Six months to the day after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, Jean-Charles Jauffret, professor emeritus of contemporary history at Sciences-Po Aix and author of the book “The Unfinished War: Afghanistan 2001-2013” (ed. Otherwise) , returns this Tuesday, February 15 to the dramatic situation in the country.
What conclusions can we draw from the 6 months spent in power by the Taliban?
The poor Afghans have gone down another march in disillusionment, in the “black hole” that is Afghanistan since 1973, during the coup against the last king Mohammad Zaher Shah. It is a kind of despair, of unhappiness that does not cease.
It’s a failed state, it’s the problem of an insurrectionary terrorist movement which is incapable of transforming itself into an administration and of being responsible because it is not representative. The Taliban only represent themselves. It is a State which does not exist in the proper sense because the administration has been shattered: most civil servants are hidden or have fled and those who remain are required to do the minimum.
Geopolitically, what can we expect from the Taliban in the future?
Compared to their older brothers in the dreadful years of 1996 to 2001 who were alone in power, apart from Commander Massoud’s resistance in the Panjshir valley, the Taliban are less radical because of a novelty: they need the international aid so they can’t completely close the country to journalists. Which means that, for the moment, we have not yet seen beheadings or women being stoned in the middle of the street, even if they are excluded from the public space. This is the only element that seems different to me compared to 1996.
Apart from that, you have to get inside the Taliban’s head, they think that their power comes from God and that their history is divine, so the world owes them everything. So when you meet Afghan diplomats, they want to put on a facade of respectability but, in reality, they do nothing. That is to say that they give through the press the illusion that they are going to begin to open up this “prison” state that they are in the process of setting up.
It is a government that lives in its own way, which is totally ignorant of world affairs and which thinks that part of the world is idolizing them, as the Malians are unfortunately currently doing. . It is a kind of willful blindness because they are convinced that their victories come from God and therefore that everything is due to them.
After observing the discrepancy between the words of the Taliban and their deeds, how can we explain the interest of negotiations with the latter for the developed countries?
There are three poles: the first is evidence. This is what António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, continues to demand, saying in particular on August 16: “we cannot hold the Afghan population responsible for the straitjacket taken by the Americans and the way in which they fled the country leaving everything in the lurch”. Today we have between 36 and 38 million Afghans. Nearly 23 million of them are threatened with starvation and, as I speak to you, we have a million children who are dying. We have appalling scenes with the rare photos we can have of women who want to sell their daughter or their infant, or even a part of their body…
So there is a notion of humanitarian aid but we cannot trust a government of terrorists… Where will the money go? We have already experienced with the government of Hamid Karzai, for example, incredible corruption. So much so that we find ourselves faced with a dilemma: we must help, but through the channel of NGOs, filtered by the Taliban. The whole health system is based on Doctors Without Borders, for example. The international community has an obligation to help in a harsh universe with a drought undermining crops. We are faced with an absolutely appalling humanitarian disaster.
The second element is all the same to tell oneself that a minimum of respect for human rights is necessary. It is this aspect that seems to me to be a sticking point. Behind this problem hides another, very rarely underlined. To allude to a film by Michel Audiard, “we must not take the children of God for wild ducks”. Why do you think that countries that are very interested in what Afghanistan contains, with a mountain of copper and rare earths, like Iran right on the border or Russia to the north, still haven’t sent embassy in Kabul? The real reason is that Afghanistan remains the first narco-state on the planet. 10% of Iranians are infected with Afghan heroin and hashish. Every time there are conversations between the Taliban and the Russians, we spit on this problem. Over the past 20 years, an average of 30,000 young Russians have died each year from Afghan heroin.
They have a fortune, stored up for many years, which comes from drugs. To give an example, the average production of pure heroin, which will be lower this year, is 900 tons per year. As soon as the drug is produced in Afghanistan, it represents approximately one million dollars, then this sum will be multiplied by 3, 4, 5 or even 10 on resale. On September 19, in the Indian port of Gujarat, near the border with Pakistan, a Pakistani pseudo-trawler was stopped on a state canal with three tons of pure Afghan heroin on board.
Added to this is what they have always done, namely the religious tax, levying 10% of the various activities of Afghan citizens. Like Daesh in Syria, it is a rich insurgency. They are asking for help when they are doing absolutely nothing to put an end to what is most scandalous for neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, namely drugs. That is why this country has not yet recognized the Taliban.
So they don’t need money but rather international recognition?
The problem is that they have all the same inherited a state, so the hydraulic power stations must be able to function, the hospitals must function… The health system has been reduced to a tenth with hospitals unable to provide the slightest help, with a special thought for women who are always neglected. The only convincing medical sector is that of prostheses because of the many Afghans affected by Russian mines. For everything else, the country is at a standstill, on the verge of a gigantic humanitarian catastrophe.