Afghanistan update

19th August 2021

Recent events

The world woke up to news on Monday 16th of August that Afghanistan’s capital Kabul had fallen. A

The Taliban launched their offensive in May and had captured the first 50 districts of 370 by the end of June. B The momentum with which the Taliban has been capturing territory has accelerated since Mid-July and on Thursday 12th August UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the deployment of 600 troops to the region to assist with the repatriation of 5,000 evacuees back to the UK. C

On Friday 13th he convened a COBRA meeting to discuss the rapid Taliban advancement in the country. D and on Monday 16th he announced the recall of Parliament for Wednesday 18th and also convened a second COBRA meeting to discuss Afghanistan with this one focusing on the fall of Kabul. E


Taliban advancement on Kabul

In April 2021 the Taliban controlled only 20% of the country and escalation predictions were more long-term. On Monday 16th Taliban fighters were reporting they controlled 90% of state buildings in Afghanistan F and as of the 17th August they held the whole of Afghanistan bar seven remaining districts which were seeing a strong Taliban presence and on-going fighting. G H

The stalling of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban following the US-led peace deal in 2020 (Doha agreement) appears to have exasperated tensions suggests the Council on Foreign Affairs (CFA), I as has a demoralised military. J The fall of Kunduz on 8th August, the first major city to fall after negotiations led to surrender, created a ‘domino effect’ with other major cities following suit. K


UK response

On Tuesday 17th of August Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary reported everyone was shocked at the speed with which the Taliban took control of Afghanistan adding:

“We saw a very swift change in the dynamics. And of course this has been part and parcel of the withdrawal of western troops, but it has also been the way and the approach of the Taliban and of course it’s been a test for the Afghan security forces.
“All of those factors have been very fluid. But no one saw this coming. Of course we would have taken action if we had.” L

The foreign secretary also stated on Tuesday, that the UK government must deal with the ‘reality’ that the Taliban is now in control of Afghanistan.

Agreeing on the ‘reality’ of dealing with the Taliban as a government, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson on Sunday 15th pressed for an international agreement and joint response, “forming a common view and setting the same conditions” and stated:

“We don’t want anybody to bilaterally recognise the Taliban. We want a united position among all the like-minded, as far as we can get one, so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into a breeding ground for terror” M

On Friday 13th of August it was reported UK home secretary, Priti Patel, had ceased deportations to Afghanistan and the government is preparing emergency refugee plans to cope with the influx of people wanting refuge in the UK. The UN estimates nearly half the country’s population need urgent assistance and that humanitarian disaster is inevitable. N


US response

US President, Joe Biden’s administration says it is focussing on ‘looking forward’ rather than ‘looking back’ in regards to Afghanistan and in his address to the nation the President stated he stood ‘squarely behind’ his decision adding ‘there was never a good time to withdraw US forces’. O

Commenting on Monday 16th regarding the recent developments in Afghanistan, Retired Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, David Petraeus stated:
“The situation obviously is just disastrous…We should literally reverse the decision…I feared we would come to regret the decision and we already are. There’s no good outcome unless the United States and its allies recognise that we made a serious mistake.” P

Similarities have been drawn to the US’ exit from Vietnam in 1975 Q when the North Vietnamese army defied a ceasefire and peace treaty, occupying South Vietnam cities ‘with little resistance and no American response’. R


The Taliban’s new government

As the world waits and watches, the Taliban will now work to form an “inclusive, Islamic government”. S They encourage women to join the administration and are already engaging in negotiations with politicians and ‘opposition’ leaders. T Reports of Taliban violence across the country are now widespread with the homes of ‘western collaborators’ being searched and looted. U This is despite assurances to the contrary by one of the Taliban’s negotiating team, Suhail Shaheen who spoke on BBC news assuring viewers
“We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe…There will be no revenge on anyone.” V

Advisory Services reporting cut-off date for this insight is Midday 17th August 2021. WJ is not able to comment at this time on further developments.