How much power do the Taliban really have?

After the conquest of the country by the Taliban fighters, governments all over the world must now position themselves vis-à-vis the new de facto rulers. Europe's press discusses the question of how stable their grip on power is and whether governments should negotiate with the Taliban.

Open/close all quotes
Público (PT) /

No hypocritical hostility

Highlighting the Taliban's contempt for women but not that of others is hypocritical, writes jurist Alexandre Guerreiro in Público:.

“It is important to reflect and decide, once and for all, whether it is worth fuelling hostility against the Taliban or whether it is preferable to bring them to the negotiating table and try to achieve moderation possible through negotiation. After all, Islamic orthodoxy and the patriarchal, women's rights-restricting vision is already a reality in states like Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the US and several European countries, without the misogynist agenda offending Western governments.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Military know-how in the wrong hands

The fact that the Taliban are now taking over aircraft, radars and other modern technology that were provided to the Afghan army by the West is worrying, comments Cristian Unteanu in his blog at Adevărul:

“How many of the aircraft still work? No one knows anything for sure. Instead, we can expect a series of direct military consequences: namely, the exponential strengthening of Taliban forces and the possibility that some of the electronic equipment on board these planes will be auctioned off among the many interested parties on the international market, who may then come into possession of some of the best-kept secrets of the US military and Nato.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

The internal situation is far from stable

The Taliban's power is also being challenged within Afghanistan, and the resistance in the Panjshir Valley could escalate into a civil war, Serhiy Danilov of the Ukrainian office of the Middle East Studies Association explains in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“Due to the demoralisation of many potential supporters, logistical problems and the limited resources of the region, the chances of the Tajik movement succeeding are quite slim. However, even such events could have a significant impact on the precarious situation of the Taliban in its first days in power. If the resistance in the Panjshir Valley continues and receives external backing (most likely from India), a major civil war in Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

No alternative to cooperation

The groundwork for cooperation with the Taliban is already being laid, observes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“The Taliban give the impression that they will make a few tactical concessions, that they might even permit girls' schools to remain open for the time being, and the facilities in the big cities that the West will be watching. ... What seems likely now is that a dance around the red lines will begin - a border crossing by Taliban here, a human rights crime there. And so the West will have to come up with eloquent explanations for why it must cooperate now with extremists whom it has branded as the enemy for the past 20 years. After all, there is no alternative.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The Islamists are casting themselves as moderates

Rzeczpospolita tries to interpret the Taliban's promises:

“A transitional period is underway. President Ashraf Ghani, previously supported by the US, has fled abroad, but the victors have not yet announced the creation of a new state. Little is known about the nature of the future administration. ... The Taliban are trying to prove that they have changed. They assure that they will not take anyone's property and will not invade homes. They even say that they will arrest those who take advantage of the situation to loot.”

Kurier (AT) /

Use humanitarian aid as leverage

Afghanistan is facing a crisis that the international community should take advantage of when dealing with the Taliban, the Kurier points out:

“In addition to war, the Taliban's seizure of power and the mass exodus, another factor that plagues Afghanistan right now is a catastrophic drought. ... The Taliban may be cruel, violent, medieval, despotic and extremely intolerant - but it is not in their interest to let half their population starve. ... In order to get the urgently needed humanitarian aid into the country, the Taliban will also have to make concessions to the Western donors. Pressure could be exerted here along the lines: yes, we will send aid, but only if women's rights are protected.”

Birgün (TR) /

Tehran signals support

Birgün observes a surprising softening of stance:

“Although the Taliban do not tolerate other Islamic schools of though and have carried out brutal attacks and massacres against Shias since their inception, the Islamic Republic of Iran stands out among countries arguing that the Taliban have changed. Although it was thought that the Iranian-backed Shia militias [in Afghanistan] would fight to the death against the Taliban, no fighting took place. In Qom and Tehran, the Iranian government even arrested women protesting against the Taliban. Tehran's view of the Taliban has changed since the emergence of IS, signalling a more conciliatory policy towards the Taliban in recent years.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

Don't burn all your bridges

Turun Sanomat hopes that Afghanistan will not completely shut itself off now:

“The collapse of the old government and the withdrawal of Western troops means that the Taliban can now decide for themselves whether they want to negotiate and stay in touch with the rest of the world in the future. Hopefully, they will want to, because isolating Afghanistan would be against everyone's interests. These last 20 years have taught us that it is far better to negotiate with radical organisations than avoid them.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Great terror lies ahead

Dialogue won't be on the agenda in the next few months, Webcafé fears:

“[The Taliban] will introduce their own version of people's courts and convict hundreds, if not thousands, of people as supporters of the ousted regime. What will that mean? Show trials, deportations, camps, mass graves, executions and so on. Entrepreneurs, intellectuals, teachers, students, in general, all dissenters, will be sifted out. ... For the Afghan people, who have experienced so much suffering and fighting in their past, this will be yet another, if not the greatest, tragedy in their history.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

These murderers only understand violence

There is no way to reason with the radical Islamic militia; the only way to stop them is to defeat them, argues former South Asia correspondent Hasnain Kazim in Zeit Online:

“There are those who hope that the Taliban will bring stability, including people in Germany. ... The Taliban don't care what the world thinks about them; they are successful anyway. The reality is that the Taliban are there, and there is no getting around them. You'll forgive me when I say that after all my experiences with them, I can never believe that peace with them is possible. There are no 'good Taliban', as they sometimes say. There are no Taliban that you can talk to, negotiate with. There are only murderous, primitive Taliban with medieval or even caveman ways of thinking. All you can do is fight them.”