As the world begins to respond to the sudden changes in the Afghan regime, it is important to reflect on the reasons for this. So far, the analysis has focused on the corruption and weakness of the Afghan state established after the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and the chaos of the Afghan armed forces.
But it is important to consider another aspect of this story-the Taliban refuses to negotiate with the Afghan government, which it considers illegal and is determined to eliminate it. Why is the group so ruthless?
Most of these have to do with the decisions made by the invading Western forces and their Afghan allies in the 2000s to exclude the Taliban from their nation-building experiments.
In December 2001, a few weeks after the Western army and its Afghan allies seized Kabul from the Taliban, a meeting for the establishment of the new Afghan government was held in Bonn, Germany. Participants included the Northern Alliance fighting side by side with Western allies, the Afghan Pashtun Peshawar group exiled in Pakistan, the Roman Royalist group, and the Afghan Cyprus group linked to Iran.
However, the Taliban were not invited, and made the first decision on the establishment of the Afghan state without it.
Then in 2002 the Emergency Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly) was convened and the transitional government led by Hamid Karzai was elected. The Taliban were not invited again.
In 2003, a constitutional committee was established to initiate the constitutional drafting process, including public consultations, but the Taliban were again excluded from these procedures. The Constitution was adopted by the Loya Jirga in 2004. Its provisions guarantee women’s fundamental rights and freedoms, embody democratic principles, and express the new government’s commitment to the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The consequences of the Taliban’s exclusion from the post-2001 power arrangement are significant. The Taliban can neither tolerate this marginalization of Kabul’s social and political decision-making, nor can they reconcile its hardline ideology with constitutional rights and freedoms.
The Taliban, who felt marginalized at the national and international levels, regrouped and relaunched an offensive attack on the Afghan government and its Western allies. In the following years, the Taliban caused heavy casualties and unnecessary suffering and suffering to the Afghan people. It showed no signs of easing its tough stance on religious issues.
One might argue that including the Taliban in the Bonn meeting would create problems, the Northern Alliance would try to stop it, and the families of Taliban victims would protest.
The Taliban’s deliberations of the constitution in the Loya Jirga may also become an obstacle to ratifying provisions that grant women’s rights and freedoms and protect human rights in general.
Nevertheless, the inclusion of the Taliban in the 2001 government in some form is feasible and will have a positive impact. The United States and its NATO allies could have pressured the Northern Alliance to accept it and provide financial support on the condition of an inclusive government—just as they are doing with the Taliban.
The Taliban can also be consulted during the drafting of the constitution. In fact, their representatives will not be so prominent in the Loya Jirga that passed the constitution, because many conservative figures and religious clergy attended, including Abdul Rab Rasul Sayf, Burha Noudin Rabbani and Skeh Asif Mohsini. They also insisted on their conservative interpretation of Sharia.
After failure, Taliban leaders may be more flexible on certain issues and more likely to resolve differences through dialogue. The entire process of inclusion may have eased their religious views and politics, and made their positions less strict. This may also be reflected in their supporters in the Afghan population, who will not feel excluded and marginalized by the new Afghan government.
Some officials have expressed regret that the Taliban have not been made part of the political transition in Afghanistan. As Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, wrote in his book “Special Envoy”: “The delegates represent the diversity of Afghanistan, but the Taliban did not attend. In retrospect, some people think We are wrong to discourage the Taliban from participating in the emergency loya jirga.”
Unfortunately, no serious effort was made to contact the Taliban until it was too late. After achieving amazing territorial gains in the past five years, the Taliban negotiated from strengths rather than weaknesses in the negotiations between the United States, the Taliban and Afghanistan, and therefore its leadership is even more uncompromising.
After a triumphant return to Kabul 20 years after being expelled by foreign powers, the Taliban are now approaching other factions from a position of power. One of the Taliban’s main negotiators is Anas Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, which is still on the list of terrorist organizations in the United States. Haqqani is a tough figure and is unlikely to compromise on applying conservative interpretations of Islamic law.
In addition to the hardliners of the leadership who demand to abide by the Sharia law, the ordinary people of the organization and its supporters among the civilians also look forward to the establishment of a religiously conservative regime. Failure to do so would risk alienating these people, which was unbearable when the Taliban leadership was established in the Afghan government.
The only course of action left for the United States and its Western allies is to try to pressure the Taliban by rejecting international recognition or financial aid. How this will succeed remains to be seen. However, it is now clear that the rights of women and ethnic minorities and democratic principles will suffer setbacks in Afghanistan.
The Afghans have paid a heavy price for the miscalculations and failed policies pursued by Kabul and Washington over the past two decades. This is the sad result of the Taliban being excluded from the post-2001 government.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.