The U.S. is retreating and the Taliban is growing: thousands of Afghans are forced to flee their homes

Taliban extremists, who have been strengthening positions in recent days, say they already control 85 percent. Territories of Afghanistan. The government in Kabul denies this, however, an air defense system was installed at the capital’s airport to protect it from missiles.

Despite the escalation, the U.S. will complete a 20-year military mission in Afghanistan next month. In early July, American forces quietly left Bagram Air Base without warning even the new commander of the Afghan army.

In addition to the Americans, forces from other Western countries are also withdrawing from Afghanistan – the last Lithuanian soldiers returned home at the end of June.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Fox News on Sunday that the US was “concerned” about the situation in Afghanistan: “This is a time for Afghan government forces to take action and defend their country. This is a moment of responsibility. ”

Egdūnas Račius, a professor at Vytautas Magnus University and a religious researcher, assures that the fact that the Taliban is occupying more and more territories is related to the withdrawal of Western forces – the Taliban have been waiting for this opportunity.

“The Taliban has a very wide range of support, and support for those areas is perfectly logical, legal, because the locals often see the Taliban as an alternative to the situation they have found themselves in for the past 20 years.

In other words, in reality, the Taliban are not hijacking territories, they are just returning to where they have a lot of support. ” 15min professor.

According to Račius, tensions and military conflicts may arise in northern Afghanistan, where the Taliban is not supported.

“It is possible to return to the situation that existed before 2001, when the southern, eastern, central parts were controlled by the Taliban, and the government, as long as they remained, would be oppressed and settled in the north,” he added.

The rise of the Taliban is worrying for some Afghans and observers. Amnesty International, a human rights organization, says the hard-won progress of women and girls over two decades is at stake.

The organization points out that during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, Afghans were not allowed to work, appear in public without a relative’s husband. They were denied access to education, and access to health care was restricted. Similar bans now apply to Taliban-controlled areas, Amnesty International said.

Afghan officials are urging Afghans to “take matters into their own hands” and join the armed struggle with the Taliban. It is said that local support to the Afghan security forces has already helped in some areas.

Madiha Afzal, a regional expert at the Brookings Institute, believes the most likely scenario is that the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces will move to provincial capitals. However, this does not necessarily mean that the Taliban will inevitably take power.

AFP / Scanpix photo / Afghans arm themselves against the Taliban

The analyst predicts that there will be bloodshed in Afghanistan in the medium term. “It takes a lot of courage to be there alone, to keep working. For women journalists in particular, so many have been attacked in recent months. Going to school can mean you won’t go home, “Afzal told Vox.

Is the refugee crisis maturing?

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned last month that a new influx of migrants should be expected when foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, several EU countries agreed to shelter Afghans who had worked with foreign forces and were at risk of revenge by the Taliban.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that 56,000 people have had to leave their homes in northern Afghanistan in recent days. people. In 2021, more than 205 thousand people have already moved within the country. people.

After 1,000 Afghan security forces fled to neighboring Tajikistan last week, the country’s president sent 20,000 troops to the border. army reservists.

Nearly 3 million people are currently registered worldwide. refugees, in other words, 1 in 10 refugees is Afghan.

Michael Kugelman of The Wilson Center writes in the Foreign Policy portal that the next crisis in Afghanistan could be extremely acute: its components are growing insurgents, terrorist violence, the withdrawal of US forces, the declining peace process and extreme dry conditions.

According to Kugelman, those fleeing Afghanistan are likely to collapse in Pakistan and Iran. True, the governments of these countries have sought to deport Afghans for economic and security reasons in recent years.


AFP / “Scanpix” nuotr./Vaikai Kabule

Europe is becoming an increasingly frequent destination for Afghan refugees via the Mediterranean, but EU countries have also deported thousands of Afghans.

Račius says that Afghans who have collaborated with foreign forces are under threat: “They will most likely be dealt with – the Taliban justice is very fast and brutal.”

However, ordinary citizens who do not engage in politics are unlikely to suffer physical consequences, even if they are not close to the Taliban, the professor points out.

“It is very high that we will see another wave of people leaving Afghanistan. However, history shows that most of them live in neighboring countries – Iran and Pakistan, where they have relatives and linguistic ethnic proximity. <...> Will they seek access to Europe? I wouldn’t be so sure, ” 15min said E. Račius.

As violence escalated, Afghanistan called on European countries to suspend forced deportations of Afghans for three months.

Negotiations frozen

The U.S., led by Donald Trump, signed a peace deal with the Taliban in early 2020. It was agreed to reduce violence, withdraw foreign forces from Afghanistan, start negotiations with the government in Kabul and prevent the country from becoming a haven for terrorists again.

Račius points out that formally negotiations are still ongoing between the Taliban and the government led by Ashraf Ghani.

J.Petronio nuotr./Egdūnas Račius

J.Petronio nuotr./Egdūnas Račius

“It is worth noting whether the Taliban will be inclined to share power, to be forgiving of Ghani and the previous Karzai government,” he said.

According to the professor, Ghana’s government should be seen by the Taliban as collaborators with the US forces. However, E. Račius draws attention to the complex structure of Afghan society.

“It is primarily a tribal society, tribal confederations pursue national policies. However, competing Pashtun tribal confederations feel some respect for each other.

“Some people can be identified as those who can be dealt with, and others cannot, otherwise the vendetta will be waiting,” he said, adding that Ghani and former President Hamid Karzai belong to one of the confederations.

Pashtuns are the largest of the 14 ethnic groups in Afghanistan, accounting for 42 percent. populations.

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