Fall of Kabul a year ago: Taliban return is "greatest moral defeat"

When the Taliban invaded Kabul in August last year, a chaotic evacuation mission began.

Fall of Kabul a year ago: Taliban return is "greatest moral defeat"

When the Taliban invaded Kabul in August last year, a chaotic evacuation mission began. According to the Afghanistan expert Ruttig, the reasons for the failure lie further back. There had been indications for many years that this would be the end, he says.

The Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig sees the failure of the international mission in the country as a "causal cocktail". When asked why the international community so underestimated the rapid advance of the Taliban a year ago, he told ntv.de: "Because you overestimated yourself and systematically downplayed the Taliban." His own successes, on the other hand, were exaggerated. "It wasn't as if the country only fell into the hands of the Taliban in the months before Kabul fell. Rather, a large part of the country, especially the rural areas, had long been under their control or at least their influence. "

It had been indicated for many years that this would be the end, Ruttig said. "The fact that this was not recognized has to do with political misjudgments, with the lack of political willingness to admit larger or systemic problems. Corruption and cover-ups on the Afghan side also contributed to this." There were still people in the Afghan armed forces who sold weapons and ammunition to the Taliban. "So it's a broad 'cause cocktail'."

A year ago, on August 15, 2021, the Taliban took the Afghan capital Kabul without a fight, regaining control of the country after 20 years of war. Before that, they had conquered several provinces within a few months and pushed the government troops further and further back. After the capture of Kabul, a chaotic evacuation mission by the international community followed.

An investigative committee of the Bundestag, which was recently set up, is also said to deal with the Bundeswehr mission to evacuate German nationals and local workers. However, Ruttig criticized that the U-Committee should only deal with the evacuation mission. "Overall, I think it's much more important to assess the entire process in Afghanistan, not just the evacuation mission," he told ntv.de. "I'm less interested in the collapse at the end, because if you only look back over the last year, you won't see the causes. Most of them go back much further," says Ruttig, who co-founded the Afghanistan Analyst Network.

"But the real core question is: How was it possible for the Taliban to regain power? This is the West's greatest moral defeat." Germany was part of this grand coalition, "and there are already signs that some politicians want to shift the blame onto the Americans and downplay their own responsibility." He hopes that both in the committee of inquiry and the commission of inquiry on Afghanistan, "a really comprehensive investigation will not be prevented by those parties that have supported the Afghanistan mission over the past two years - these are all the parties in the Bundestag except for the Left Party and the AfD." so rutty.

Ruttig also hopes that the promises made during the upheaval last summer will be implemented. "So that all local staff are taken out of the country without bureaucratically excluding some groups." The same applies to the people on the so-called human rights list, which was also closed too early. "How long do you want to expect these people to have to survive under the conditions of the Taliban?"

Ruttig, who himself lived in the country for a long time, sees "more parallels and continuities than differences" with the regime between 1996 and 2001 in the new rulers in Afghanistan or in some cases their close relatives," he said. "For me, the main parallel with the pre-2001 period is the Taliban's focus on ideological issues and their focus on Islamic law."

At the same time, the Taliban have gained political experience since their fall in 2001. "There are a lot of well-educated people in their younger generation. They are quite anxious to work constructively in certain areas, for example in economic policy, or in establishing official relations with the outside world," said the expert.

According to Ruttig, since taking power a year ago, there has been "no major demobilization or migration movements" among the Taliban. "Afghanistan's very weak economy would have hardly any absorption capacity. (...) So the fighters cannot return to their villages at all. If they were sent home en masse, even though they could hardly survive there, there would be a risk of revolts." Of course, the Taliban leadership also knows that, according to Ruttig. This is why they are trying to "continue to pay people as police officers, members of the army or in some other way".

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