The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of foreign military occupation by the United States and NATO introduces further uncertainty in a region that has already been under decades of instability.
Inside Afghan territory, the question revolves around whether the new government will implement a regime of terror without rights for women and with strict compliance with Sharia in what they call the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan".
However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, at a surprising press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, sought to show a moderate face: he announced a general amnesty and said women's rights will be respected, amid powerful nations debating whether or not to recognize a regime that has not yet appointed its leader.
In this context, LPO interviewed journalist Ezekiel Kopel, specialized in the Middle East and author of two books ("The dispute for control of the Middle East" and "Middle East, a commonplace") in which he analyzes in detail that region of the world, its interests and disputes.
Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, Kopel said that "at first glance, something similar happened in the Suez Canal Crisis in the 50s, in which Nasser won without a fight. Technically, the Taliban defeated the U.S. or at least managed to build that idea. When they defeated the Soviet Union, look at everything that happened, you'll have to watch carefully now."
One of the issues being debated after the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul was the little resistance of the Afghan army to the jihadist advance. Kopel explained that "in 2014, 700 Isis militiamen took control of the capital, Mosul, against thousands of Iraqi soldiers. When air support in Iraq left, Isis no longer had anyone to deal with. Something similar happened here: when U.S. air support left, the Afghan army that was articulated on that support, automatically disarmed itself."
"The U.S. military would also have retreated without that air support, let's not just think of the Afghan army. That pillar was holding the Afghan military in place," he added.
The specialist recalled: "When the United States signed the cease-fire agreement with the Taliban, it was actually a U.S. withdrawal agreement and that gave the Taliban impetus to move forward."
"That agreement included a sort of political transition, but I think the Taliban never contemplated that. The political way out was never considered and they gained time. The Afghans realized this and everything began to fall apart. The Taliban also penetrated the army and the government."
A key point for the Taliban's future in power will be international support. Kopel maintained that "when they ruled before, it was only recognized by three countries: Pakistan, which is often suspected of sponsoring terrorism; the United Arab Emirates, which typically accommodates such cases; and Saudi Arabia, which has links with the Taliban, especially in the extremist interpretation of Islam. That was the initial stages of the end of that process. Iran went so far as to bring its troops to the border and even offered weapons to Bush (son) because they are staunch enemies of the Taliban."
"Now, the Taliban are doing their homework and are seeking international support, spending their time touring capitals and meeting with old enemies like China, where they were received by the Foreign Minister," he added.
In this regard, the journalist stressed that "the Taliban know that their future lies in the recognition of their neighbors who could quietly suffocate them by closing the borders. Everyone is thinking about the day after and they are settling in."
On the other hand, Ezequiel Kopel referred to the moderate version shown to the international press by official spokesmen: "With a series of public moderation actions, what they are looking for is to send a message to the world. Now there is a coming conflict that is the internal one between the moderate view of the leaders who are abroad and the commanders on the ground, who have a more extremist vision. They seem a little more mature knowing how they fell before."
On the future government, which still has no structure, he said that "the one leading this process will be the person who met with Mike Pompeo last year at the White House, who was imprisoned in Pakistan and released by order of the United States. That's a battle won now but eventually it's going to be put into discussion again." "If they achieve regional acceptance they are likely to show another face. Their internal rivals are calm, there is no opposition as shown in the 90s," he said.
Finally, Ezekiel Kopel analyzed the popular support of the Taliban within the population that, according to polls, is close to 20 percent. "A cohesive 20 percent group is important. Support for the government was higher. The Taliban is feared for its ruthlessness and that limits resistance."
"The Taliban have more people willing to die for it in unstable regions, where they start to provide a certain kind of order that ends up generating support," he added.
The scenario is divided: on the one hand, the Taliban define the structure of the government in the face of fear of the installation of a regime of terror, and on the other, the international scenario that seems to have China, Russia and the United States close to recognition, in the face of the condemnations from countries such as Germany and France. The future of what's to come in Afghanistan will be a result of that support.
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