The Taliban and Afghanistan Independence

Political relations between the unrecognized Afghan government and Pakistan are deteriorating.

The situation in Afghanistan and South Asia is developing quite actively. The Taliban, who currently rule the unrecognised Islamic Emirate, are attempting to strengthen their hold on the provinces and remote areas of the country. They are also engaging in active diplomacy in Central Asia, in an effort to gain international recognition and bolster their economic and financial positions. Due to sanctions and the banking system blockade, the Taliban needs to expand their economic and financial mechanisms. The country is currently facing a banking blockade, so trade is taking place through natural exchange with the use of modern caravans and cash. While Pakistan remains Afghanistan’s main trading partner, the role of some Central Asian countries is growing as they seek to enter the Afghan market and intensify their trade policies.

Political relations between the unrecognized Afghan government and Pakistan are deteriorating. The main reason for this is the refusal of the Pakistani military to accept the possibility of the Taliban pursuing an independent course. Historically, Pakistan has been the main supporter and mentor of the Taliban and wants to maintain complete control over the group. However, Pakistan seems to overlook the fact that the Taliban is no longer an insurgent and radical group ruling Afghanistan de facto. The Taliban now considers itself to be a legitimate political force seeking diplomatic, political, and financial support. Such developments would strengthen and rationalize their position while diminishing Pakistan’s influence over the Afghan people.

The Taliban has successfully gained military and political power over the United States and the NATO in Afghanistan. Their summer offensive in 2021 displayed remarkable coordination, military expertise, and unrelenting determination to emerge victorious. Despite disagreement with their actions, the Taliban are now the ruling force of Afghanistan’s social and political sphere. However, opposition groups, mainly representatives of minority communities, actively criticize the Taliban’s systematic violations of human rights and women’s rights. It’s worth noting that Tajiks and Hazaras, in particular, are in a vulnerable position. Nonetheless, it’s worth acknowledging that the level of violence has significantly reduced since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The number of terrorist attacks has dramatically decreased, with only a few dozen attacks conducted by IS-Khorasan compared to several hundred between 2015 and 2020 in Kabul and other Afghan cities. The number of clashes involving heavy military equipment has also decreased, and there is currently no war in Afghanistan. This is a fact that cannot be denied. This is precisely what most world and regional powers want, and ultimately, this is also what most Afghans desire.

On Saturday, a close aide of Taliban leader Mullah Habitullah Akhundzada and former bodyguard of another leader was assassinated in Pakistan near the Pakistan-Afghan border by unknown assailants. The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid urged local authorities to take decisive action against those responsible for the assassination on Twitter. The assassination may cause further deterioration of the already tense relations between the Taliban and the military in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Taliban no longer wants to be Pakistan’s proxy, and their dependence on Islamabad has decreased significantly after their victory. They no longer require the safe haven that the Pakistani military has provided for decades to various international terrorist and radical groups. The Taliban confidently control Afghan territory and seek to expand and deepen their control over several provinces. They aim for international recognition and the lifting of the regime of international sanctions. They are also trying to diversify Afghanistan’s financial system.

Pakistanis and Afghan Pashtuns will remain strangers despite their shared prosperous past. The Taliban’s anti-Pakistan statements made at the end of 2023 are an example of their desire to distance themselves from the Pakistani military. The Taliban’s sovereignty and independence from its southern nuclear neighbour are becoming more apparent. Islamabad will seek to limit the Taliban to maintain and strengthen control over Afghan politics and the economy. However, the Taliban’s determination to gain independence and sovereignty from Pakistan is likely to continue.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.