- Guillermo D. Olmo @BBCgolmo
- BBC News World
Afghanistan changed radically in just a few days.
Although there are still many unknowns about the regime that the Taliban want to implant now that they have regained control of the country and the US troops accelerate their chaotic withdrawal, one thing is clear: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has gone down in history.
The departure of its president, Ashraf Ghani, and the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban are already the first chapter of a new era, that of the Islamic emirate that the insurgents plan to implant in Afghanistan.
In fact the Taliban define themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Under that denomination they signed the Doha Agreement of 2020, which was the preamble for the withdrawal of the United States, and their spokesmen have repeated it in recent days.
And that’s what Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called the country in his press conferences.
The new regime has already found a response, as the protests in cities such as Kabul, Jalalabad and Asadabad have already made clear, where protesters were fired upon while flying the flag of the Republic, which the Taliban have decided to replace with their own.
The name change has political, ideological and religious implications that could have profound consequences for Afghans and for their country’s relations with the rest of the Islamic world and the international community in general.
What is an emirate and what does it mean
This type of state is concentrated in the area of the Persian Gulf. Qatar and Kuwait are Emirates. United Arab Emirates, as its name suggests, a federation of them.
Contrary to what happens in the republics, where the president does not hold religious leadership, in the emirate “political and religious power are linked in the figure of the emir“explains Javier Guirado, a researcher at the Center for Middle East Studies at Georgia State University, in conversation with BBC Mundo.
The overlap between political power and religious power is common in many Muslim countries.
Thomas Barfield, an anthropologist specializing in Afghanistan at Boston University, explains that “the origins of the title of emir go back to that of amīr almu’minīn “, that happened to the Spanish like miramamolín or commander of the faithfuls. The title was already used by some military leaders in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632).
Barfield explains that the emirate also implies differences with respect to the caliphate, which is what the Islamic State claims to be, an organization considered terrorist by the United States and the European Union.
“The Islamic State says it has a plan to conquer the world and ensures that its caliph exercises power over all Muslims wherever they are. The Taliban consider themselves an independent political unit that includes only those who live in the territory of Afghanistan “.
In fact, Guirado explains, “the caliphate comes from the period of the so-called four orthodox caliphs, when Islam was ruled by the direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad” in the 7th century.
When that unified caliphate fell apart, emirates and sultanates began to emerge. Sultan, Barfield explains, “is a title that tends to privilege the military aspect of leadership.”
How then will the emirate of the Taliban in Afghanistan cope with the universal caliphate that the Islamic State jihadists dream of building?
Barfield responde: “Both groups look like rivals and it will be interesting to see if Islamic State bombs now start to explode in Kabul. “
Something that happened on Thursday, August 25 at the Kabul airport.
That rivalry is one of the hopes that American diplomacy clings to to believe in the Taliban promise that they will prevent Afghan territory from being used to launch attacks against Western interests.
Why an emirate
“Choosing a model like the emirate has its roots in the Taliban’s own political tradition“Guirado explains.
In fact, Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban regime until the US invasion caused its downfall in 2001, held the title of emir.
But the tradition of the emirate in Afghanistan it is much older than the Taliban movement.
Barfield explains that “the title was used for the first time in Afghanistan in the 19th century. Until then, the leaders had received the title of sha, but a political dispute arose, because to be a shah you required a descendant of Ahmad Sha Durrani” ( 1722-1772), founder of the Afghan empire and considered the father of modern Afghanistan.
“When a new group from a different lineage seized power, it began to adopt the title of emir as a way to achieve political status“sums up the expert.
Afghanistan later had other political regimes, such as the constitutional monarchy of Mohamed Zahir Shah, overthrown by a coup in 1973, and the Islamic republic established after the US invasion of 2001, but the Taliban always dreamed of restoring the old emirate.
Now it is inevitable that they will succeed, although many Afghans fear that this means a return to the violent and oppressive regime of women who suffered in the 1990s.
What will the new emirate be like
One of the questions everyone is asking now is what the new emirate will be like.
The Taliban have already shown their intention to change the country’s flag and consider the emirate founded.
The Constitution approved in 2004, under Western occupation, which declares Afghanistan as an “Islamic Republic” and establishes an “order based on popular will and democracy”, is already dead paper.
“Surely they are not going to write a new ConstitutionBecause for them the sharia or Islamic law is enough, but in Afghanistan there will be no more elections, because for the Taliban the legitimacy of the government does not come from the will of the people, but from the will of God “, predicts Barfield.
The emir will foreseeably have political and judicial powers, as well as religious authority. But will he rule forever?
“If you look at the Afghan past, you realize that most leaders only left power dead or exiled“, says Barfield.
However, that does not mean that the emir will have absolute power or that he can impose himself without negotiation.
“Afghanistan has great ethnic diversity and it is likely that we will see an election through committees of notables” representing the different tribes of the country, Guirado notes.
The forecasts point to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Omar’s lieutenant and who led the negotiation of the Doha Agreement with the United States, as the likely chosen one, but that is one of the many unknowns yet to be cleared.
Taliban spokesmen repeat that they want “an inclusive government” and Barfield recalls that “Sunni Islam reigns in Afghanistan, much less hierarchical than the chíita, so the factions always tend to seek compromises and agreements. ”
Will women play a role in this negotiation for power? At the moment they have not been seen at any table and the past gives little reason to think that it will be like that. Just allowing girls to study and adults to work will already mean a change from the previous Taliban period.
But, pthat to the scenes of chaos from the retreat,the 20 years of US-led intervention couldn have induced lasting changes in the country with whom the new Taliban power will have to deal.
“Now there is a trained population, especially in the cities, that has access to the networks and has become accustomed to voting, so perhaps the Taliban cannot impose a regime as closed as the 1990s,” warns Guirado.
In fact, some urban mobilizations have already been seen that indicate that there is now a different society.
If the Taliban return to the machismo and fundamentalist brutality that horrified the world before 2001, it will be difficult for them to obtain the international recognition they seem to be seeking, and that would have diplomatic and economic consequences for their regime.
“The question is if the taliban have learned their lesson that to govern the country they have to reconcile with their enemies, “says Barfield.
The news of gunfire against protesters, and persecution and threats against collaborators of the old Afghan government do not invite optimism, but that answer, like that of the identity of the new emir, will only be given time.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.