Tackling the Taliban: Civil Struggles vs. Armed Resistance
By Mohammad Noman Baber
In the beginning, when the Taliban regained power, some people thought that their control might weaken and eventually crumble. However, these thoughts have become less prominent after two years, and many who oppose the Taliban are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan.
When considering the opponents of the Taliban, they can be categorized into two main groups: the first group advocates for a civil struggle and direct negotiations with the Taliban, while the second group leans towards armed resistance against them. Despite each group having distinct viewpoints and justifications, the crucial focus lies in evaluating the outcomes and determining which approach is more effective.
In the present context, many former political leaders, along with political and civil activists are advocating for inter-Afghan dialogue and direct negotiations with the Taliban. Their focus is on resolving differences through peaceful talks and discussions. However, there are also leaders who have opted for a different approach. They have chosen the path of armed resistance, forming groups to combat the Taliban.
The resistance fronts strongly believe that the Taliban has not shown any signs of positive change. Instead, they view the Taliban as becoming even more brutal than before. The groups highlight the Taliban's repeated violations of human rights, particularly the case of women’s rights, which has led to a significant decline in societal freedoms. In their view, given the current circumstances, the only viable option is to engage in armed resistance against the Taliban. This is because they perceive the Taliban as being entrenched in a cycle of conflict and violence, leaving no alternative but to confront them militarily.
Recently the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published a report that shows the formation of approximately 21 armed groups who are trying to confront the Taliban. Despite sharing a common enemy, these groups have independently taken up arms against the Taliban, highlighting a notable absence of solidarity and cooperation among them. Interestingly, these groups have yet to secure support from the international community. This is because the international community believes that the world has changed and Afghanistan needs constructive inter-Afghan dialogue rather than armed conflict.
Although the Taliban controls all regions of Afghanistan, it is noteworthy that we still witness demonstrations led by brave Afghan women in major cities. These demonstrations symbolize the ongoing civil movements within the country. Remarkably, these efforts have bound both the international community and neighboring countries to put pressure on, and urge, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to implement internal reforms and uphold human rights standards.
Even though the Taliban remains unresponsive to both the requests of the people and international communities, political and civil activists remain hopeful. They believe that persisting in their nonviolent civic activities can eventually yield influence over Afghanistan's internal policies and with the support of the international community, they aspire to exert pressure on the highest levels of the Taliban’s leadership.
This strategy hinges on the recognition that the Taliban's governing structure is hierarchical (top to bottom), wherein decisions and decrees come from the uppermost levels of the leadership, more specifically from the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Achieving significant changes and reforms necessitates targeting this leadership structure. Qatar has been the official host of the Taliban office for several years, and significant negotiations between the Taliban and the United States have taken place in Doha, Qatar. This indicates that Qatar maintains a relationship with the Taliban leadership and holds the capability to influence them. Therefore, it can be inferred that to gain substantial influence over the Taliban, Qatar's cooperation is essential. The Qataris could serve as mediators in this situation, leveraging their influence to help achieve the desired goals and outcomes.
Afghanistan's recent history witnessed consistent conflicts and civil wars between opposing groups who competed for power. From Dawood Khan's coup against Zahir Shah to the recent re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, armed conflicts and coups have repeatedly led to the overthrow of governments, followed by the rise of new administrations.
The modern history of Afghanistan offers a crucial lesson to be learned: governments that attain power through the use of force and conflicts often struggle to uphold stability and instead they have met a fate similar to the governments that preceded them. These forceful overthrows have always led to a cycle of short-term governance, as they have eventually been forcibly overthrown by opposing groups through armed conflicts.
Although armed resistance can swiftly weaken governments and seize power, it often comes at a great cost and can lead to instability. On the other hand, civil struggles that rely on negotiations and non-violent resistance might take longer time, but history has shown that governments attained through such means tend to be more lasting and stable. These governments have a better chance of forming connections with the people and establishing a strong foundation of support.
Hence, the examples of countries like India, South Africa, and many others provide strong evidence that governments which have arisen through non-violent civic movements and national support have been effective in maintaining stability and achieving lasting peace and tranquility within the country.
To address Afghanistan's current challenges and to achieve enduring peace, the most effective path is through civic movements and peaceful negotiations among Afghans themselves. Relying on non-violent methods and engaging in inter-Afghan dialogue is the key. It's crucial to recognize that the option of armed resistance will only result in more human suffering and a repetition of past mistakes, without leading to lasting peace.
Mohammad Noman Baber, is currently pursuing a degree in Political Science at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He has been an executive committee member of the Association of Private Schools in Afghanistan. His experiences reflect a blend of academic pursuit, advocacy, and a commitment to sharing insights on crucial issues.
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The article does not reflect the official opinion of the AISS.