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An Anti-Taliban Front Is Already Forming. Can It Last?

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21.08.2021

What happens to the country and its people after the forever war ends?

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In October 2001, U.S. defense intelligence planners were tasked with assessing whether a coalition of anti-Taliban rebel groups known as the “Northern Alliance” could topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

“Taliban strength in the Kabul Central Corps is approximately 130 tanks, 85 armored personnel carriers, 85 pieces of artillery and approximately 7,000 soldiers,” U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officials wrote in a memo that has since been declassified. “Northern Alliance forces, under the command of General Fahim Khan, number about 10,000 troops, with approximately 40 tanks and a roughly equal number of APCs [armored personnel carriers] and a few artillery pieces.”

In October 2001, U.S. defense intelligence planners were tasked with assessing whether a coalition of anti-Taliban rebel groups known as the “Northern Alliance” could topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

“Taliban strength in the Kabul Central Corps is approximately 130 tanks, 85 armored personnel carriers, 85 pieces of artillery and approximately 7,000 soldiers,” U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officials wrote in a memo that has since been declassified. “Northern Alliance forces, under the command of General Fahim Khan, number about 10,000 troops, with approximately 40 tanks and a roughly equal number of APCs [armored personnel carriers] and a few artillery pieces.”

Just one month later, with U.S. backing, Taliban fighters fled the Afghan capital of Kabul and Northern Alliance forces entered the city, greeted by throngs of joyful residents celebrating the toppling of the brutal Taliban regime.

Now, two decades on, Kabul’s past has become its future. Thanks to the collective failure of 20 years of U.S. war and nation-building, culminating in a botched withdrawal, the Taliban appear to have significantly more political control, manpower, and military might than they had in 2001. They also have huge arsenals of U.S. military equipment abandoned by the Afghan army.

“I think it’s a different game than 1996,” said Mick Mulroy, a former CIA and Defense Department official, referring to the year the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. “Militarily, they have billions of dollars of our own provided weapons and equipment. They have the momentum. From their perspective, they just pushed out the number one superpower in the world.”

And yet, despite the lightning Taliban offensive and collapse of the Afghan government, a resistance group is already starting to form in the Panjshir province of northeast Afghanistan, once a stronghold of the........

© Foreign Policy


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