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Afghans’ future uncertain, but Taliban takeover ‘not likely’

If there’s one thing Afghans agree on, it’s that the future is uncertain as NATO troops leave the country. Today was stopped the fact that this month, after almost twenty years, the Dutch military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end.

But what will happen in the country? Will there be a civil war? Will the Taliban retake the country? Or will the government representatives still reach an agreement with the Taliban through the negotiating table?

The latter is the most likely scenario, says Jaap van Hierden, country head of the aid organization Cordaid in Kabul. But he expects that this will be preceded by a period of intensive fighting. That could lead to demoralization among Afghans, he warns. “It is very important that Afghans do not feel that the international community is abandoning them.”

Van Hierden therefore thinks it is unwise that Australia will close the embassy in Kabul due to the uncertain situation. “If we give the Afghans the idea that we are running away, they will do the same. And the most skilled and educated people will leave the country.”

Democracy and Gender Equality

In November, 70 countries, including the Netherlands, announced 12 billion dollars in aid for the next four years. However, it was said that the money depends on Afghan commitment to, for example, democracy and gender equality.

Van Hierden calls this requirement ‘understandable’. But he emphasizes that it is important to continue to provide aid, regardless of who comes to power in the coming years. “If you have trouble with the ideology of those in power, look who you can trust for cooperation. In Afghanistan there is a very strong and reliable civil society.”

Cordaid, for example, works to improve women’s rights in areas where the Taliban have recaptured power in recent years.

“We do this through the community and local partners. In order to work somewhere you always have to be accepted by local leaders, such as religious leaders. If a conflict arises with Taliban leaders, it is solved by coordination with UN organizations in Kabul. It’s going well so far.”

For example, a ‘sharia toolkit’ was written, containing Quranic texts describing equal rights for women. “We’re trying to understand religious leaders and conservative Afghans, and help the people with materials to engage in long-term discussions.”

Is Afghanistan ready for combat?

Districts across the country have been conquered by the Taliban in recent years. And since Biden left the troops announced, the fighting has become even more intense.

Not everyone is convinced that the Afghan security forces on their own are ready for these battles. “This has contributed to the re-mobilization of local militias,” said Ali Adili, a researcher at the Afghanistan Analyst Network think tank in Kabul.

Numerous former ‘warlords’ have been posing their own army of men with guns on social media, Adili says. They are calling on people in their area to stand together against the Taliban. But these ‘warlords’ fought not only against the Taliban in the 1990s, but often also against each other.

“How exactly this new dynamic will develop remains to be seen,” says Adili. “It can lead to ethnic conflict.” But he also sees a possible positive outcome. “If together they can effectively push back the Taliban, which the government forces have failed to do so far, then this mobilization can also stimulate peace talks.”

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