In the last few weeks, the Taliban have taken control of many districts of Afghanistan. Since then, some former Afghan fighters and commanders have expressed their desire to return to the battlefield. Former fighters say a united front has become necessary because of the government’s failure to stop the Taliban’s advance in the country’s north and west provinces.
Many fighters, who were members of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in the nineties, are still strong and influential in their stronghold. But in the absence of a united front, their confrontation with the Taliban may prove to be a difficult task.
Taliban’s Aggressive Stance
The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has begun on May 1, and since then the Taliban intensified its campaign against government forces. Since then, the Taliban have captured more than 30 districts in Afghanistan. Some of them were later withdrawn by the government army, but the situation seems to be getting worse.
The government’s argument on this victory of the Taliban is interesting
The Afghan government vehemently rejects reports of Taliban occupation of the districts. The government claims that the army has returned for strategic reasons so that there are minimum civilian casualties in the war. On June 16, Abdullah Abdullah, president of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said, “The Taliban, taking advantage of the opportunity to withdraw troops, are trying to emerge victorious on the battlefield.”
The Taliban have carried out most of the attacks in recent weeks in areas to the north and west, where Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks dominate. These tribes have always been anti-Taliban and have been fighting them firmly. An article in Sub-e-Kabul, a private newspaper, wrote, “It is important for the Taliban or other extremist groups to occupy the northern region because of its social and cultural fabric.” The newspaper went on to write, “If the already dominant Pashtun group managed to retain their control through alliances with the tribesmen in the north, it would be easier for them to capture the south and east.”
Return of fighters
So can an effective united front come into existence in Afghanistan to stop the Taliban’s move? For any such initiative, the role of three commanders – Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ata Mohamed Noor, and Mohamed Mohaqiq – would be crucial.
Powerful in their respective tribes and regions, these three commanders are non-Pashtuns. Dostum is Uzbek, Noor is Tajik and Mohaqq is Hazara. All of them were once part of a powerful military alliance known as the Northern Alliance.
Abdul Rashid Dostum
Of these, Dostum has been an outspoken critic of the government’s security policies and has returned to the battlefield with his son Yar Mohammad Dostum to prevent the further advance of the Taliban in provinces such as Faryab, Jozjan, and Sar-e-Pul in the north.
Dostum has often expressed his displeasure over the peace process
Recently, Dostum had said, “This is not a joke but a war. Now America is not supporting us like before and they do not even have their fighter ships on us.” “If the northern region falls into the hands of the Taliban, Afghanistan will be destroyed,” he says. During his tenure as Vice President, Dostum led some successful military attacks against the Taliban in the north. But the campaign was surrounded by allegations of war crimes and human rights violations.
Since then, Dostum is believed to have waned among the Uzbeks and some Uzbeks have even decided to ally with the Taliban. Apart from this, his relationship with the central government has also soured due to political disagreements over the removal of the governor of Faryab province.
Atta Mohamed Noor
Atta Mohammad Noor has likewise been weakened by internal strife within his political party Jamiat-e Islami. Noor writes in one of his Facebook posts, “The government has the command of power, money, resources, weapons, and war, not with me. But unfortunately, the government does not know what to do?” Noor further writes, “Without a broad consensus it is difficult to ‘stop the enemy’.”
On the other hand, Mohaqiq, who has a strong influence on the Hazara community in the central and northern provinces, recently said that he has mobilized 10,000 people against the Taliban. However, he also emphasized that the government’s involvement in forming the front of any large-scale anti-Taliban war would prove to be crucial.
In the present situation, there are two obstacles to the formation of a joint military front – the weakening political capital of the once-powerful commanders and the lack of unity among the anti-Taliban leaders. It has also been seen that after major cities are taken over by the Taliban, many leaders who have promised to join the fight against them, keep silent. Take, for example, former jihadi commander Ismail Khan.
Ismail Khan had said that he is ready to protect the big cities. The Taliban have recently captured several districts in his home province of Herat. Despite this, they have not taken any step to get back their lost territory. Similarly, Salahuddin Rabbani, the current chief of the Jamiat Party, remained silent on the Taliban’s occupation of the Arganjkhawa district in his home province of Badakhshan.