No doubt, billions of people across the world are still spellbind by the unfolding events in Afghanistan. While some think it is a bizarre nightmare, others think it is a rude reality. In fact, many within the diplomatic circle still find it difficult to place whether the Taliban takeover of the landlocked Asian country was a coup or a willful surrender of power by the civilian government led by now ousted democratically elected President, Ashraf Ghani.
Some are also still shocked and disappointed at the little or no resistance by the Ghani administration against the Taliban despite the many TED talks he gave that Afghanistan would never fall again into the hands of the Taliban, even 5,000 years after now.
‘No Taliban will take over Afghanistan in another 5,000 years’
At the Chatham House in 2014, Ghani had condemned the attacks on children by the Taliban, who were operating from the fringes of the country. He had also sent a strong message to the international community that democracy had come to stay in Afghanistan.
The Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute and think-tank headquartered in the United Kingdom.
“Attacks on civilians are a sign of weakness, not sign of strength. Who but a coward kills people in a volleyball field? Children! For God sake, is that the depth in which we follow? We, the Islamic civilization, defined humanity. We translated Greeks, Indians, and Chinese to the world. Now, they (Taliban) think killing children in a volleyball field is going to determine anything? It is a sign of weakness and not a sign of strength.
“If they feel that the state is about to collapse or anyone feels so, I have good news for you. We are going to be here for another 5,000 years, don’t misjudge us. We are determined, we have a national consensus for peace as our priority. Violence is directed to distract us from the path of peace, we will not be distracted.
“Political problems must be solved politically but that segment (Taliban) that is dedicated to violence, for the sake of violence, will be isolated. The water within which they are swimming, the pond will be dried. Let us be clear,” the stern-faced president had said.
Ghani: Academic cum politician
Ghani, a former professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins and Berkeley universities, also wrote a book on ‘Fixing Failed States’ in 2009.
In the book co-authored with Clare Lockhart, a copy obtained by The PUNCH, Ghani postulated many economic and socio-political measures to fixing a failed state and gave ideas and framework in rebuilding a fractured world.
Ghani had also boasted in several of his TED talks that Afghan forces were competent but ironically, he and his Army fled last Sunday when the Islamic militant group known as the Taliban or the Mujahedeen retook Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, about two decades after they were driven from Kabul by United States troops.
Afghani security institutions built to sufficient strength, Ghani boasts
“We have taken charge, we are an elected government and a government of national peace and unity.
“I want to pay tribute to our security forces; they’ve done the job. Against all predictions of about four years ago by friends of Afghanistan and our detractors, we are meeting our security targets.
“Now, the security institutions have been built to sufficient strength, to enable us to do our patriotic duty and just one thing: every member of the Army, every member of the Police is a volunteer; no one is compelled to be in the Army of the Police,” he had said shortly after winning his first-term election in 2014.
But all his words are now regarded by many of his critics as unfortunate ironies, especially with the Taliban takeover in the last few days.
“We’ve had incredibly brave policemen who had embraced suicide bombing in not one or two, a notable number to save the lives of others. That speaks to an immense level of patriotism.
“Four years ago, a lot of journalists wrote that Afghanistan will collapse today, we’ve not collapsed and we are not going to,” he had added matter-of-fact at Chatham House in 2014.
However, the withdrawal of US troops beginning July opened a big weakness in the Afghani security apparatus under Ghani as Taliban fighters took over almost 20 Afghani cities within weeks before finally gaining control of Kabul.
Born on May 19 1949, Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister and World Bank executive, was inaugurated as President of Afghanistan on September 29, 2014 and sworn in for his second term in office on March 9, 2020.
Aside that the 72-year-old played a central role in the design and implementation of the post-Taliban settlement in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, as Finance Minister during Afghanistan’s Transitional Administration, Ghani’s intellectual prowess is not in doubt, even to his detractors but the Taliban brought him to his knees, in a humiliating defeat.
Who are the Taliban?
Formed in 1994, the Taliban were made up of ex-Afghan resistance fighters first captured Kabul in 1996. The Sunni Islamist organisation introduced radical rules against women and children. They were also notorious for their extremist and terrorist ideologies and have been fingered in sponsoring insurgency in several parts of the world, including Africa.
The Taliban held strong control of Afghanistan till September 11, 2001, when 19 extremist fighters hijacked four commercial planes in the US, crashing two into the World Trade Center towers, amongst other places, and killing over 2,500 people were killed in the attacks.
The attacks were orchestrated by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In the spirit of nationalistic vengeance, the United States under the then government of President George Bush responded with swift, crushing fury and invaded Afghanistan, aiming to stop the Taliban from providing a safe-haven to Al Qaeda fighters — and to stop Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.
After Osama bin Laden fled Afghanistan and went into hiding, the path to peace and democratic takeover was open in Afghanistan.
During the December 2001 International Conference on Afghanistan in Germany, Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, was selected by prominent Afghan political figures to serve a six-month term as chairman of the Interim Administration.
Karzai was later chosen for a two-year term as interim president in 2002 before he won the 2004 presidential election and a second five-year term in 2009 before US forces killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011 at his lair in Pakistan.
Karzai handed over to Ghani in 2014 as the winner of the presidential poll but Afghanistan fell under Ghani when President Joe Biden commenced the withdrawal of US troops last month, saying the US mission in the Asian country was to neutralised the 9/11 attackers and not nation-building.
Ghani fled the country on Sunday, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters, saying he does not want bloodshed.
Reports have it that Ghani fled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan after Kabul fall but nothing has been heard from him since Sunday.