• Tyler Connolly

The current situation in Afghanistan from the perspective of two professors


Taliban soldiers lining up // Photo courtesy https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/taliban-afghanistan

The Taliban rapidly advanced across Afghanistan following announcements of foreign forces withdrawing from the country and with the capture of Kabul on Aug. 15, they claimed victory.

This brings an end to the 20-year U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and has caused many to flee their homes and seek a way out of the country.

A religious studies professor, Jeffry Halverson, Ph.D., said a major difference between mainstream Sunni Islam and extreme movements such as the Taliban is that “Mainstream Sunni Muslims traditionally believe that faith resides in the heart and only God knows what’s in your heart. Sunni Muslims have generally accepted anyone who says they are a Muslim as a member of the community, even if they are a sinner.”

Halverson also said, “In addition, Sunni Muslims traditionally recognize that there are many different interpretations of their religion. In contrast, extremist groups like the Taliban believe there is one ‘true’ Islam, which they are fighting to make supreme and anyone who doesn’t conform to their beliefs, practices, or political ideology is a renegade and apostate who is a target for violence (unless they repent and submit).”

The extreme religious views that the Taliban have will play a key part in the type of political system they plan to install in Afghanistan, which they have stated will be Sharia law.

“For Muslims, sharia lays out all the rules and instructions for living life correctly,” said Halverson. “However, sharia is not a fixed thing. Muslim scholars interpret texts, namely the Qur’an and the Hadith, and utilize various methods and principles to formulate sharia. As a result, there are many different interpretations or formulations of sharia.”

The Taliban’s interpretation of sharia relies on strict literal adherence to the earliest texts and military power that the Taliban must allow for them to enforce their interpretation, which Halverson said, “can lead to many restrictions and human rights violations.”

Now that we understand the ideologies the Taliban embrace, we can begin to look at how a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will affect the rest of the world, especially the United States.

Intelligence and National Security Studies Professor, Matthew Cobb said, “With the government in Afghanistan basically gone, you have groups that are hostile to the United States that see room to get power they don’t currently have.”

We have already seen an attack by the Khorasan Province, an offshoot of original ISIS (ISIS-K) at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan, which killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghans on Aug. 26, and may continue to see terrorist attacks in the country. Along with security threats to the United States, Cobb stresses the possibility of other issues.

“The potential for internal problems within Afghanistan that can create a headache for some of the nearby countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, which could see refugee flows if internal conflicts worsen,” said Cobb.

While a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan may lead to problems for some countries, Cobb says there are four countries, besides the U.S., interested in having some type of relationship with Afghanistan (China, India, Pakistan and Russia).

Cobb said, along with these four countries he also believes many other countries will “Try turn this situation into an opportunity for them, but they will have a difficult time doing it because the political instability in Afghanistan will last for a long time.”

One big question that still looms is whether we will see foreign forces get involved in Afghanistan again. Cobb believes it is unlikely unless the Taliban becomes provocative and begins making threats to some of these other countries, or if the situation creates a problem in the form of refugee flows or terrorist threats.

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