By Michela Ravarini
- The current report provides an independent analysis, assessment and recommendations about the Afghanistan current situation, from a geopolitical perspective and considering some malicious foreign interferences, after the Taliban (TB) takeover of Afghanistan (AFG), on August 15, 2021.
- Information are collected through open sources.
- According to the source, China (CHN) – Russia (RUS) -Iran (IRI) axis has expressed a uniform posture over the Taliban takeover, in line with their previous postures and wider strategy of hurting U.S. interests, pushing U.S., together with NATO, out of the Middle East region entirely:
- China (CHN), not directly answering about the official recognition of Taliban, stressed to be ready to develop ‘friendly and cooperative’ relations with neighboring Afghanistan, stating that ‘China will respect the choice of the Afghan people’. CHN has adopted during the years a dual policy in maintaining close ties with both the Taliban and the Afghan government, a convergence emerged recently on July 2021, and welcomed by Taliban. In particular, China had started maintaining close ties with Taliban in 1999, using its contacts with Pakistan to establish close ties with the Taliban in the hope that they would not allow East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants, which threatens the Chinese Xinjiang region, to infiltrate into the region. On their side, Taliban have sought China support for getting international legitimacy and aid.
- Russia (RUS) emphasized the current Taliban approach as ‘good, positive and business-like’ adding ‘peaceful and good and everything has calmed down in the city. The situation in Kabul now under the Taliban is better than it was under (President) Ashraf Ghani”. Russia, despite Taliban are still designated officially as terrorist organization since 2003, has hosted several rounds of talks in AFG, most recently in March 2021, maintaining in the last seven years contact with Taliban.
- Iran (IRI) confirmed its ‘efforts’ to restore stability in Afghanistan and, as a neighboring and brother nation, relaunched the narrative of ‘US military failure’ in Afghanistan as an opportunity to establish lasting peace in the country’. Iran policy before the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emerged as both destabilizer and, only apparently paradoxically, as economic contributor, opening last July 2020 two corridors into Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) route and the Iran-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan routes, corroborating the assumption of IRI main goal to enlarge its influence in the region for own interests, nourishing anti-Western sentiments, and then attempting to mitigate the success of the start of the intra Afghan peace process, a success built and achieved by US in 12 September 2020.
- According to source, since 2005, in response of AFG 2004 Constitution, Taliban issued the so-called ‘Order of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
- Abstracts of the documents appeared in open source in April 2020, and Taliban rejected their reliability as documents not belonging to the group not belonging to the group.
- Nevertheless, a brief comparison between the AFG Constitution signed in 2004 and the TB Order draft as available in open source, can give some interesting insights, emphasizing convergences and divergences, as following:
AFG CONSTITUTION 2004 TB ‘ORDER’ OF THE ISLAM EMIRATE OF AFG – DRAFT 2005 Acknowledgment of rights of liberty, presumption of innocence, due process of law, vote and run for elected office, freedom of expression, assembly, holding property, education for both men and women, access to health care, and work.
Prohibition of torture and forced confessions, protections against discrimination, and establishment of an independent human rights commission to promote these rights.
Acknowledgment of rights of presumption of innocence, prohibition of torture and forced confession, due process of law, legal representation, freedom of expression (within the limits of sharia), peaceful assembly, property, and work, as well as mandatory primary education (although it is not clear whether this right applies to girls). Right for Afghan men and women to vote and be elected for public office.
Explicitly recognizes that men and women have equal rights and duties before law
All of the government positions mentioned in the Taliban order are reserved for men.
Taliban document denies women fundamental rights on the same basis as men.
Education for women will be regulated through a separate “special law” within the limits of sharia.
AFG as Democratic system and government in which a popularly elected president is the head of State and Government. Afghanistan as an Islamic Emirate under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the self-designated Amir ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful).
He must be a male Muslim follower of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence (one of the four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence of Islamic law).
Bicameral National Assembly in which the lower house is directly elected and the upper house consists of a mix of indirectly elected and presidentially appointed senators.
Judiciary as an independent branch and laws are reviewed for their compatibility with the charter by the Supreme Court.
Single chamber called Islamic Council as the highest legislative organ, whose members are appointed by the Amir ul-Momineen based on their familiarity with the principles of jihad and sharia.
Judiciary as an independent branch and laws are reviewed for their compatibility with the Order charter, by the Islamic Council.
Islam as the State religion and requires that no law should conflict with its tenets and beliefs.
INNOVATION: the formal order of priority between sharia and statutory law was resolved in favor of the latter.
Islam as the State religion and requires that no law should conflict with its tenets and beliefs.
COUNTER-INNOVATION: the law-making process and arrangement of Afghan life shall be “regulated” by “customary law in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence.
- Despite the absence in open sources of indicators consistent with the reliability of the documents’ abstract, the mention to the Hanafi jurisprudence as leading the Taliban Islam interpretation was a factor underlined by TB during the negotiation in Doha last autumn 2020, and it was one of the obstacle during the negotiation development after 12 September 2020 (date of official start of negotiation process). This indicator could give some consistency to the reliability of the documents and therefore, give some indications to the possible next development of the TB takeover and the possible trend of the Government structure that they intend to build.
- If the next TB structure will be correspondent with these abstract documents (rejected by TB as not belonging to them) could provide indications showing the level of the reliability of TB assertions, and more generally about the reliability of their posture.
- AFG First Vice President AMRULLAH SALEH (through twitter 15:59 08/17/21), claimed that the escape of Pres. GHANI from AFG after TB takeover allows the First Vice President to act authorities according to the AFG Constitution, and on 18 Aug. 2018 a twitter account (reliability unknown) claimed Amrullah Saleh, along with Ahmad Massoud have taken the lead of Norther Alliance resistance forces in AFG Panjshir province, which is not under TB control.
- Despite the statement of First Vice President AMRULLAH SALEH the text of Constitution (at least in its English translation) does not seem allowing this interpretation, in strictu sensu.
- In fact, the art. 62 states: ‘In case of resignation, impeachment or death of the President, as well as an incurable illness impeding performance of duty, the First Vice-President shall assume authorities and duties of the President. The President shall personally tender resignation to the National Assembly. Affirmation of an incurable illness shall be verified by an authoritative medical team assigned by the Supreme Court. In such cases, elections for the new President shall be held within 3 months in accordance with Article 61 of the Constitution. The First Vice-President, in acting as interim President, shall not perform the following duties: 1. Amend the Constitution; 2. Dismiss ministers; 3. Call a referendum.’
- The escape of President is not considered an option for applying the article, even if the application of an analog extensive interpretation of the article, which is consistent with the rule of law, could align the Pres. GHANI flight as ‘implicit resignation’, therefore, juridical speaking, allowing the First Vice-President to act accordingly as interim President, assuming Constitutional authorities and duties.
- This juridical consideration could also allow International Community to political responding accordingly, founding their argument on legal consideration about the possibility to do not acknowledge the TB regime as ‘legal’ or legitimate.
- In case of the TB maintenance of power, this argument could give democratic Countries of International Community more opportunities for exercising power also in demanding and claiming for instance the respect of human rights, especially -but not only- for women and vulnerable people and groups, to date at high risk.
- Beyond the juridical consideration, GHANI escape, by himself claimed in the last hours as way to avoid bloodshed, de facto has prevented the democratic development, according to AFG laws, of the severe crisis and TB advancement, and culminated in their takeover.
- The rapidity of the AFG Government collapse, in only 11 days, together with this GHANI escape and the mentioned Constitutional indicator and impasse, could make more consistent a subtle agreement involving GHANI and TB for allowing them to establish their regime, having granted the absence of evident and clear Constitutional legal obstacles which could be invoked by the AFG Government members, as well as by the International Community.
- It is highly likely that TB will use the argument of having ‘allowed’ GHANI safe departure, suggesting both to AFG people as well as to International Community that their regime was a preferable pathway respect to what was the high risk of a new AFG civil war, and in doing so bolstering the narrative of their overall moderation and intent of peace and claimed absence of revenge.
- The shock created by the speed of the TB takeover and contextual surrender of AFG Army and AFG Government collapse, occurred simultaneously with an impressive disparaging and violent information campaign targeting in particular US, and NATO.
- This mix of factors, makes this TB takeover a peculiar shock, comparing it to other ones related to takeovers around the world in past times, with some peculiarities worthy to be considered and assessed.
- The current shock impacting on global population, affects in a particular timing of Covid-19 pandemic, which is in its ledge to mitigate in endemic in the next few months, according to the source.
- Therefore, the shock affects the global population in a delicate phase of the initial returning to a sort of ‘normal’ life, in which reconquering terrain and satisfaction for the vital and primordial needs of safety and freedom, necessary for the human evolution and the society progress;
- because of this particular phase, the event shakes, once again as already happened with the pandemic, the need for stability and security, generating a very high level of confusion and chaos, increasing the already existent psychological ground of frustration and anger, Covid-19 related;
- because of the Covid-19 pandemic a significant part of global population is likely not so capable and ready to critically elaborating massive data and massive information, so that the current AFG shock impacts more strongly, and likely the feelings pandemic-related are mixed with the TB takeover feelings, diminishing the ability to address clearly both the events and the violent disparaging information campaign against US especially, and NATO;
- the induced necessity to shift the attention from the pandemic to information related to terrorism, a topic in the last months absolutely marginal for the public opinion, when suddenly now became prevalent conquering a substantial absolute attention, generates a highly dangerous globally cognitive opening, which is one of the main critical factor in starting a radicalization process;
- the shock is even more impactful because of the contrast between the dramatic footage of AFG desperate people, images exploited by the hostile info campaign as asserted proof of US unreliability, in contrast with the apparent calm carefully strategically widespread by TB regime words, despite their violent takeover.
- Because of the peculiarities’ above mentioned the impact of the shock over the global population could be massive, and requires to address as soon as possible, as it is already happening in regard to the humanitarian impact of TB takeover on AFG population, the disparaging info campaign, which has several serious implications:
- for its highly likely goal to erode the perception of reliability especially of US, and as well of NATO
- for its potentiality in opening space for a quickly AFG population cooption into TB regime and subsequent radicalization of large part of AFG population, leveraging on their current feeling of fear, anger and frustration, channeled against US and as well NATO
- for its potentiality in opening cognitive spaces in people around the world, vulnerable because of the Covid-19 pandemic psychological effects, triggering new waves of foreign fighters terrorist (FFT) recruitments and galvanizing the FFT already returned in Western countries after the SYR conflict
- for its potentiality to reinvigorate the terrorism threats, galvanizing different terroristic organizations, included al-Qaeda, its affiliated movements and IS, both in the Western Countries and where they are already active (for instance Africa) also leveraging on the local unrests and political turmoil.
- It could take into account that the ongoing situation occurs also in a particular CHN sensitive timing:
- the end of the 90 days (end of August 2021) gave by US President to US Intelligence for finalizing the investigation about the origin of Sars-CoV-2 , origin that could be related to a CHN leak-lab scenario
- the increase tension in Taiwan Strait.
- It is highly likely that CHN, if it not backed the TB takeover, is using and will use the AFG situation as tool for spreading a supposed lack of US reliability, and in doing so trying to mitigate if not neutralize the Intelligence conclusion about CHN accountability and the possible scenario of a lab-leak Covid origin.
- CHN highly likely will use the same narrative of ‘US decline’ for undermining the potential US course of action related to Taiwan Strait protection, in an effort to degrade the US image, undermining the psychological confidence that Taiwan has toward US.
- On 17 Aug. 2021, TB spokesman ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID spoke at his first news conference in the attempt of reassuring world powers and AFG population and trying to portray TB as more moderate than when they imposed a strict form of Islamic rule in the late 1990s.
- Significant are some passages in the press conference during the journalists’ questions. ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID stressed, in a rare open expression of his feeling, ‘the sadness in looking so many young people without faith for the future’ and later he showed an increase tension and avoidance posture in addressing a question related to Foreign Fighters. Answering the question, he simply stressed that ‘the TB are not willing to host foreign fighters that can harm other countries’.
- The avoidance posture together with the previous emotional mention to the ‘young people without faith’, make particularly ambiguous and raise alarms about the TB intention related to foreign fighters, and could outline the TB intention and policy to target massively youth AFG as well as young people around the world, being available to host ‘foreign fighters’, if not for ‘officially harm other countries’, for developing the jihadist doctrine and assuring a long term TB power and goals, namely paving the way for their preparation in harming other countries.
- Significant in the press conference is also an answer to the question related to AFG women future and involvement in the public life. ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID mentioned, among the space in which women could find space, the prosecution field. The mention is highly worrisome because very likely aimed to implement the Sharia law and its disregard for women human rights, exactly through women involvement, for 1. showing to western world its supposed acceptance by the women and therefore its ‘legitimacy’ 2. fragmenting the AFG women cohesion around the freedom and democratic values built thanks to the US and NATO presence in AFG, and that likely, as already is in IRI, CHN and RUS, will be labelled as ‘western values’, therefore banned.
- Despite not mentioned, it could be possible the TB intention in forming women units within the TB law enforcement ranks, and in this sense could be oriented the TB call to women to join the group. Islamic State had formed a similar unit, al-Khansaa Brigade, known to be particularly cruel. Radical Extremist Women ‘legitimate’ groups as Sharia moral women policy could be a significant threat, for the particular women connection in Middle East society, and that for its high potential to further heavy violate AFG women’s human rights.
CONCLUSION AND RECCOMENDATIONS
- Because of the geopolitical implications of the TB takeover and for the contextual violent information anti-US, and as consequence anti-NATO, campaign, is unlikely that the current course of action in AFG is not the result of a coordinate efforts among CHN-IRI-RUS which could having used the TB and AFG as tool for destabilizing, with no weapons and therefore with no accountability and no evidence for supporting a unified response, both US and Western stability, underlining the critics against in particular US policy.
- Especially in the buffer time between the TB takeover and their claimed next ‘inclusive’ Government it should be recommended elaborate some actions as following briefly described, for showing an effective resilience response to the shock which led the AFG democratic development in collapsing into itself, and that is impacting on the geopolitical stability:
- avoiding the increase of polarization within the Western countries around who/what among them have to be blamed as major responsible factor/s in the current situation; this polarization highly likely could be counter-productive, diverting the attention and efforts from the urgent current need to counter the violent disinformation campaign aimed to fragment Western cohesion and create a gap not only between public opinion and Western policy in defense policies, but also between Western Army veterans and their institutions, especially US; if reflecting on the lessons learned is a duty and it is highly recommended, this timing unlikely is the best timing for doing it, where other are the top priorities;
- underlining the US readiness and response in dealing with what was described as humanitarian catastrophe, in the first hours after the TB takeover, while many other countries were still almost paralyzed because involved in the global shock;
- reinforcing a responsible full cohesion and convergent posture among NATO members, underlining their common aim, posture and next course of action, rather than internal differences;
- taking into account that some NATO members are linked with bilateral agreement with CHN-IRI-RUS and this could influence them in emphasizing internal NATO differences or assuming critical posture toward US;
- emphasizing how the discredit and violent info campaign shows nothing but the inconsistency of its actors’ policy, very likely CHN-RUS-IRI;
- underlining as critical criteria not negotiable toward TB the full respect of human rights and in particular women rights from a political stand point, also leveraging on the powerful wave of sensitivity on this topic by the public opinion, a promising signal which could show how the US-NATO gender perspective concept was implemented into the democratic Western society during the last years. This point is not secondary, because the demanding of human rights and women human rights respect, is a theme that sees aligned the public opinion with the Western democratic values and policy, while at contrary sees the complete absence on this topic by autocratic regimes (CHN-RUS-IRI), a factor -this absence- that should be brought more clearly to the light of public opinion;
- in addition, this convergence ‘public opinion-Western democratic countries’ on the women rights could allow to prevent specific movements, especially related to anarchic postures, in carrying out narratives spreading the public misperception that active role for freedom of the women in conflict zones is nourished and made possible only due of the antagonism against both the Islamic extremists as well as, paradoxically, also against the Western countries value. This paradox already occurred in other recent historical experiences, and it was built within the framework of so-called ‘anti-capitalistic’ narratives and movements, paving the way for creating new hotspots for anti-Western sentiments and therefore new areas of interest for autocratic entities and States, CHN for instance, able to find with them a common ground promoting so-called ‘socialistic values’ against what CHN defines ‘reckless capitalistic expansion’, and therefore against democratic values;
- underlining as critical criteria not negotiable also the full respect for the harmonious development of children and youth, males and females, as declared in the Convention on the Human Rights of the Child, and applying the Gender perspective, claiming the absence of TB policy toward children and youth aimed to their indoctrination and military training;
- implementing every activity (such as counter-terrorist propaganda, counter -radicalization on line, info sharing among Intelligence Communities, tracking and countering the trade of fake Covid-19 green pass vaccine document in the deep web, which could allow FFT circulation) to prevent an escalation of foreign fighters terrorist (FFT), also considering in this regard to discuss a United Nations specific update of previous UN Security Council Resolutions on this topic, requiring States to implement their legislation accordingly, in the light of the new AFG events and counter-terrorism warnings;
- monitoring and assessing the development in the posture of terroristic organizations, which seem oriented to paint themselves as ‘social focus oriented’, while maintaining the same core and jihadi goal and doctrine, highly likely to intercept a wider and more varied range of recruits. Example is the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, led in Syria by Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani which while claiming his group’s transformation (al-Nusra) from global jihadism to a local focus (after broke his bay’a, or oath of allegiance with al-Qaeda in 2016), has welcomed the TB takeover of Afghanistan, saying it hoped Syria’s jihadists would also be victorious;
- carefully assessing the balancing of interests between collective safety (Covid-19 related) and collective security, taking into account the ongoing vaccination campaign and the ongoing path toward an endemic Covid-19 trend, therefore considering to highly reduce, if not eliminate, the e-learning and remote working (which potentially are both fertile grounds for an easy on line radicalization targeting especially youth, because of the lack of social interaction in person that these instruments allows), and the wearing of masks (which are to date ‘legitimate’ tools potentially in advantage of malicious actors intents in carrying out terrorist attacks).