I felt helpless: A year after the fall of Kabul, the world can still help Afghanistan

The Taliban are not capable of running a modern government. They do not have the resources or the capacity to regulate Afghanistan's economy or incorporate the rule of law into their government.

Mohammad Farid Hamidi
Former Afghan attorney general

I didn't feel anything but numb. I watched the news as young Afghans held onto planes to escape the Taliban. I watched as young Afghan women were robbed of their freedom, education and lives. I could do nothing but call my family and colleagues as I sat in the United States, preparing to complete a graduate program at Harvard. 

Aug. 15, 2021, was the first time I felt helpless. 

It was the day I realized that I would no longer have a home in a country that had been my sanctuary for 53 years. Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, was almost the last province to fall in the hands of the Taliban. It was the final province that was still hopeful of holding and surviving.

Throughout my life in Afghanistan, I witnessed the fall of many governments. I know how long it takes for a government to collapse, for the people to panic and for chaos to ensue, but this collapse was the most painful and surprising of all.

Fall of Afghan government, fall of America from grace

All I wanted to do was go back, but as a former attorney general during the country's desperate attempt for democracy, that was not an option. Not with the Taliban back in power. As young Afghans fell off planes, their fall did signify not only the fall of the Afghan government but also the fall of America from grace in a country it had invested 20 years in struggling to liberate. 

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I knew that the Afghan people would suffer more. The Taliban believed in a military solution. They expected the Afghan people to accept them. They expected the world to ratify them as they unlawfully fought and took the nation, spilling the blood of hundreds of thousands of Afghans over the past 20 years.

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug.16, 2021.

The people of Afghanistan want peace, not another oppressive totalitarian government. This need will only grow – it will grow until there is no more vast space for it to grow and that's when the vase will break. The Taliban miscalculated as they brutally killed thousands last year during their return to power. The world witnessed the Taliban and their work toward the recession of all the progress made in the country.

But now, Afghanistan has become a haven for terrorists and terrorist organizations. Watching the Taliban undo all the progress that Afghanistan and its people made it very difficult because Afghanistan had finally become a country that preserved women's rights and human rights and pushed for education. Afghanistan was advancing forward, but now the Taliban have reversed the 20 years of progress.

The Taliban are not capable of running a modern government. They do not have the resources or the capacity to regulate Afghanistan's economy or incorporate the rule of law into their government.

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The Taliban only know how to fight.

This will lead to more severe conflict in Afghanistan, which will be disastrous for the region and for the world. The Taliban incorporated discriminative laws into their rule – from discrimination against religion, to discrimination based on ethnicity and gender, and discrimination against millions of people who were working and living under the previous government. My fear is this will lead to the collapse of Afghanistan as a nation. 

What can UN do to help Afghanistan?

There still can be a concerted push for peace in Afghanistan and prosperity for future generations.

But that means the Taliban must be pressured to change. The United Nations can help by establishing an inclusive committee to monitor the implementation of the 2020 "Doha deal," which among other things requires the Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaida and terrorist organizations.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban "grossly" violated the deal by harboring al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri  in Kabul, where a U.S. drone killed al-Zawahri on July 30. 

A U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri on July 30, 2022, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Even so, the Taliban might emerge as a legitimate party to the political process if they accept the reality of the need to refer to people’s will. They cannot rule Afghanistan like they have been doing. After 42 years of civil and international wars in Afghanistan, there are still opportunities for peace and the chance to resolve chronic problems of failed state and conflict.

The Taliban should also face diplomatic pressure to allow people to return to public life and create a constitution that ensures political, civil, cultural and economic rights. 

Mohammad Farid Hamidi

Establishing an inclusive body to draft a constitution will ensure equal rights for men and women to distribute power, wealth, resources and democratic institutions. The Taliban need to conduct a fair and accessible election to restore the rights of the people in their nation. The United Nations should be the leading organization for a still hopeful Afghanistan's mission for peace.

Mohammad Farid Hamidi served as attorney general of Afghanistan from 2016 to 2021. He is a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.