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After 20 years, Taliban is set to return to power in Afghanistan

The Taliban is set to return to power in Afghanistan, 20 years after being ousted by U.S.-led military operations. What will Taliban 2.0 look like for Afghans? For more on what kind of government will take over from the Ashraf Ghani government, Arian Sharifi, former senior advisor to Afghanistan’s most recent foreign minister, joins.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    With the Afghan government collapsing and the Taliban returning to power. The next question is what kind of government will control the country. For more on what may be next, I spoke with Arian Sharifi, former senior advisor to Afghanistan's most recent foreign minister.

    When you think about what's happening now, we have Kabul under curfew, Ghani has fled the country. What do you think happens next? I mean, who is left in the Afghan government leadership to have a conversation with the Taliban and how they take over?

  • Arian Sharifi:

    Well, I was talking to some people just 20 minutes ago. And basically here is the latest on that question. The government has completely collapsed. The government is basically nonexistent. The two teams that were prepared yesterday and the day before, one negotiation team were to go to Doha and negotiate with the Taliban. The other team was prepared to go to Islamabad and talk to some Pakistani officials over there. Those two teams are still there. So basically in Kabul, really nobody's in charge right now. There have been scores of violence. There have been some chaos in different parts of the city. Very likely the Taliban forces are, within the next few hours were going to enter the city, will take over the city. This is against their promise before. And if they do that, the negotiations in Doha and Islamabad, kind of become meaningless.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So I want to ask, how do you balance all of the democratic gains that the country has made in the last 20 years, advancement of women, of minorities with what the Taliban wants as their way of life and their rule?

  • Arian Sharifi:

    The Taliban obviously are going to be the main power in the government. They are going to have the majority. But at least if they negotiate, if they agree to deal with some non-Taliban members are there and the government within the structures and would agree to some level of a balance between their ideological autocracy and the democratic and liberal gains we've had over the past two decades, then that could be something that would be sustainable.

    Obviously, we're not going to be experiencing the freedoms we've had over the past two decades in terms of freedom of speech, of assembly, of women's rights, et cetera, et cetera. We're not going to have that level again. That's a given, but at least some level of freedom. If that negotiated settlement doesn't work then we go to scenario number two, where the Taliban will actually take over everything by force and refuse to share power with anybody else but then we go back to the 1990s that we have at least three threats that are going to emanate.

    Threat number one is transnational terrorism. Let's not forget that the Taliban were only one, albeit the largest, but one of some 20 to 21 terrorist groups that operated in Afghanistan over the past two decades. Their entire goal thus far has been to use Afghan territory to project terrorism across the region and across the world. They are now going to see their dreams come true. Number two, you have the drug trade. Let's not forget the drug. And number three, you've got likely very much, waves of refugees getting out of Afghanistan, flooding across the region and perhaps even Europe.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What kind of leverage does anybody that's negotiating with the Taliban have? I mean, right now, the Taliban, if they're coming to a table, they'd say, listen, we basically own the country. Why should I concede anything to you?

  • Arian Sharifi:

    I mean, there is no leverage for the present situation. Absolutely zero leverage, really. The Taliban have won, nobody is in resistance. Everything is gone and he is left. But if the Taliban are smart, which they are, they would think a little bit more long term. They are going to negotiate and agree to a deal where a major resistance against them would not develop over the next maybe a year or two. If they don't do that, that will definitely happen. Because why? Because there are a lot of Afghans if you even think ethnically there are the Hazaras, there are those that are the Pashtuns, even a lot of questions I am asking myself. I do not agree with what the Taliban want to impose there. So even there is a lot of Pashtuns who are willing and are going to start resistance and there's no lack of weapons and ammunition and means to make war in that in that part of the world. So that is the only way, the only leverage, if you will.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Finally, I just want to ask, you've got family there. You've got friends there. What's their plan?

  • Arian Sharifi:

    Right now, nothing. I mean, in fact, my own plan was to fly, I had booked my flight for tomorrow night. I am flying to Istanbul tomorrow night, my plan was to just be with them. But now it looks like it's impossible for me to even fly in the cockpit. Right now, they are in a state of absolute wait and see. They're terrified. They're terrorized. I spoke to my father about an hour ago. They're all at home basically trying to see what unfolds. Just literally nothing they can do.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Arian Sharifi., thanks so much for joining us.

  • Arian Sharifi:

    You're welcome. Good to be here. Thank you.

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