Who will rule Afghanistan?

Since the withdrawal of international troops, the Taliban have advanced faster than expected, taking control of the country's third-largest city Herat on Thursday and its second-largest city Kandahar just a few hours later. The US and the UK have sent troops to Kabul to ensure diplomats can leave the country safely. Commentators discuss whether the Taliban's onslaught can still be stopped.

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Der Spiegel (DE) /

Use military power to force a peace deal

The Taliban must be forced back to the negotiating table with a limited military response, Der Spiegel argues:

“International troops would have to form a protective wall around Kabul, the capital and the surrounding provinces - from the air but also on the ground. They need to present the Taliban with a plausible deterrent that makes it impossible for them to take control of the entire country in the next three to twelve months. ... Achieving a peace agreement or a power-sharing deal between the elites in Kabul and the Taliban leadership in Qatar would still be the only meaningful goal for which the use of Western military force in Afghanistan is worthwhile. At the same time following the logic that the Afghans themselves now take responsibility for their country.”

The Economist (GB) /

Don't abandon Afghanistan

Even after its withdrawal, the US can still use its political and military clout to keep the Taliban in check, writes The Economist:

“It could deploy special forces on brief sorties to bolster the Afghan army, for instance. ... Above all, Mr Biden could signal that he does not intend to abandon Afghanistan to its fate - an impression that is doing more than anything else to hasten the Taliban's advance. Over the past 20 years, America has not managed to turn Afghanistan into a flourishing democracy, but it can still stop it from reverting to a violent theocracy.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Outcome of negotiations decided on the battlefield

Commenting in Novaya Gazeta, Vasily Kravtsov, ex-diplomat and Afghanistan expert, laments the powerlessness of international diplomacy:

“The agreements with the Taliban in Doha testify to the collapse of the entire global diplomacy initiative on the Afghanistan issue. Like a fish in a bucket, they are still trying to come up with something; we read about this in the news from Doha, where a negotiation process is supposedly underway. ... But the helplessness of the participants in the process has inevitably led to the current military-political situation in Afghanistan. The key actors should have realised from the beginning that the negotiating positions are determined more by the situation on the battlefield than by arbitrary agreements in distant holiday resorts.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

China forging ahead

Afghanistan is once again becoming a pawn of the powers that be, La Repubblica laments:

“It is Moscow and Beijing who are attempting, by all means, to take advantage of America's diminished clout. While Russia has assumed a key role in Syria, Afghanistan falls within China's sphere of influence. ... Poor and mountainous, Afghanistan can only play a minor role in China's global economic strategy. But replacing Washington as the country's leading power is part of China's strategy. The circle closes if we consider that the Taliban have always been closely linked to Pakistan, which has a symbiotic relationship with China.”

T24 (TR) /

Ankara playing a risky game

Ankara has declared its willingness to secure Kabul airport after the withdrawal of international troops, and Erdoğan also announced on Wednesday that he is willing to discuss de-escalation with the Taliban leadership. The website T24 examines Ankara's motives:

“Two of its main motives are the severe economic crisis into which the government has plunged the country and a misguided foreign policy that has left Turkey internationally isolated. It looks like the primary goal of this Afghanistan policy is to secure financial aid from the US and the EU and free itself from its isolation. ... But this policy could endanger the country's security and its social peace. Turkey needs to rethink its Afghanistan and refugee policies.”

Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Irresponsible deportations

The Belgian government is currently considering suspending deportations to Afghanistan. As things stand now, many applications for asylum by Afghans are being rejected. This is a denial of reality, lawyer Selma Benkhelifa comments angrily in Le Vif/L'Express:

“The deterioration of the security situation is well known and has everyone worried. Except for the Refugee Commissioner's office, which continues to claim that Afghans seeking protection in Belgium don't face any great danger if they are deported to Afghanistan. ... How can we refuse to grant Afghan women asylum when we know the atrocities the Taliban have inflicted on them? How can we refuse to protect children when recruiting child soldiers is part of the Taliban's strategy?”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

The Hague's cheap and dirty solution

The Netherlands put a temporary ban on deportations to Afghanistan on Wednesday but continues to refuse the asylum applications of former army helpers such as interpreters. Columnist Julien Althuisius condemns this in De Volkskrant:

“This is how the political and bureaucratic machinery works: You put in a clear moral commitment at one end - and a rickety, foul solution comes out at the other end. While other countries have already taken their interpreters out of Afghanistan until recently, the Netherlands still wanted to deport Afghans whose asylum applications had been rejected. And The Hague - in a holiday mood, sluggish and lazy from the summer - refuses to accept the gravity of the situation.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Women and girls will be the big losers

According to Hürriyet, it is only a matter of time before the Taliban takes Kabul, but it's already clear who the losers will be:

“There is a consensus that if Kabul falls and the Taliban take over the government, all that was achieved during the previous government in the area of political and social rights will be lost. One of the biggest concerns is that under Taliban ideology, women's rights will be curtailed by Sharia law, and girls' educational prospects will be rigorously blocked. In Afghanistan, radical religious groups attacking educational institutions, and especially secondary schools for girls, is a common occurrence.”