The Taliban‘s swift return to power shocked the world; bringing humiliation for Washington and Ghani administration. Questions about such a quick collapse of the Afghan forces keep boggling minds everywhere. The world wondered why Washington and Kabul did not do anything to handle the situation—both on the ground and table. This article seeks to answer who is responsible for the fall of Kabul.
Any conflict at the end of the day ends with a resolution. And any resolution is not possible without any compromise. The same happened in Afghanistan after a long period of two decades. During these two decades, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in addition to over two trillion dollars by the US. When the Doha Agreement was charted out in 2020, the US agreed to be lenient and accepted many demands of the Taliban. The same deal could have been charted out immediately after the 9/11 attacks to avoid human and treasury loss. This is because the Taliban, after their fall, were eager to join the new set-up. However, the US did not allow them.
It was the end of 2001. Hamid Karzai had met a Taliban delegation in Shah Wali Kot district outside Kandahar. Taliban had agreed to surrender control of Kabul if general amnesty is given to the Taliban. Karzai laid the condition that Mullah Umar will renounce terrorism which was accepted and an agreement was reached known as Shah Wali Kot Agreement. As per the agreement, the Taliban would lay weapons and go home with dignity. However, the next day, the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld called Karzai to step back from the agreement and do not extend amnesty to the Taliban. This was the point that not only prolonged the US war in Afghanistan for twenty years but also ended it in humiliation.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration in 2009 started the peace process with the Taliban to help settle the issue by negotiation to end the conflict. The complex peace process took eleven years to reach any settlement and the Doha Agreement was signed in February 2020. However, two parties in the Afghan conflict doomed the peace process that compelled the Taliban to take over Kabul. First, the Afghan issue did not solve with the signing of the Doha Agreement and another wave of controversy got started when the former president Ashraf Ghani, on the next day of the agreement, announced that he will not release the Taliban prisoners even though it was a part of the agreement. However, Ashraf Ghani‘s radical attitude and vested interests to prolong his own rule doomed the Afghan peace process.
When Washington was negotiating a deal with the Taliban, they had taken Ashraf Ghani on board and Khalilzad used to frequently visit Kabul. Only the Afghan government was not a part of the negotiations on the Taliban‘s demand who were calling it a puppet government. The first round of the intra-Afghan talks was held on September 12, 2020, which did not bear the desired results. Ghani and his aides were waiting for the US elections. They thought that if Biden wins, he will draw back from the Doha Agreement similar to what Donald Trump did in Iran‘s nuclear deal case. However, that did not happen. Ghani was just passing his time while not caring for any sort of settlement in which his rule gets compromised.
The second major point that doomed the peace process was the US ambivalent Afghan policy. Firstly, President Trump and then President Biden could not formulate a wise policy that could save Kabul from falling into the hands of the Taliban. President Trump, although signed the deal with the Taliban but did not put enough pressure on Ashraf Ghani to show seriousness in the intra-Afghan talks which could have had led Afghanistan to a negotiated settlement. Trump had ten months to convince Ghani to reach a deal with the Taliban but he could not do so. Similarly, when Biden came to power, he took too much time to formulate a strategy for Afghanistan that could end with a peaceful settlement on one hand and a venerable withdrawal of the US on the other. Biden, too, during his six, seven months did not compel Ghani to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban. If the fall of Kabul has humiliated the US at a global level, it has also showcased how hollow were the US policies for Afghanistan. Hence, the US ambivalent policy and the Ghani administration‘s drive for its vested interests led to the fall of Kabul.