mercenaries) of them Americans.
It took ten years for Biden, with popular support, to make his decision. Its risks to the world, in particular for the 390,000 Afghans who have already left their homes in the current crisis and for the 37 million people now under the Taliban, are still unknown.