Things have moved very fast in Afghanistan for anyone to comprehend. In a gap of six days immediately after American announcement of withdrawal from the country, Taliban has captured the whole of the country. The President has fled the country, broken warlords with their troops dispersed, either surrendered or fled. Except the iconic Panjshir, there is no resistance left in Afghanistan whatsoever. Now, there are two questions here – what just happened and what is going to happen.

Ajmal Ahmady, the head of DAB Afghanistan notes,

Then came last Thursday. I attended my normal meetings. Ghazni fell in the morning. I left work, and by the time I went home – Herat, Kandahar, and Baghdis also fell. Helmand was also under serious attack.

For a country with an army of 3,00,000 is it realistically possible that the whole country including fortresses like Mazar-e-Sharif or Lashkar Gah or Kandahar or Kabul to fall in a week? Or did something happen in the back? Many have hinted treachery – Atta Mohammad Noor who took the overall charge of Mazar-e-Sharif openly said he and Abdul Rashid Dostum are betrayed.

My dear countrymen! Despite our firm resistance, sadly, all the government & the #ANDSF equipments were handed over to the #Taliban as a result of a big organised & cowardly plot. They had orchestrated the plot to trap Marshal Dostum and myself too, but they didn’t succeed. Marshal Dostum, myself, Balkh Govenor, Balkh MPs, Head of Balkh Provincial Council and few other officials are in a safe place now. I have a lot of untold stories that I will share in due course. Thanking all who proudly resisted to defend their land. Our path won’t end here.

While Dostum launched a successful thrust towards Balkh just the day before, by the end of the day, the Army surrendered leaving Noor and Dostum caught in the open. A city which is expected to stand for weeks if not months fell in just two days – with some of the most capable and powerful commanders of Afghanistan caught in the open when the Army surrendered all of a sudden. In fact, Noor actually tried to prevent this from happening but failed – after all, the way Ismail Khan was captured, anyone would have taken precautions against treachery.

Abas Ebrahimzada, a lawmaker from the Balkh province where the city is located, said the national army surrendered first, which prompted pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of a Taliban onslaught launched earlier Saturday.

Another damning condemnation came from General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi

Damn on Ashraf Ghani, he tied our hands behind our backs and sold us.

Ahmady also noted the same –

There were multiple rumors that directions to not fight were somehow coming from above. This has been repeated by Atta Noor and Ismael Khan. Seems difficult to believe, but there remains a suspicion as to why ANSF left posts so quickly. There is something left unexplained.

All of this reeks of some conspiracy – to handover Afghanistan to Taliban on a platter. No questions were raised when at least a thousand fighters were massed in Chitral to crash into Badakshan. No questions were raised when Pakistan threated Afghan Airforce when Taliban was streaming from Pakistan into Afghanistan was being slaughtered by them and more importantly, cities fell like ninepins in a sickening pace.

Who is involved in this and who is the useful idiot is hard to tell. There are a few pointers though. From the start of Hamid Karzai’s rule, attempts were made to cut down to size the warlords who held massive power in the North. Almost all of them were tamed except a handful like Noor, Dostum, Ismail Khan and Alipur. With this factional feuds not going anywhere, it is but natural to identify the most stable alternate to the existing power structure, which is none other than Taliban. Was it a think tank or was it the formal line of thought or was it the idea of a Taliban supporting Afghan politician or was it some plan which went horribly wrong, we may never know. But, the fact is this.

As early as 2006-7, the western countries knew that Taliban is operating from Pakistan and not Afghanistan. No action was taken whatever the reason. When Hamid Karzai opened dialogue with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar of Taliban, Pakistan which was not happy with American exit arrested him and sabotaged the peace plan for almost a decade. In an ironic twist of things, he can become the next President of Afghanistan. Will he remember what Pakistan did to him? We wouldn’t know.

Pakistan frees top Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar - World News

Parallel to this, taming of warlords was happening all the while. Ultimately, after Baradar was released in 2018, the peace talks gained strength again and here we are, with Afghan Army not at all offering any resistance and Taliban taking over the country in no time. In this regard, an article by Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation from 1996 adds a new dimension to the equation.

…whether Taliban persists in imposing a medieval agenda on the country, which will lead to increased opposition from its current base of support, the Pashtuns, who welcomed the Taliban as a cure for years of brutal anarchy.

This makes one wonder if there is a Pashtun affinity in play here – over what happened? There are hints for that – as there are known cases of veteran field commanders forcibly retired and replaced by Pashtuns.

But, as later events proved, unsurprisingly, Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan is not as strong as everyone believed it to be. Their success hinged only on the hope that there won’t be a Northern Alliance. Fearful of retribution, it released Nizamuddin Qaisari, one of the most hated by Taliban and a major follower of Dostum. Ismail Khan who was betrayed and captured in Herat is now in Iran. When Abdul Ghani Alipur announced token submission, Taliban didn’t force him to disarm. Now, he with his militia numbering 10000 according to some retreated into Panjshir. Clearly, this proves that in case anyone is deciding to support a rebellion in Afghanistan, Taliban is going to have some serious trouble.

And the rebellion is brewing. It looks like the Northern Alliance High Command including the Rabbanis, Massouds and the Hazara elders didn’t get a deal which they want from Pakistan. Subsequently, Panjshir under Ahmed Massoud, the son and successor of the iconic Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir decided to raise the banner of rebellion. Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a close associate of Ahmed Shah Massoud retreated into Panjshir and declared himself the President of Afghanistan.

There are news of troops streaming into Panjshir – Alipur being one of them, Gen Bismillah Mohammadi, the Defence Minister being the other and the troops which retreated from Takhar, Kunduz and Badakshan being another. There are rumours that Massoud is enticing the Khost Protection Force to switch sides. 46 Afghan Airforce planes and helicopters forcibly landed in Uzbekistan. Dostum’s and Noor’s ground base still seems to be intact. All that is needed is a spark and a commitment of support from a major power – India or Russia.

Now that China has recognized Taliban, it needs to be seen how much pressure will be put on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia not to support the rebellion which is taking shape. But, hard days for Afghanistan seem to be back again.

On the other side, Taliban, which seems to have captured power with literally no resistance has already started to challenge the authority of Pakistan. One of the first acts after Taliban took Kabul is to release a major TTP leader from arrest and send him back home. One need not guess what the released are going to do in Pakistan.

If Taliban decides to become the master of all Pashtun territories, Pakistan is going to have some serious troubles. No one is going to save them if Taliban declare that FATA and Khyber Pakthunwa are going to be a part of Pakistan from now on. In fact, these demands existed even during the rule of Hamid Karzai. Please note that the Pakistani map is wrong de jure – Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are by international law, Indian territory.


On the other hand, the words and deeds of Taliban are not in sync. On one side, they declared amnesty, on the other side, there is news of a spate of executions inside Afghanistan – of those who worked for Americans or for the Government.

Whatever the future is going to be, a few things are going to be certain.

  1. Legitimacy of Taliban is going to be a tough task ahead
  2. Durand Line can become a bone of contention – either with the Taliban or with the National Alliance
  3. United Nations, which miserably failed in stopping a legally elected government from being violently toppled is going to become a casualty
  4. With Taliban’s history with non-Pashtuns during it’s previous rule, fragmentation of Afghanistan is going to be a distinct possibility.

All we can do is wait and watch.

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