Afghan reality check

Afghan reality check

Amid the chaos of Taliban-held Afghanistan, part of the international media, some pundits, and the Biden administration are pushing narratives that reinforce their own self-serving views, yet often don't reflect the reality on the ground. This applies, for instance, to the willingness of Afghans to stand up to the Taliban, whether the group actually controls the country, Kabul-centric coverage, and the US scapegoating the Afghan military for the Taliban rout.

We shed some light on what's really happening in Afghanistan with help from Pashtana Durrani, an Afghan teacher and human rights activist who challenged on GZERO World much of what she views as disinformation coming out of her country.

The Afghan people won't resist the Taliban. In fact, that's exactly what some of them are doing right now.

About 200 people took to the streets of Kabul on Thursday to protest against the country's new rulers before they were violently dispersed by Taliban goons. There have been similar modest-sized rallies in Khost, where a curfew has been declared, and Asadabad, where Taliban fighters killed several demonstrators for waving the now-banned Afghan national flag. If the demonstrations grow, bloody crackdowns are all but assured given the group's long track record of showing no mercy to those who defy their rule.

Durrani believes more will come out soon: "Just because a few men in Kabul have changed doesn't justify [...] that we have to change our way of life for them."

The Taliban are fully in charge. Militarily perhaps, but not as a functioning government. After all, most of them only know how to fight.

The Taliban clearly knew how to win the war, but are struggling to figure out how to govern, especially how to pay for it all. If they can't show the Afghan people they are really in control, that'll undermine their legitimacy in the eyes of the population and at least some of the nations they want to do business with (obviously not most democracies).

To run a country, you need a plan, and Durrani says they simply don't have one: "Military men can never do public policy."

Kabul represents all Afghanistan. No, it doesn't. And if the situation in the capital is rapidly deteriorating, it's probably much worse in other parts of the country, where the Taliban can be more brazen because they're not being watched as closely as in Kabul.

For instance, the regime insists that girls have already returned to public schools in Herat, but Durrani claims that private schools remain closed because female students fear the Taliban, and most women are staying home. The regime is trying to put on a show of moderation, yet at the same time activists are raising the alarm about the Taliban going door-to-door to interrogate and intimidate women in places like Kandahar.

Once the foreigners are gone, Durrani predicts the Taliban will show their true face: "They will impose their law [...] They will police people, and they will control them — from what they wear to what they eat, to what they dress to what they listen to, to how they conduct their life."

US President Joe Biden says the Taliban took over so quickly because the Afghan army didn't want to fight. This is not accurate. There's ample evidence (see here, here, and here) demonstrating that despite the US spending $83 billion to equip and train them over 20 years, the Afghan military was no match for the battle-hardened Taliban without US support.

Still, Biden wants to deflect part of the blame for the Taliban rout. But he didn't listen to the CIA. What's more, although many Afghan commanders did surrender to the Taliban without firing a shot, quite a few likely did so to avoid a bloodbath because they were outnumbered, outgunned, and outskilled by the Taliban.

For Durrani, now is not the time to dishonor the Afghan army, no matter how corrupt its political leaders were, because they were willing to fight.

Watch her response to Biden below, and stay tuned for more clips from the interview.

Don't Blame Afghan Army for Taliban Rout, Afghan Activist Tells Biden | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

The key for small business growth? More digital support.;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?
The key for small business growth? More digital support.

The pandemic ushered in a boom in new businesses, with growth driven largely by entrepreneurs and small businesses in online retail, transportation, and personal services. According to our recent survey, small businesses indicated that to continue to thrive, greater digital support is even more important than more loans or grants. Their top priorities? Better internet connections. More cybersecurity capabilities. Greater digital sales support. Increasing digital payments. Read more about how we can work together on this important issue from the experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

More Show less

January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

More Show less
The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

More Show less

For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

More Show less

Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

GZERO World Clips


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal