The Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan and Security Paradox

AuthorNilofar Sakhi
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterResearch Articles
Research Article
The Taliban Takeover
in Afghanistan and
Security Paradox
Nilofar Sakhi1,2
After years of prolonged armed conflict and fighting with the United States and
NATO, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, by overthrowing
a 20-year-old republic system and declaring it an Islamic Emirate. Without a process
that legitimised the Taliban’s power and ideological assertions, Afghanistan is now
controlled by a militant group that operates out of a totalitarian ideology. A new
version of security threats and concerns has been introduced. The question is, what
kind of security issues will emerge under such circumstances, and how will these issues
impact Afghanistan? This article provides an assessment of Afghanistan’s political and
security situation under the current Taliban regime. While the recent Taliban takeover
in Afghanistan means different things to different people—and depends mainly on
their social class within Afghan society or where they are from—the months since the
Taliban took power have provided us with evidence of how they are operationalising
their belief systems to run the country. It has also demonstrated how this has and will
impact the safety and security of individuals, groups and Afghanistan as a whole. This
article aims to explain how the Taliban’s fundamental ideology, networks, governance
composition and nature will exacerbate the security crisis in Afghanistan and beyond.
The article explores the theoretical framework of a totalitarian system to help
understand the context of the Taliban’s political system. It then looks specifically at the
resistance movement and the growing gender apartheid that the Taliban is reinstating.
Finally, it dives into the meaning of security, its complexity, how it’s changing, and
the implications it will have for Afghanistan and its people. The evidence for this
analysis is based on events that had taken place through March 2022. It is important
to emphasise that today’s circumstances and context will likely change and impact
analysis for tomorrow. However, one thing has remained constant—the Taliban’s
undergirding totalitarian framework and their ability to be tactical and strategic in
how they present themselves.
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
9(3) 383–401, 2022
© The Author(s) 2022
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970221130882
1 Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United
2 Keough School of Global Affairs, Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, University of Notre
Dame, Notre Dame, IN, United States
Corresponding author:
Nilofar Sakhi, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC
20052, United States.
384 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 9(3)
Totalitarianism, resistance, insurgency, security dynamics, atrocities
A New Republic
In September 2001, the US overthrew the Taliban regime that had been in power in
Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The response by the US and NATO forces to the
9/11 attacks on US soil was meant to combat terrorism which also caused a new
phase of armed conflict between the US and the Taliban. The Taliban, who was
vital in providing the Al-Qaeda with a sanctuary that allowed them to continue
their operations, was a student militia group raised and trained in Pakistan in
1994, believed to be supported by the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),
a claim that Pakistan vehemently rejected. The Taliban started organising their
constituencies and established a stronghold in the southern and eastern regions
of Afghanistan to fight the newly established Afghan government, which they
believed to be a US-installed system.
In 2001, the Taliban, at that point a loosely connected group, began a new
phase to reorganise as a decentralised network of fighters. They received their
orders from the leadership at their bases, mostly in Quetta and Peshawar, Pakistan.
In 2003, with coordinated action, the Taliban expanded their territorial influence
in the north and targeted populations in the eastern regions of Afghanistan. They
began to recruit local resources, set up informal governance systems to manage
and govern communities, gain more support networks, and utilised social and
political issues to weaken the Kabul administration.
Meanwhile, in Kabul, a new administration was in formation, along with a new
constitution, government structures, parliament and judicial system. The new
administration’s focus was on building the government administration both in
Kabul and at the provincial levels, with sizeable reconstruction programmes
focusing on five key provinces—Mazar, Herat, Qandahar, Jalalabad and Kabul.
The overall security condition was partially better until 2009, when the Taliban’s
surge of violence began, and insecurity spread throughout the country through
violent attacks and suicide attacks targeting public places. That coincided with the
failure of the centralised system of the central government in Afghanistan to
protect the population and extend its services throughout the country. In addition,
people in far and remote provinces were not part of the political process, which
resulted in the deprivation of basic needs, creating a major gap and significant
mistrust between the government and the people.
Four major issues caused the collapse of the Afghan republic. The first issue
came into view when the new Afghan government was inaugurated and the new
administration was forming. During this period, they underestimated the Taliban’s
comprehensive organisation and continued threat of insurgency. The Taliban’s
movement on the battlefield and the way they organised around social and
political issues were also dismissed. The second issue was the government’s

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