Speculating the future of Afghans -Abu Muaj and Ahmed Abdullah Muhtadi
Though the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has kicked the issue of Taliban rule of Afghanistan into the long grass or put the post-American invasion era on the back burner, a question is being debated among the Western policymakers and academicians. Even high schoolers are being assigned to do projects on Afghanistan — the place of the Great Game between Russia and Britain — which has turned into a junkyard of empires. After the great game, the country was invaded by Russia and then the United States of America before it was taken over by the Taliban at the end of the third quarter of last year. The question ‘Will the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan lead to further instability and hardship in the country?’ has been still resonating through the western academia and even high schools. That’s why the question has been carefully designed for this article because answering it involves critical evaluation of both the past and present situations of Afghanistan in relation to its society, political climate, and economy. The state of these three factors can be used to determine how stable a nation will be in the future, as well as how much hardship its people may face. History is analysed by seeing how events of the far past have led to events of the immediate past. The past holds lessons for the present, under the guise of historical analogies, and from the analysis of the present, the future can be predicted though the task is not that much easy. The future will be evaluated with this same method – by seeing how events of the past have led to events of the present and thus using those trends to see what future events they may create.
The other aspect of this question which must be explained is the themes of ‘instability’ and ‘hardship’. Instability in this context is about how volatile or peaceful the political situation of Afghanistan is, whereas ‘hardship’ refers to the suffering endured by the people of the country. As briefly mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are three main factors that determine whether Afghanistan’s future will be one of further instability and hardship. These factors are: the political climate, the economy and the law and order that governs society. A tense political climate will lead to violence, or at the very least, a national or regional power vacuum, and thus instability. A system of harsh laws that govern society will lead to the oppression and marginalisation of certain groups in a population, and thus hardship for those people. As for the economy, it has the potential for creating both instability and hardship. A weak economy can prevent a government from carrying out basic functions (thus creating an unstable political climate) but it can also drag millions into poverty (thus creating hardship). Therefore, assessing whether the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan will lead to further instability and hardship, involves evaluating Afghanistan’s economic, political, and societal future.
Ever since the ousting of the former Afghan government on the 15th of August 2021, there has been a lot of debate amongst journalists, researchers, and political analysts about what the future of the country may look like. Some may observe the current economic crisis in the country, unjust treatment of women by Afghanistan’s new rulers and the establishment of anti-Taliban militias and thus conclude that the future will be an unstable one where the population will endure great hardship. Others, however, may remind themselves of Afghanistan’s bloody and violent past and therefore believe that the future will surely not be that bad, and may actually be one of slight improvement. Thus, it appears necessary to provide clarity on such a geopolitically important (and controversial) topic in order to accurately assess what the future of the country may be.
This assessment has been done by first analysing the past situation of the country and then by observing how it has developed to lead to the present situation. With this, historic developments and trends can be identified so that it will be possible to see how different issues interact with each other to form a possible future. The assessment of the past and present has been done by using and analysing historic and current sources from vastly different perspectives. From academic journals by accredited western researchers to interviews with Taliban officials, the massive variety of different perspectives and sources cannot be understated.
With the current developments in the country considered, it will become clear that Afghanistan (at least it in near future) will not become an unstable warzone like it was before, but its population may still face great hardship due to a worsening economic situation and the enforcement of discriminative laws. I hope that this dissertation will be able to further explain why this will be the case, and overall, provide clarity to this complex topic.
As mentioned multiple times throughout this article, a volatile political situation will lead to instability, state-sponsored oppression will lead to hardship and a struggling economy will lead to both. Despite the undeniably massive reduction in violence, the future of Afghanistan still looks bleak; instability is likely but not certain, whereas the possibility of Afghans facing more hardship is next to imminent. This is because, although the country is now more politically stable than it was before, the new Taliban regime is slowly returning to some of its oppressive aspects of governance from the 1990s, but more importantly, the economy of Afghanistan is deteriorating at an alarming rate.
Years of foreign dependence has manufactured an artificial Afghan economy that simply cannot stand on its own feet when left on its own. The asset freezes and reduction of foreign aid to the country have only made the situation far worse and frankly it is abhorrent that a nation as poor as Afghanistan, regardless of who is in charge, is being met with these lethal sanctions from world superpowers that have physically plundered it for decades. Therefore, unless the international community realises the deadly consequences of their actions and decides to reverse their unjust policies, Afghanistan will unquestionably fall further into economic collapse and the population will face even greater hardship (in the form of poverty) than they have faced before. With so many suffering from poverty, violent crime will inevitably rise and, in the worst-case scenario, the country may return to a state of lawlessness. However, this is not as likely and, unlike a massive increase in poverty, a return to crime-ridden anarchy is much less likely.
Indeed, if the country were to return to a state of lawlessness where battles are being fought on political lines, the new Taliban government’s policies regarding non-Taliban armed groups may contribute (at least slightly) to this possible future. Their refusal to completely clamp down on their transnational terrorist allies and negotiate a peace deal with the National Resistance Front may simply work against them in the future. They may believe that they are exercising their sovereignty and independence with such actions, but in the long term, failure to make peace in these areas will provide justifications for further sanctions by foreign nations. Additionally, their anti-insurgency campaign against terrorist groups that oppose them may also end in failure since decades of American and Soviet attempts have proven that brutality is simply not sustainable. However, for the time being, violence has undeniably decreased in Afghanistan, although this is mainly due to the fact that the biggest violent threat to Afghanistan in recent years (the Taliban) are no longer fighting a war. Regardless, the only hope is that these groups follow this trend, abandon violence on their own and that their members either leave or reintegrate into Afghan society. So unlike instability caused by economic downturn, instability caused by political volatility (which historically has been a bigger cause of instability in Afghanistan) will probably continue to go down in the future.
Finally, while it is certain that the Taliban’s new social policies are more moderate now than they had been in the 1990s, they simply do not compare to the much more favourable situation under the old Afghan government. Their promises concerning women’s rights have been purposefully vague and unfulfilled and their actions and words concerning the treatment of ethnic minorities do not always match. It is true that no government can continue to lie about fundamental aspects of their rule for years on end, but this may mean that the Taliban may soon explicitly say that they will deny Afghans their rights, but hopefully what is more likely is that they soon fulfil their promises. Overall, the situation in this area is looking bleak, although it is unlikely that it will be as bleak as it was during the previous Taliban rule.
In conclusion, it seems slightly possible that the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will lead to further instability in the country, and this will mostly be caused by the deteriorating economic situation. But much more likely is that the Taliban takeover will lead to Afghans suffering from further hardship (regardless of how stable the country is) and this is partially because of a possible return to some of the oppressive policies of the old Taliban regime, but mostly because of harsh poverty caused by the deteriorating economic situation.