Last July, the Taliban came to shake the world agenda once again. This time it was not its bloody attacks, but the news announcing the death of Mullah Omar, who was regarded as the “legendary leader” of the organization. When this unexpected development was confirmed by multiple sources various commentaries followed one after the other.
According to certain analysts, Mullah Omar was an irreplaceable figure and there would thus arise a rivalry for leadership and the Taliban would disintegrate and wind up enfeebled due to conflicting ideas and tribal disputes. They alleged this was a great opportunity for a much longed for peace in Afghanistan. There were even discussions asking, “Is this the end of the way for Taliban?”
However, reports coming in from the last days of September let down all these expectations. Hundreds of Taliban militants seized control of the city of Kunduz through a sudden incursion. Kunduz is one of the major cities in Afghanistan and it has strategic significance in terms of its being at the center of trade routes in the north of the country. Military experts described the fall of the city as the “greatest military achievement” of the Taliban since the start of the American invasion in 2001.
The Kunduz incursion came shortly after the news that Mullah Mansur was unanimously elected as the leader of the organization. That was an affirmation of intelligence sources and as well as Taliban spokesmen in the sense that all the militants were united and flocked together around the new leader.
In fact, there was nothing surprising about this. The Taliban is an organization that is bound together around a single ideology and fights in the name of its radical ideology. The death of its leader would not bring about its dissolution. It is not difficult for them to appoint a new leader. They can easily generate scores of new figureheads. What is more, those new leaders would be more willing to stage even more violent and bloodier attacks. The eminent accomplishment would be the elimination of its radical ideology, not its leader. As long as this fact is disregarded, the Taliban will remain resonant.
The Kunduz attack occurred on the same date of the eve of the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG)’s first anniversary in power, so it was a great shock to the administration in Kabul. At a time when they were deeming the Taliban to have lost power, hundreds of Taliban militia had taken control of a city defended by thousands of Afghan security personnel. This was the price they paid for underestimating the ideological aspect of the Taliban.
The Taliban’s capture of Kunduz was baffling not only in Kabul, but all over the world. Ryan Blum, an American soldier who was on duty in Afghanistan, expressed his thoughts in the media.[i] He had fought against the Taliban for a year in Kunduz with troops under his command. In the face of the losses and the savagery of war, he began to ask, “Is this worth it?”[ii] And when Kunduz was overrun, he confessed he was not sure if he could look his men in the eye and say it was [iii]
When this article was being jotted down, the armed conflict between the Taliban militants and security forces was still continuing. There were news headlines reporting about locations bombarded in error and of civilian losses. Most likely, the Taliban militants will soon withdraw back to their rural emplacements from the city center but this will not change the reality of the Taliban’s power play in Kunduz.
For that reason, Mullah Mansur’s depiction of Kunduz as a “symbolic victory” essentially hits the nail on the head. The Taliban will almost certainly seize a good deal of money, arms and vehicles while it retreats from the city. The image of the Taliban flag flying in the city center and the people of Kunduz taking selfies with its militants will be remembered. This is how the entire world is showered with the “strong Taliban” propaganda.
There is one highly significant fact that is not much mentioned in the media. 2015 was the bloodiest year in the 14-year-old Taliban insurgency. Both Afghan troops and civilians have suffered the highest number of casualties this year.[iv] This is the ultimate point attained at the end of 14 years of colossal military operations, unending bombardments, hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed and one trillion dollars of military expenditure.
For that reason, American leaders should first ask the following questions with sincerity; “Where were we mistaken? What is it that still gives the Taliban such strength and determination? What motivates the militants to give their lives, to kill or shed blood under the most strenuous circumstances, even without shoes on their feet and without blinking an eye?…”
It is the deviant ideology of the Taliban that turns it into a radical and bloody terrorist organization. All its undertakings are not for money, selfish interests or fame, but for the sake of its twisted ideology. That is why overcoming the Taliban in a military sense is only possible with its ideological defeat. At the roots of the Taliban’s ideology lies an erroneous understanding of religion full of bigotry, radicalism and superstitions. And the source of that religion is absolutely not the Qur’an, but simply the bigotry, pagan beliefs and fabricated commandments presented in the name of religion.
The Taliban is in need of education in compliance with the Qur’an, which of course, forms the core of Islam. This is the only way to end the Taliban’s terrorism, and to bring the pain, distress and oppression our Afghan brothers have been living through to an end. There simply is no other path for building a free, strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan that respects human rights and enjoys prosperity, justice and modernity.
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— The Daily Mail - People's Daily