Afghanistan, Taliban & the Question of Legitimacy?

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In the prevailing situation, several factors are significant when it comes to the Taliban and their regime. So far, the Taliban have tried hard to get worldwide acceptance and recognition. Designation as a militant organization by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and many other organizations and countries including the United States (U.S.), the United Nations (UN), and many other human rights activists in the wake of the events in Afghanistan has induced complexities vis-à-vis the recognition. They maintained a coordinated silence and, finally, an expression of regret that was not on the scale of the Afghan crisis. Questions arise here as to what the task of this legitimacy is and, more importantly, why the Taliban seek legitimacy? While its behavior has not been based on the approval of others. The answer to this question goes back to understanding the tradition of governance in Afghanistan. Throughout history, no actor in Afghanistan has ever gained legitimacy from any country, and the actors have always been able to gain power with the support of one or more foreign actors, and the Taliban is no exception. In the 1990s, the Afghan Taliban tried hard to force other countries to accept their government because in the mentality of the Afghan society, being recognized and entering the regional game and internationalization is part of the legitimacy of that structure. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the two countries that formally recognized them.

In the last decades, Afghans have witnessed a renaissance in their country which started in 2001, the influx Afghan migrants to other countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The Afghans experienced living in other countries under new rules and norms. Many of the migrants got higher education increasing the number of educated people in the country. More than 50,000 scholarship were made available to Afghan students in Pakistan, India, Central Asia, Russia, Iran and other countries. The understanding that the Taliban have moved in a direction where the government should be acceptable to the people is a need for new demand, but the acceptance of ethnic leaders and a religiously spearheaded government has never happened in the past. In the last 20 years, imperfect governance has taken shape in Afghanistan, foreign forces have been deployed and Afghanistan’s densely populated cities have evolved differently as compared to the 1990s Taliban-regime.

The Taliban came to power in the 1990s as the Afshari crisis between Gullbadin Hekmatyar and the military was suppressed and large numbers of people were killed. According to statistics, almost one-half of the country’s population was outside Afghanistan but only a-third of Afghanistan’s population resides in the country where other places are impassable, mountainous and uninhabited. And when it was said that the Taliban controlled 54% of Afghanistan, it was an uninhabited part, not the provincial capitals, so it did not and still does not have the new living experience, communication and understanding of the new needs of the people of Afghanistan today. The institutional crisis prevailing in Afghanistan needs tailored approaches and mechanisms to be devised under the current circumstances – the Taliban do not have the capacity to run many of the civil sectors. The foreign international workforce remains reluctant to work in the country, is unpaid and depends on the presence of foreign forces – and aid – to operate.

The Taliban inevitably have to accept the previous institutions because the lives of people in the big cities depend on government institutions and if they do not do so, they will face civil resistance. The Taliban also learned after a few incidents in several cities that they were dealing with a new Afghanistan. First, in Kandahar, the first religious resistance took place in a Sunni and Pashtun area indicating the people have adopted a much progressive approach negating the fact that Sunni and Pashtuns will necessarily support the Taliban. Second, the Taliban literature on the type of government is not acceptable. Third is the view of Pakistan and China – as long as they side with the Taliban, there will be part of social management and control. Another thing about the Taliban rule is that they fear a kind of future reaction which Iran and Russia would hold towards the country’s new regime.

If, for instance, we accept that Afghanistan’s security and political neighbors, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are not the main actors in decision-making process of the country but Russia is the main player then the silence Russia is critical at the moment. In Afghanistan, the silence of these two actors (Iran and Russia) is becoming more prominent, which has also attracted the attention of the Taliban, China and Pakistan. The point of legitimacy also becomes questionable if revenue generation mechanism to the Taliban is analyzed in retrospect. In their first era, the Taliban generated revenue through transit of smuggled goods and drugs, cooperation with the warlords, extortion, sales of mines and reservoirs to foreign countries and foreign aid. In case of repetition, it is highly doubted that the Taliban would be able to get recognition as a legitimate government.

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