“An insecure Afghanistan has not only dangerous implications for the region but also the whole world. The 9/11 attacks proved it,” Shamroz Khan Masjidi, an Afghan political analyst, told DW.
Afghanistan has been unstable and insecure for decades, but the Taliban’s capture of power last August has had the entire region hanging by a thread. The war-ravaged country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which, according to many experts, could turn into another violent conflict.
Yet, the international community, overwhelmed by the Ukraine crisis, seems to have “forgotten” about Afghanistan. The relatively small amount of attention they paid to the dire situation in Afghanistan at this year’s Munich Security Conference makes it clear.
US Senator Lindsey Graham summarized the issue on Saturday by saying at a Munich panel on Afghanistan that what happens in Afghanistan in the coming days won’t be as consequential as what might happen in Ukraine.
How to deal with the Taliban?
But Afghans are already suffering the consequences of the “rushed” US withdrawal from Afghanistan — the most pressing being poverty and unemployment.
According to Mahbouba Seraj, an Afghan journalist and women’s rights activist, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan cannot be resolved through humanitarian aid alone.
“A gushing wound cannot be treated with a Band-Aid,” she said during the Munich Security Conference panel “Afghan aftershocks: From ashes to ashes,” adding that Afghanistan’s economy needs to be improved so that Afghans can be brought out of poverty.
But to lift Afghanistan’s economy, the international community needs to engage with the Taliban.
Hannah Neumann, a German member of European Parliament, told DW that the West needs a balanced approach in dealing with the Taliban.
“It shouldn’t be about we are either not going to talk to them or if we talk to them, we should recognize them. Whatever we choose to do, it is important that we help common Afghans, especially women and children,” she said, adding that humanitarian aid must reach the people in need.
For Moeed Yusuf, national security adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Taliban are a reality that no one can ignore. He told the panel from Islamabad that terrorism will not be contained within Afghanistan’s borders if the humanitarian situation in the country does not improve.
Graham, however, rejected any compromise with the Taliban, saying that the United States doesn’t want to “prop up the Taliban,” which he said will “never reform.”
Few in the West see an immediate security threat emanating from Afghanistan. The Taliban, seeking to gain international recognition and financial aid, are more inclined toward a “diplomatic” approach than employing violent tactics. But this superficial calm may not last for long.
If the humanitarian crisis aggravates in Afghanistan, even the Taliban won’t be able to manage the situation, as evidenced by violent “Islamic State” (IS) attacks.
Salahuddin Ludin, a political expert in Afghanistan, told DW that life has become “extremely difficult” for most Afghans.
“International aid organizations have left the country. The Taliban are unable to pay the wages to government employees. The public health care sector is in a disarray,” he pointed out.
Apart from the suffering of the rural population, even Afghans based in cities are finding it impossible to make ends meet.
Ludin said many Afghans had put their savings in bank accounts, “Now, they cannot access them. Afghan businessmen, for instance, cannot make international transfers, which has resulted in high commodity prices in the country.”
Afghan analyst Masjidi fears Afghanistan could face a bigger catastrophe if the Taliban are unable to improve the economic situation, adding that they will find it difficult to govern and a civil war could erupt.
“History tells us that humanitarian crises could lead to violent conflicts. It is easier for terrorist groups to operate in a country that is facing economic turmoil. Afghanistan is no exception,” Masjidi added.
Farid Amiri, a former Afghan government official, said a possible violent conflict in Afghanistan could spill over to other countries in the region.
“If that happens, regional powers will start supporting proxies to keep the violence within Afghanistan’s boundaries. But it will only be a short-term solution to the Afghan conflict,” Amiri told DW.
“The more the Taliban stay in power, the more difficult will it get to maintain stability in the region,” he added.
Some observers say the current situation in Afghanistan is disturbingly similar to the geopolitical scenario in the late 1990s. The Taliban seized power in 1996, but the international community did not fully grasp the potential consequences of the new paradigm.
Away from the global spotlight — and amid a lack of interest in Afghan affairs — the country became a hub of local and international militant groups.
“The Taliban have ties with international terrorists. Their return to power has emboldened jihadi organizations in the region. As they consolidate themselves, their tactical and strategic ties with terrorism financiers and sponsors will grow and will eventually jeopardize peace and security in the region and beyond,” Amiri warned.
Additional reporting by Masood Saifullah, in Bonn.
Edited by: Sean Sinico