The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly changing as the new Taliban government begins its transition into power. Afghanistan has seen continuous armed conflict within its borders over the past 20 years during the occupation by coalition forces. The former Afghan government founded on democratic principles was toppled by the Taliban within weeks of the withdrawal of those coalition forces. The coalition forces, a conglomerate of NATO and non-NATO members, withdrew completely on August 28, 2021. The withdrawal of coalition forces and much of the aid they provided has left a shell of a government and an economy completely reliant on imports and foreign aid.
The rapid collapse of the old government has allowed the Taliban to fill the gap and they have begun the process of establishing their own government. An interim cabinet has been formed from their command structure. Acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund has been a targeted individual for sanctions by the United Nations, other members of the cabinet have also been targeted for sanctions over the past 30 years. The cabinet has pledged to restore order to the country. However, forces within Afghanistan continue to resist the Taliban, groups in the Panjshir province continue to openly battle with the Taliban and the Afghan sect of ISIS, ISIS-K, is continuing its attacks against Taliban held cities. ISIS-K has long been a rival to the Taliban and throughout its history has taken Taliban defectors into its ranks. The Taliban have also begun seiing land and property, declaring a that decision by Shura had made it the People’s Land. Thousands have been displaced by these decisions since the withdrawal of coalition forces.
The return of Taliban control has led to a mass exodus of Afghans to bordering nations and is producing a refugee crisis. Over 35,000 Afghan citizens have fled since January of this year. The lack of a complete government also threatens a complete economic collapse and famine. The supply of aid has been slowed over uncertainty about the new Taliban government and sanctions that remain in place, maintained by the United Nations. One in five of all medical facilities remain operational, the remaining hospitals and aid stations have been starved of supplies in the time since the withdrawal of coalition forces. The security of the Afghan state remains uncertain in the coming months.
What can be done to prevent Afghanistan becoming a sanctuary for terrorist organizations like ISIS-K? How can refugees and aid groups be supported and protected? How should the UNSC interact with the Taliban government?