The geographical position of Afghanistan predetermined its strategic importance for tsarist Russia: after the conquest of Central Asia, only Afghanistan separated Russia from British India. In the second half of the 19th century, the country almost became the cause of an open conflict between the Russian and British empires. Soviet influence in the country gradually grew, especially after the collapse of the British colonial empire and the withdrawal of the British from the region. In particular, the Afghan government could not openly ban the anti-monarchist and Marxist People’s Democratic Party, and its influence spread to the population and the army. And in April 1978, members of the party successfully staged a coup. The new government promised to raise the standard of living, carry out land reform in favor of the peasants, strengthen the public sector of the economy, equalize women in rights, and democratize political life. However, the authorities made a mistake of ignoring the traditionally significant role played by the Islamic clergy, thus turning them against themselves.
In the 1980s, the war, which began initially as civil, gradually acquired an increasingly fierce, and most importantly, international character. According to Desk (2011, 4 May), “the USSR invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 24 to bolster the faltering communist regime” (pp. 19). Not only Afghanistan’s neighbors, Pakistan and Iran, but also the United States, which supported the armed Islamic opposition, were rapidly drawn into the war. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in 1989, the war continued to overthrow the communist-backed government. Since 1992, after the Mujahedeen came to power in Kabul, the war flared up with renewed vigor. The winners divided power, and the whole country actually split, giving rise to a hitherto unseen splash of interethnic contradictions and conflicts. The Afghan conflict began to metastasize to other regions. Pakistan paid greatly for their support of the Islamic armed opposition, having received the rise of religious extremism: first in the neighborhood, and then in its internal territories.
Then there was September 11, 2001, which resulted in the military operation of the United States and NATO countries. After the overthrow of the Taliban regime and the ensuing a short-term silence, coupled with hopes for the long-awaited peace, the war began to gradually enter another circle. The Taliban again took up arms, and the negotiations with them led to nowhere. Professor Crews in Politics Podcast (30 August 2021) stated that “The American counterterrorism campaign enabled the Taliban to re-establish their ranks and regrow in the countryside” (06:04 – 6:13). As in 2014 Barack Obama announced the plan for the gradual withdrawal of most of the American troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban subsequently tried to disrupt the political situation in the country.
Mullodjanov (27 August 2021) states that “the Taliban leadership in recent years has been able to form an extremely effective propaganda system, borrowing much of the methodology and approaches of ISIS” (pp. 30). The terrorists, taking advantage of the weakening of the central government in Kabul and the outflow of Western forces, went on the offensive and even briefly captured Kunduz. Barack Obama had to suspend the withdrawal of American troops. Thus, in 2016, the Taliban launched a massive attack in Helmand province, capturing several major cities and key population centers. In addition, a new player stepped up in Afghanistan – Vilayat Khorasan, the local branch of ISIS that opposed the Taliban.
In 2017, despite all previous statements about the inadmissibility of agreements with terrorists, the United States sat down at the negotiating table with Taliban representatives in Qatar. The Taliban have asked for the withdrawal of American troops in exchange for their refusal to cooperate with other Islamist groups in Afghanistan. By mid-2020, forecasts of how long the Afghan government, left without American military support, would hold out, was constantly changing towards the worse: from several months to a week. After three years of U.S. withdrawing their troops, the Taliban successfully overtook the Afghan government from the inside, which allowed them to conquer the country today.
Desk, News. “A Historical Timeline of Afghanistan.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 2011. Web.
Druke, Galen. “Politics Podcast: What the Chaotic End of the War in Afghanistan Means For Biden.” FiveThirtyEight. 2021. Web.
Mullodjanov, Parviz. “The Taliban’s Rise to Power: Key Reasons and Success Factors.” CABAR.asia, 2021. Web.