Speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations about the Taliban’s approach to a section of Afghan society that believes in secular policies in the country and the scenarios that can be imagined with the presence of the Taliban, Somaye Morovati said: Fear of repeating events of the 1990s, the domino effect of falling districts and the resurgence of insecurity and displacement has prompted mixed reactions among different ethnic and social strata in Afghanistan.
Popular mobilization against Taliban before government call
The Afghan affairs expert continued: The existing experience of the Afghan people from decades of displacement and war has led to a collective decision to stand up to the Taliban. The conquest of the cities without clashing with the Afghan military and security forces has reinforced the belief among them that they are once again the main losers and must protect what they have built over the past two decades; and this led to a popular mobilization against the Taliban even before the government call.
Referring to the influential groups in changing Afghanistan’s equations today, Morovati said that there are different scenarios for the future of Afghanistan. With the US plan to withdraw from Afghanistan, the proposition of “vacuum of power” and the analysis of which group or groups are capable of and have the will for military and security coverage in Afghanistan are great. At this stage, the Taliban was always the first choice due to its military capabilities and combat skills, and this created fear of the Taliban entering into power structure in Afghanistan; but the spontaneous mobilization of the people and demonstration of their power challenged past scenarios.
She continued: The second scenario that has been strengthened by the popular mobilization against the Taliban is “trans-ethnic unity”. The popular mobilization shows that the people are skeptical of the inability or unwillingness of the central government and the military to take a real stand against the Taliban and that they want to maintain security in their region.
The Afghan analyst pointed to the increase in literacy, especially among non-Pashtuns, the social presence of women and the growth of the media in the country, noting that in the past 20 years, Persian-speaking Afghans have seen high growth in literacy and skills training and for this reason, after the Doha talks and when there was talk of Taliban involvement in power in Kabul; the proposition showed its skill and literacy, and the Taliban realized that the weight in this area was on the other side. Because unlike in the past, when the proportion of educated Pashtuns was significantly superior to non-Pashtuns, this ratio has changed in recent years.
Referring to the uniformity of “Pashtuns” in some analysis, she said: Equating the Pashtuns and the Taliban will block the way to us for recognizing developments in Afghanistan. It is wrong to analyze the population of the Taliban-held areas as the Taliban supporters, and we have a large silent population among Pashtuns who remain silent due to targeted assassinations in the past decade, threats, weakness of the central government and lack of other options. In fact, this population are the Taliban only on paper.
Prospects for relations between Afghan seculars & the Taliban
Regarding the prospects for secular relations between Afghanistan and the Taliban under Taliban rule, she said: Currently, the Taliban are facing very different Afghans than in the 1990s; Afghans who have experience in migration, social work, education and training are much more informed and are most influenced by the media. Therefore, their view of the trends of power as well as the future of the country and society has changed a lot, and this difference has brought about trouble for the Taliban and may cause difficulty in future.
Saying that the domino effect of the fall of the districts, along with the inability of the military and even the conquest of the city without the military forces, puts two images in front of them, Morovati noted: Spread of insecurity, the re-emergence of the Taliban, the return to the era of oppression and the loss of civilian achievements of those years and finally life under the Taliban regime is the first picture that can be considered despite the social changes in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
Explaining the second perspective facing the Taliban government, the expert on Afghanistan affairs said: Disobedience of the Taliban, the death of civilians and displacement and migration can be considered the most important consequences of the Taliban presence for the country’s secularists. The population seen applying for visa to leave Afghanistan is proof of this claim; at the same time, some of them are with the people’s forces and are not willing to leave Afghanistan.
According to Morovati: A group that has the opportunity to leave or is afraid of losing its capital and business, decides to leave Afghanistan for a short period or forever; because history has shown them that those who left earlier suffered less damage.
She stressed: The noteworthy point is the departure of the Pashtun population from the country, which has received less attention, and this issue is evidence of their dissatisfaction with the trends facing the Taliban.
Morovati added: With the withdrawal of troops and the fall of districts and the rise of the Taliban forces, the great fear created in the hearts of Afghans is the “normalization of insecurity” in the minds of public opinion inside and outside Afghanistan. Acceptance of war and insecurity in Afghanistan and frustration with getting things done, on the one hand, reduce other countries’ attention to the issue of insecurity in Afghanistan and, on the other hand, their acceptance of the plight of the Afghan people, thereby spreading despair and leaving the affairs to the Taliban.
She described the loss of importance of Afghanistan’s security for regional and trans-regional countries as one of the main fears of the non-Pashtun population in Afghanistan and continued: They feel alone in the face of the Taliban fearful force with unlimited funding and foreign financial and military support.
Morovati stressed: In such circumstances, in recent years, the middle and upper body of power, especially the military sector, is in the hands of the Pashtuns, and the conquest of cities without military resistance has raised the suspicion of coordination between the Taliban and the Pashtuns in the capital. Indeed, if the domino of insecurity in Afghanistan is repeated, the glimmer of hope will be dashed in cities trying to believe that they should not work with the Taliban and that a better world awaits them because of their connection to the outside world.
Emphasizing the need to know the trends and narratives in Afghanistan and the developments in that country, the expert on Afghanistan affairs stressed: Existence of wrong analysis, wrong data and claims about familiarity with the developments in Afghanistan is one of the most important harms in the research and policy-making in Iran.