From the rooftops, windows and streets this week, Afghans sang out “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater) and “long live Afghanistan.” Afghans messaged me, crying with joy and patriotism, that their nation was now fully united and supportive of the ANDSF. This moment of unity was something so many Afghans have worked for; this was the moment Afghan allies had been waiting for as well. It is hard to describe the feeling in Kabul, Herat, Nangahar and elsewhere in words, and I recommend you go to social media and watch the videos yourself. The Afghan outpouring of support flowed like electricity to the ANDSF in battle across the country. If General Marshall was right, that morale wins wars…this war ended this week.
The unifying events this week were in response to the Taliban breaking another of their Doha agreements, as they started to get close to major cities. After flailing about in Kandahar, the Taliban moved on Lashkar Gah in Helmand where they also met a buzz-saw of ANDSF warriors. When they moved on Herat, the Afghan people rose with their ANDSF guardians and fought the Taliban back out of town. The uprising in Herat was saluted by Herat citizens singing and calling out into the night—it inspired the entire nation. In Kabul and other cities, the following night the unifying rallies continued late into the morning, despite a bombing attack on the Minister of Defense’s guest house in Kabul.
Too Late for Compromise with the Taliban?
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA) is still the internationally recognized government. All 34 provinces of the country and major cities are under IRoA governance. The Taliban militia leadership and their terrorist network are still alive in Pakistan. The Taliban outpost for peace talks is still open in Doha Qatar, but many are now questioning the idea of talks at all, as the Afghans have gained the physical and mental edge on the battlefield. The Pakistani government has still not been sanctioned for terrorism support to the Taliban, and other known terrorist groups operating in the region. Meanwhile an Afghan Parliamentarian has introduced a global petition to bring heavy pressure on Pakistan to cease their support for the Taliban. This is happening as India, Pakistan’s arch rival, takes the lead in the UN Security Council.
Additionally, human rights organizations and leading embassies in Kabul have made public statements against the Taliban war crimes in the recent weeks. This signals to Pakistan, that the noose is tightening on them to stop their support for the Taliban and it signals to the Taliban that they are inching closer to terrorist backlisting. All of this may spell the end of the Doha peace process, something many Afghans have been against since the start. The Taliban in response to being beaten on the battlefield and now facing a nationwide Afghan uprising against them, have started to reduce their demands in Doha. I suspect the Taliban are too late in their compromises, as meager as they are. The violence and war crimes of the Taliban in 2021 have completely backfired on them at this point. Most Afghans would rather see all the Taliban hung than spend another minute in negotiations with them. This points to a bloody year ahead as the Taliban continue their terrorist attacks with no regard for civilian lives, and Afghans see little use in diplomacy.
RECENT ACTIVITIES IN AFGHANISTAN
President Ghani met with his national defense advisory panel this week to seek their advice and also announced he will be increasing the economic privileges of the ANDSF, especially combat forces. He also held a meeting of political and militia leaders from across the country where they unanimously declared their support for the ANDSF and to mobilize all Afghans to fight the Taliban. Religious leaders in the country continued to highlight the noble valor of the ANDSF while condemning the violence of the Taliban.
On the battlefield there have been ANDSF clearance operations in most provinces to remove the Taliban forces that have recently occupied many districts. Lashkar Gah, as mentioned, has seen heavy fighting and the government has sent fresh commando forces to support the efforts by the ANA and Air Force. U.S. airstrikes have continued to add to the number of dead Taliban found massing near key geographic locations. The DoD Spokesperson confirmed that U.S. Air support was continuing as promised to the Afghan government.
The NATO SCR, EU leadership, U.S., and other key diplomats have publicly pledged their full support for the ANDSF and discussed more funding and training opportunities. The Taliban may have hoped to drive off Afghan allies by their recent attacks, but it has only made nations less neutral as the hopes for diplomacy fall and the reality of the need for a full ANDSF victory over the Pakistani proxy forces emerge.
Some specific security events include:
- 25 Taliban terrorists killed and 18 wounded when ANDSF repelled Taliban attacks in Taloqan City of Takhar province.
- In just one day of the ongoing battle in Helmand, 65 terrorists including two Pakistani members of Al-Qaeda network were killed, including their key commander. In a later 24-hour period, another 54 Taliban terrorists were killed and 16 more injured.
- During one 24-hour period in Herat, 66 Taliban terrorists were killed and 13 injured by air strikes in the Anjel District.
- Mawlawi Anas, the Taliban shadow governor for Bamyan was killed along with 40 other insurgents by the Afghan Air Force in Samangan.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
The week’s unification moment cannot be undervalued by diplomats or the Taliban and Pakistan. To quote one Afghan Army Colonel “Kabul was shouting Allah U Akbar for the ANDSF tonight. For the first time in 40 years, Afghans from all walks of life are supporting and standing behind their security forces. When a nation stands, no enemy will prevail. Pakistan and Taliban must count their days!”
The Taliban have feebly tried this week to point out civilian casualties caused by the ANDSF in battle, but the ANDSF has been slow and cautious as they enter populated areas so the complaint has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the UN Security Council announced even more scrutiny of Taliban war crimes and called for them to decrease violence. Evidence has been trickling out of urban areas of Taliban setting up mines in homes and using civilians as human shields in combat. Taliban sources have also threatened and increase in bombings in cities across the country in violation of their diplomatic pledges.
Watch the UN and other diplomatic bodies this week for increased condemnation of the Taliban and increased support for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Also look for increased pressure on Pakistan to stop their various support mechanisms towards the Taliban. This is not the end of violence in Afghanistan, but it is the end of the illusion that Afghans will ever allow the Taliban to control the government, or maybe even a portion of it through compromise.
Historical evidence of these types of wars shows an almost 33% chance that the war on Afghans will end in one of these three ways.
- Afghans win
- A negotiated peace
- Taliban/Pakistan win
At this moment in time:
- Option C is gone due to the Afghan unity uprising.
- Option A is growing more likely daily.
- Option B was Taliban’s only chance to leave this war alive, but now it seems very unlikely.
As U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson noted yesterday, “From city to city, Afghans are uniting behind ANDSF soldiers.” The momentum in a war often has a tipping point. This war has had many; but I think this is the final change of momentum. Remember the chants from this first week of August in 2021, “Long Live Afghanistan” and “God is Greater.” Despite the Taliban ridiculously claiming copyright infringement against Afghan citizens who came out in the streets and screamed those words this week, they are the words written on Afghan hearts.