For the vast majority of our readers, the events in Afghanistan have been shocking and extremely chaotic. Culminating in the collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s government; the resurgence of the Taliban, after 20 years, marks a troubling new beginning for Afghanistan. Understanding how the country has gotten to this point is by no means simple: it is in part due to the complex web of interactions between a multitude of state and non-state actors working together and against each other within the country. The key objective of our collection of articles is to cut through the traditional noise of mainstream news and offer a deeper analysis on stories pertinent to our writers. In doing so, we have produced this Special Edition of The St Andrews Economist, by bringing together past and present analysis, to better understand what the future holds for Afghanistan.
Introducing the special edition is Editor in Chief, Lucy Wright, whose historical overview in A Fractured Past, A Fearful Future focuses primarily on understanding how key historical events within the country have led Afghanistan towards a second Taliban occupation and rule. Undoubtedly, a critical actor in this regard has been the US, whose funding of mujahadeen fighters and subsequent occupation within the country since 2001 has shaped the country massively, for better or worse. Shona McCallum challenges this perspective in her article How to dig an Imperial War Grave, critiquing the extent that economic aid and military support has been beneficial in stabilising and helping the country.
In turn, Dhruv Shah considers the impeding financial challenges facing the Taliban upon governing Afghanistan in his article, The Collapse of the Taliban. He notes that while much of the Taliban’s takeover within the country is dependent on lucrative sources of income, the militant group now face the hard task of governing the country in the face of sanctions and frozen assets. This is most certainly a tactic used by international countries to blunt some of the Taliban’s more repressive policies on women and minority groups within the country. However, as Elah Cohen argues in her article, The Future of the Hazara, the Hazara minority group within the country are unlikely to be free from repression given that countries like Iran have provided the Taliban with legitimacy and recognition, without any assurances of protecting human and minority rights.
While it is clear that the Taliban have relied heavily on financial success to drive their revolution, outside help from actors has remained crucial to success. Supriya Shekhar’s analysis of the geopolitical and international response in Aiding or Abetting the Taliban? surveys the geopolitical landscape, questioning to what extent neighbouring countries hindered or assisted the Taliban. Challenging many conventional notions, her article reveals that many countries such as Pakistan and China have in reality provided direct or indirect aid in some form to the Taliban. In fact, many of these countries have capitalised on the unstable situation, by undermining the US’s reputation and foreign policy by criticising the US’s bungled retreat from the country. Finally, Cosima Allen focuses on the domestic and international condemnation the Biden administration is facing by both the Afghani people along with the wider international community, in The Forever War.
By Dhruv Shah