Is Washington Administration Going to Change its Strategy Against the Taliban?

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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States of America (USA), which intervened in Afghanistan with a military operation called “Operation Endless Freedom” on October 7, 2001, within the framework of the “Preventive Intervention Doctrine”, in the context of the objectives of the invasion, although it succeeded in neutralizing the leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization Osama Bin Laden and overthrowing the Taliban administration, it could not establish a stable order in Afghanistan, and therefore the Taliban continued to exist and gained strength over time.

Public support for the Taliban increased due to reasons such as the collapse of the constitutional order established by the USA with the crises experienced in every election, the corruption of the people who ruled Afghanistan during the said period, and the loss of civilian lives in the operations organized by the USA. there is?” question began to be asked.

In this environment, the Washington administration decided to develop a dialogue with the Taliban by discussing the military cost of the war. Negotiations between the parties ended with the Doha Agreement signed on February 29, 2020. In this context, the USA withdrew from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, after 20 years of occupation.

The Taliban has been ruling the country since August 2021. However, although the USA withdrew from Afghanistan within the framework of the Doha Treaty signed with the Taliban, it did not recognize the government established by the Taliban. The fact that the USA, which is the dominant power of the global system, does not recognize the Taliban administration has also shaped the approach of the international community. As a matter of fact, the government established by the Taliban has not yet been recognized by any state or international organization. Although various actors and especially the countries of the region develop faco relations with the Taliban, they expect a great power like the USA to take a step towards official recognition.

The Washington administration, on the other hand, linked the issue of the recognition of the Taliban to three basic conditions. The first of these is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe harbor for terrorist organizations, and in this context, the country’s territory is not used against other states. The second is the establishment of an inclusive government in which all identity groups will be represented. Thirdly, the White House asks the Taliban to establish an order that respects human rights, especially women’s rights.

In response to all these demands, the Taliban stated that they were fighting against Daesh al-Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS); It denies the presence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In this sense, it can be said that the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, in an air operation organized by the USA in the Shir Pur region of Kabul, had a negative impact on the Taliban’s dialogue with the West and especially with the USA. Moreover, the Taliban states that the government they have established is already inclusive and closes the door to discussing inclusive government demands from Washington and its allies. Finally, the Taliban administration attributes the women’s rights issue to the expression “Islamic criteria” within the framework of its ideological approach.

All these conditions cause the USA to approach the Taliban at a distance. For this reason, the Washington administration has developed an approach that supports anti-Taliban groups since the beginning of the second Taliban era. However, during this approach, the White House emphasized a “political solution” and stated that armed opposition could not be supported at every opportunity.

The discourses in question include the recommendation to negotiate on the establishment of an inclusive government that will also include the Taliban. In this regard, the United States has been calling for the resumption of “Inter-Afghan Talks” since August 2021.

At this point, it should be emphasized that the main goal of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite calls for political dialogue, is to cause chaos in the center of Eurasia. In other words, the USA, by withdrawing from Afghanistan, where it could not create a stable environment, wanted the power vacuum to destabilize its rivals such as Russia and China. As a matter of fact, after the withdrawal of the USA and its allies, the activities of the so-called Khorasan Emirate (ISKP) of the terrorist organization DAESH in Afghanistan increased. The actions of this organization mainly target foreign diplomatic missions and Hazaras. In this sense, it can be argued that ISKP wants to increase the ethnic and sectarian fragility of Afghanistan and tries to create a situation in which radicalization will rise uncontrollably.

Undoubtedly, the rise of radicalization may spread to China via the Vahan Corridor and to Russian Muslims via Central Asia. Therefore, it can be argued that the USA wants to drag Afghanistan in particular and Eurasian geopolitics in general into chaos, despite calls for a political solution. Therefore, it should be noted that the Washington administration may change its strategy against the Taliban.

The first sign of the said change was John Bolton, who served as the US National Security Advisor during the Donald Trump era. In his statement on January 6, 2023, Bolton said that armed opposition to the Taliban could be supported.[1] In the USA, the Democrats are in power; Considering that Bolton is a Republican name, it is possible to evaluate the aforementioned statements as an oppositional voice in US domestic politics. However, considering Bolton’s critical role in the past, it can be said that a new strategy is sought in anti-Taliban searches in the US defense and security bureaucracy. Shortly after Bolton’s words, the US delegation met with the leaders of the Penshir Movement.

The Panshir Movement, which is currently led by names such as Ahmed Mesud and Emrullah Salih, is one of the leading groups in Afghanistan with the demand for an inclusive government. At the same time, it draws attention as the first group that comes to mind when the anti-Taliban armed opposition is mentioned. For this reason, the Washington administration’s meeting with the Penshir Movement,[2] can be interpreted as a harbinger of a change in strategy against the Taliban.

The most important event that reveals the transformation in the American strategy beyond the Republicans is the statements made by the US State Department Spokesman Ned Price on January 24, 2023. Because Price stated that the steps of the Taliban will not be free of cost and that the USA will use all its leverage to stop the violation of the Taliban’s human rights.[3]

Therefore, the USA makes a new evaluation at the state level in terms of Afghanistan strategy beyond the differences of the actors in domestic politics regarding foreign policy.

The evaluation in question is extremely important in that it contains signs that the armed opposition can be supported. Supporting the armed opposition means that the Penshir Movement can be supported by the USA. As might be expected, this would mean a re-intensification of conflicts in Afghanistan. Of course, this may initiate a process that may evolve into civil war at the first stage and then into regional chaos.

As a result, although the USA is in favor of a “political solution” in its Afghanistan policy, from the very beginning, it wanted to drag the country and the region into chaos by using terrorist organizations such as DAESH as a proxy actor. At this point, the Washington administration has started to refer to military methods and has shown that it can support the armed opposition. In this sense, it is possible for the Washington administration to support the Panshir Movement in a way that will drag Afghanistan into civil war. The contacts of the Americans with the leaders of the Penshir Movement also point to this.

[1] “Bolton: America Should Support The Armed Resistance Against the Taliban”, The Afghan Times¸, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[2] “هیات آمریکایی با اعضای جبهه مقاومت افغانستان دیدار کرد”, IRNA,, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[3] “سخنگوی وزارت خارجه امریکا: در حال بازبینی رفتار خود با طالبان هستیم”, AFINTL,, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.