Today, I once again spoke with Hizbullah Khan, an Afghan security analyst and journalist, who remains in Kabul. We recorded our first discussion on the 17th of August, only a day after the Taliban took control of Kabul where we discussed how we got to where we are now (you can access that episode here). Today, we spoke about the current situation and what the future might hold for the people of Afghanistan.
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Hizbullah Khan – On The Current Situation And The Future Of Afghanistan
In this episode, I’m once again speaking with Hizbullah, an Afghan Security Analyst and Journalist who remains in Kabul. We did our first discussion on the 17th of August 2021, only a day after the Taliban took control of Kabul, where we discussed how we got to where we are. Now, we’ll be talking about the current situation and, perhaps, most importantly, what the future holds for the people of Afghanistan. Hizbullah, thank you for joining me once again.
Thank you for giving me one more opportunity to share the realities of Afghanistan with you.
I know that even your own security situation still remains questionable. I thank you for talking to me once again. Maybe we can start if you can give us a quick understanding of what is happening on the ground at the moment. How do you feel? How safe is it? What is the general sentiment of the people in Kabul?
There are almost fifteen lakh people who were working in the previous administration. Every member is suffering from harsh troubles because they feel insecure. They are receiving threats. They are skipping from one place to another place. They are feeling that they would be killed abruptly if the Taliban captured them.
Can you confirm who you mean? I missed the start, and I’m not sure if I understood. Who are you referring to?
Every member, the fifteen lakh people who worked in the previous administration with the Ramiz administration. Every member who worked with the previous administration is suffering from very harsh tragedies. They are insecure. They have the intention to flee Afghanistan as soon as possible. In the same situation, they are changing their places in order to protect their lives. They are receiving threats. The Taliban is still going to their homes in order to find them and take revenge on them, particularly the women rights activists and journalists who work with international media.
The members of the last administration actively played their role against the Taliban, particularly the Afghan Army members, were brave. They were fighting in various parts of Afghanistan against the Taliban. The Taliban knows these members. They know their homes. They know their tribes. They are in a very bad situation.
Everyone has left their home. They are trying to flee Afghanistan as soon as possible because they feel that they will be killed by the Taliban after they are captured. The situation, on the other side, if you see Kabul or the entire Afghanistan, the whole of Afghanistan is closed. There are 50 universities. They all are closed. The whole agriculture system is closed. The whole banks in Afghanistan are closed. There are so many people who have money in their accounts but are unable to take out their money from the banks.
There is great inflation in Kabul and other parts. The prices are hiking in Afghanistan, almost double. In a similar way, if you see Kabul, Kabul was the most developed city in this region. The women were wearing jeans. The women were very stylish and modernised. This time, you cannot see a single woman in the city of Kabul. If you see, they are wearing the burqa and other clothes, which the Taliban like.
You’re saying that’s already happening?
Yes. It is not the figure of NGOs and institutions. It’s my personal figure. More than twenty lakh Afghan women lost their jobs. Tens of thousands of Afghan female students studying in various parts of Afghanistan universities can’t go to their universities. This is the condition. The second situation that is also very troubling is the international community and countries are providing resources to those that work as an interpreter for them and that work with their Army and projects. They have limited their humanity and sympathy with these people.
On the other hand, journalists, Army personnel, women rights activist, and people who played a very significant role in the previous administration, particularly against the Taliban, are receiving more threats than those who work with foreign projects. They should provide results to those as well. These people are counting the moments of their life. They are waiting for their murder. The international community should not limit its humanity to those people. They should provide opportunities to journalists and women’s rights activists as well. In order to secure their lives, they need the help of the international community.The international community should not limit its humanity to those people. They should provide opportunities to journalists and women's rights activists as well. Click To Tweet
Can I confirm how I’m hearing what you’re saying? At this moment, it looks like Afghanistan is frozen in time. Everything has stopped. Universities have stopped. Banks are closed. People can’t get their money. Inflation is rife with prices doubling. You mentioned that a lot of the people that have worked for the former government are in hiding or they’re changing places from one to the other. Has there been any confirmed violence against them? Why I’m asking is that the Taliban leadership has promised amnesty and keeps saying that amnesty will be given and is being afforded. We are hearing mixed reports. From your understanding on the ground, to what extent is that amnesty being afforded to the people on the ground?
The Taliban spokesman has said in his press conference in Kabul that they have given amnesty to haul opponents. On the ground, the situation is very different. We saw the video of the Baathist commando killed by the Taliban. He was the commando in Baathist fighting against the Taliban. We have been saying that the journalists are receiving threats, and there are raids on their homes. Their families are in very bad situations.
There is no amnesty. Everyone is in a situation where they don’t have any hope of life. They keep on changing their places. The Taliban, on one side, are saying that they have given amnesty to their opponents. On the other side, their members are finding and going to their opponent’s home in order to find them and kill them.
You know that people are getting killed.
There are reports. TIME has published one report. In it, he said that almost 1,000 people in Kandahar and the adjacent areas of Kandahar were killed. In other parts, we have been seeing the videos where they were massacred by the terrorists. This is reality.
That’s why I like speaking with you because you are on the ground. Oftentimes, the reporters from the West don’t necessarily have the feel of the situation on the ground. It’s important to hear your voice as well about this, particularly that the violence is ongoing at the moment. You also mentioned that women and girls are already covered up in Kabul. That’s something that we haven’t heard much about, or at least I haven’t, in the Western media. Let’s maybe focus on the actual Taliban and the likely formation of a government. What do you think is happening? Have there been any talks about a government or any plans on forming a Taliban government?
The negotiation is underway in Kabul between the Taliban and the ex-president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Their constant meetings are going on. Every day, they are holding their meetings in Kabul in order to form a government. The situation is so complex, particularly after the Taliban captured Kabul. Continuously, they told that they would make an inclusive government in Afghanistan, but after seizing Kabul, they changed their stance. They are saying that they seize the whole of Afghanistan by force and that it is their own right to reconstitute their own extreme regime.
Hamid Karzai and others like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdullah Abdullah are negotiating with them. They are emphasising them to form an inclusive government in which everyone consisting all the elders of every ethnicity and elders of every tribe and every province. The negotiations have failed because the Taliban wants a complete monopoly over the power. On the other side, the negotiator wants that the Taliban should fulfil their promise and make an inclusive government.
To what extent do you think that that’s likely to occur? With the mediation that’s ongoing at the moment, what is your prediction as to which way it’s going to go? Is it the monopoly side of Taliban power or the hope of some level of inclusive governance?
It is the dream of the Taliban. They have intentions to reconstitute a government based on just the Taliban. They also have one more intention to make another system and implement another system. It is the two intentions of the Taliban. That kind of government cannot exist in Afghanistan because, if you see it, the Taliban don’t have any experts in their line. A government and institutions need experts like political scientists, sociologists, doctors, engineers, psychologists, and experts from every walk of life. There are even no Master’s degree holders along the lines of the Taliban. They can’t run a government or a system that they will implement in Afghanistan.A government and institutions need experts like political scientists, sociologists, doctors, engineers, psychologists, and experts from every walk of life. Click To Tweet
The government or the system, if they sustain the systems, that kind of government could exist. That kind of government will prevent tragedies in Afghanistan. The members of the Taliban are 50,000 and 60,000. The administration has fifteen lakh members that are working in various departments like agriculture, universities, municipalities, and other departments like hospitals.
If you don’t have any doctors, how can you run thousands of hospitals around Afghanistan? If you don’t have a single professor in your line, how can you run around 50 to 60 universities in Afghanistan? If you don’t have a single engineer in your line, how can you run and develop the infrastructure of Afghanistan? If you deprive fifteen lakh members of their jobs and duties, it will increase the economic crisis. It will emerge an economic crisis in Afghanistan. They don’t have any other source of economy or any other source of ending. That kind of government will create a catastrophe and boost another civil war.
The point you’re making is that the issue is that the Taliban is seeking a monopoly of power in Afghanistan at the moment, while those who are mediating, like Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, are asking them to have an inclusive governance. The issue you are highlighting is that the Taliban has no institutional knowledge or sufficiently qualified people amongst their ranks to run the country.
How likely do you think it is that the Taliban realises this and therefore allows inclusive governance to an extent, at least so far as allowing the 2 million-plus who have been working for the previous government to get back to their positions to run the country? They might have the monopoly or run a theocracy, but the people who then go about the day-to-day managing of government are those who worked in the previous administration. How likely do you think that is?
The Taliban want a complete monopoly on the government. They are thinking as well. The previous time, they had a monopoly as well. They joined Afghanistan for five years. There were lots of trouble, suffering, and crisis in their government. The Afghan economy completely collapsed in the previous term. More than millions of people left Afghanistan due to the economic crisis. There was peace, but people were living in Afghanistan due to the economic crisis.
The previous time the Taliban failed to run the country, they didn’t make a single institution. They didn’t make any developments around Afghanistan. They didn’t even make a single university across Afghanistan in their previous five years regime. They know that they are unable and that they don’t have the capacity to run the entire institution and the entire country of Afghanistan. They need the skills, capacities, and abilities of the previous administration’s workers. Even the Taliban invited Ashraf Ghani and Sale as well to work under our government because they needed these people.
On the other side, they want a complete monopoly. They say, “You work with us in the educational institution and university, but the chancellor of the university would be Talib.” They told the people that work with us in the banks and the economic department, “The security would be Talib.” No one will be ready under the wise chancellor.
The Talib who didn’t take schools in their entire career, how can that kind of Talib run a Kabul University or Herat University where almost 50,000 people are studying? The negotiator is negotiating with these people and mediating, “You have the right of 50% key post, but you should work in the area where you have the capacity.” The Taliban also understand that if they ignore the previous administration’s workers, they would start. Around two million people worked with the previous administration. If they deprive these people of their jobs and duties naturally and abruptly, there will be an economic crisis within Afghanistan.
These people around Afghanistan protest in resistance against the Taliban. If the Taliban ignore an inclusive government, if they ignore Tajik-Uzbek-Azer from their political participation, if they don’t even give them space, there will be a huge resistance across Afghanistan. Three districts were liberated from the Taliban in the Baghlan Province. Around 60 Taliban were killed by those resistors. Around 300 Taliban were killed by Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Shah Massoud’s militias. There is a huge resistance in the Taliban. They also know the fact as well that they can’t have a system where they have a complete monopoly.
In the previous years and their previous regime, there was a big resistance in northern areas. This resistance will increase in other areas as well. In the whole northern areas, people will join this resistance if the Taliban wants to make a system where there are complete monopolies under their hands. The thing is that the previous system failed because the regime was based just on the Taliban. They know that even the Taliban government, which is based on the Taliban, isn’t possible. This kind of government cannot run with poor members.
On that resistance point that you made, that’s an interesting one because we are hearing reports of Ahmad Massoud and the resistance fighters in the Panjshir Valley. To what extent do you think that this is a genuine resistance that has some potential of resisting Taliban influence in governance? Is this more to set up better negotiation positions? How credible do you think the resistance is?
It’s a very valid resistance because the people wanted resistance against the Taliban, even in the administration of Ashraf Ghani. At that time, they were confident in the Afghan Military. They understood that Afghan Military and forces are capable to protect the entire Afghanistan from the Taliban. The entire scenario changed within 4 and 5 days. The Taliban reached Kabul. The people of Afghanistan didn’t get any time to resist the Taliban.
When the Taliban reached Kabul, the people are thinking that even the Taliban regime, the people saw their richness and their qualities. You see in the cities, provinces, and areas, they have continued very harsh cruelties on the Afghans. Even after the second day, the woman started resistance and protests against the Taliban in Kabul. On the 3rd day around, there were protests in the five provinces of Afghanistan. No one is ready for a terroristic Taliban government.
Amrullah Saleh, Ahmad Massoud, and the whole Afghans request the Taliban to make an inclusive and democratic government. There is a big history behind this scenario. No government in Afghanistan has succeeded that is based on dictatorship or based on the idea of a terroristic system. The minds of Afghans are completely changed. They have a democratic society. They have a democratic mindset. Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud have basic demands for the Taliban that make an inclusive and democratic government. The Taliban don’t want an election in Afghanistan. They know they can’t win the elections.No government in Afghanistan has succeeded that is based on dictatorship or based on the idea of a terroristic system. Click To Tweet
A couple of years ago, Asia Foundation arranged one survey in Afghanistan where they found a figure that 92% of Afghans supported the Ashraf Ghani administration and 4% of Afghans supported the Taliban government. The Taliban are interested to demolish Afghan sinners. They want to demolish the Afghan national assembly and take out the entire power from them. They are saying that it is the responsibility of their president that the policy-making and decision-making body should be exercised by their Army. The Afghans are not ready for that system.
They demand from the Taliban that there should be democratic institutions and there should be elections after every five years. It is on the Afghans, whoever they select for themselves. On the other side, the Taliban know they can’t. They don’t have any roots in the Afghans. They don’t have any support from Afghans, so they want parliament designations.
It’s one way to retain power. I’m conscious of the time and also of your own pressures as well. Maybe we can bring this one to a close. What do you think is the most dangerous case scenario, what do you think is the best-case scenario, and then what do you think is the most likely case scenario going forward?
There is no possibility of a good scenario because the Taliban are so confident after capturing the entire Afghanistan within one week. They are saying that they defeated the British Empire. They defeated USSR. They defeated the US within one century. This resistance is nothing for them like the resistance of Ahmad Massoud. They are proud. They even don’t think about this resistance.
If they don’t think about this resistance, the ultimate options and the ultimate scenario is a civil war and a huge resistance against the Taliban in entire Afghanistan. There are two scenarios. In one scenario, the Taliban believe and understand they don’t have any support in Afghanistan. They want parliament key post designations and an Ulema Council that exercises the power of the entire Afghanistan. It is the only policy and decision-making body in Afghanistan.
On the other side, the Afghans believe that they want the Senate. They want elections. They want that the National Assembly and Senate should make policies and decisions for Afghans. On the other side, the Taliban believe that they can’t win elections. On the other side, the Afghans are not ready to accept the Taliban’s intentions.
There will be no good scenario because the Taliban is not ready for the demands of Afghans. On the other side, Afghans are not ready for the intentions or the manipulations of the Taliban’s power. With the negotiations, which are underway in Kabul, we are saying that the past couple of years’ negotiations failed. In this negotiation also, we are saying, “This will fail.” In that case, there will be civil war and great resistance against the Taliban.
Those are hard words, but I can certainly understand where you’re coming from. Thank you very much again for your time. I’m sure we’ll speak again because getting your insights and your analysis is useful. Thank you very much for your time once again. We’ll speak soon.