Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz

Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz has suggested four possible scenarios of governance under the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban captured power last week in a quick blitz after 20 years of war. The United States has abruptly withdrawn, and the Afghan government collapsed. In an essay published in the Atlantic Council blog, Riaz writes that considering the nature of the dominant actors, the context, and probabilities, there are four likely scenarios that provide an estimation of Afghanistan’s prospective future trajectories.

The scenarios include: the emergence of a moderate Afghanistan, a patchwork of moderation and extremism, a fractious and volatile environment, and a reversal in steps.

Under the first scenario, the Taliban will implement some of its promises of an inclusive governance and act as a responsible political actor. Although its actions will not usher in a liberal, democratic state, it will not be the harsh governance of the 1990s when the Taliban were in power. The second scenario suggests that while central Taliban leadership will provide lip service to inclusion and upholding human rights, local leaders might not heed those and will impose their version of sharia law. The fractious and volatile scenario includes sporadic resistance against the Taliban in various parts of the country and fractionalization of Taliban leadership. This will create opportunity and space for transnational terrorist groups to thrive. Under the final scenario, reversal in steps, Riaz paints a picture of the Taliban engaging in a slow process of implementing some measures of inclusivity but backtracking after securing recognition from the international community.

Fooling the international community, the incumbent will be able to establish a fearful state—a new and more resilient edifice—Riaz concluded.