New Delhi: It is being observed that since August 2021, when the Taliban took over the reins of power in Afghanistan, the rule gradually toughened and became more authoritarian and rigid, mirroring how they dictated in the early 1990s when they were in control in the first regime.
The United States and the West are now feeling the heat, and a confrontation has begun. Despite several visits of US and UN officials to Kabul and Doha, as well as visits of those countries to Afghanistan, seen as a bridge between the ruling Afghan regime and the US, like Turkey, UAE and OIC, more substantial changes are needed.
Taliban continues to harden their stand against women and implement strict "Sharia Law" against the wishes of the local masses and those counties that supported their return to power.
The ruling Taliban is back restricting women's movement in the malls and parks and equally discouraging women in education and the workplace; as one of the analysts says, "if given a chance, most of the women along with their children will leave the country."
At several places, Taliban rulers are whipping Afghan residents, including women, for minor criminal issues like theft in public places and Mosques, creating further fear amongst the residents.
It is believed that present ruling hard-line President Haibatullah Akhundzada retains his tight grip on all decision-making. Haibatullah and his coterie have already developed some differences with moderate Taliban leaders like Baradar, Shaheen Sultan and others.
Most Afghan political pundits are predicting that chances are that the ruling Taliban will lose their grip on power in Afghanistan as they are now sandwiched between radical Islamic State -Khorasan or ISIS-K and the US and its allies.
Afghan situation analysts also predict that the Taliban is unlikely to control the increasing foothold and militant-related activities of the Islamic State Khorasan across Afghanistan.
Rumours are agog that chances of defection or divide in the Taliban cannot be ruled out. Neither the ruling government can control the increasing bomb blasts and suicidal attacks by the ISIS-K, who continue to increase their presence and make their presence felt in some remote areas of Afghanistan.
Differences with Pakistan widen
Pakistan, the creator of the Taliban with the support of the US, is already feeling the brunt and reverse from the ruling Taliban. Pakistan has witnessed a series of attacks on their security positions and civilians from Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan or TTP.
Pakistan intelligence agency believes that banned TTP is being supported in the land of Afghanistan and has asked the support of the ruling Taliban to control TTP militant-related incidents in Pakistan.
Pakistan officials blame the ruling Taliban for not controlling the TTP, which has the base and support from the cadres of Afghanistan.
In addition, Taliban gunmen have traded fire with Pakistani soldiers on the borders, killing or wounding scores of policemen and people, including women and children, in recent weeks.
Islamabad, at one time, even withdrew its ambassador, Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani, after he and his staff were attacked at the embassy in Kabul on Dec. 02, 2022.
Some analysts even say that the two countries are now at a cold war.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of the Taliban, remains Pakistan's principal Afghan asset. But the Kandahari Taliban, including Yaqub and Baradar, do not want him as a new Amir.
Also, some of the leaders of the Taliban are not acceptable to the West; hence differences in leadership will continue to grow.
Attacks on Diplomats
As attacks on diplomats, foreign nationals and those Afghans who once supported the previous regime continue, it leaves a trail of suspicion on the conscience of the ruling Taliban leaders.
Several embassies that reopened their embassies and consulates in Kabul and other cities are closing their offices because they lack security for their embassies and staff.
Rumours are agog that UAE and Saudi Arabia have also ordered their staff to leave the embassy even though there are no official confirmations.
Even investors profiting from Afghanistan business are leaving the country in fear for their lives, as extortion is at the highest level. The uncertainty and lack of security further affect the reviving war-ravaged economy.
In a suicidal militant attack in a Chinese-run Hotel in Kabul, five Chinese were injured, some eighteen people were injured and three civilians died. The assault happened the day after Taliban leaders assured China's ambassador to Afghanistan that Chinese nationals were safe. Several of the Chinese since then have left the country.
Earlier, two Russians were among six people killed in another suicidal militant attack on their embassy in September 2022. Intermittent border clashes with the Iran troops also continue on the border side.
Islamic State – Khorasan increasing its presence
The ISIS-K has increased its presence across Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. A series of target killings and suicidal attacks claimed by the ISIS-K has rattled the ruling Taliban government, despite their claims that normalcy is limping back in the country.
On every Friday afternoon prayers in Kabul, more troops are on the street scrutinising the worshippers as they enter the Kabul Mosques. Series of blasts have killed hundreds of worshippers, including some sympathisers of the Taliban in these attacks.
Under Taliban rule, arbitrary detentions have become everyday occurrences. Many are detained for working for the previous government or accused of collaborating with opposition groups.
According to Human Rights Watch, in 2022, the Taliban "carried out arbitrary detentions, torture, and summary executions of former security officers and perceived enemies, including security personnel in the former government.
Analysts feel that Afghanistan in coming months will be shaped by whether or not the Taliban's supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, retains his tight grip on all decision-making or whether there will be a split in the Taliban leadership to make changes acceptable to the masses and other countries.
Also, two-thirds of households, according to the World Bank, can't afford enough to eat as the Taliban have been incapable of attracting investment, creating jobs, or convincing the international community to lift sanctions on the banking and financial institutions, thus making people more illusioned.
The fact remains that most of the Taliban leaders do not trust each other and hence remain divided and work within their coteries; pushing for a change continues to remain a challenge, and locals continue to suffer.