The Taliban is doing what it used to do 20 years back and thinks it can get away with it. It has had several identity markers but none are more prominent than it being anti-women. It is hell bent on denying access to all facilities including education to women and girls. The Taliban does so, on the grounds that it’s forbidden by Islam. This is done when most Muslim majority countries are forging ahead in all the sectors which the Taliban is now intending to deny women.
Significantly, this comes after promising that they would not be so harsh like in its first edition. But every day, news comes of one anti-women decision or another. This shows more than anything else that the Taliban’s capacity to govern or read international politics is still stuck 20 years back when they lost power to the US. On top of that they are far weaker than in their first round.
Various conflicts in Afghanistan show that the tribal identity dominates the supra Afghan identity. This is not just exemplified by the IS attack, the fighting in Panjshir but the more recent brawling inside the ruling Palace among themselves. Clearly, there is no such political construct as a Taliban but it’s more of a coalition of tribal forces in the country who are hardly showing signs of coping.
Panjshir is a good example of the internal fissures and weaknesses of the Taliban. Its military capacity is not worth writing about and it's largely a ragtag band of partisans, able to mount hit and run operations or other guerilla attacks but has no ability to fight a conventional army.
Its money is held up in US banks and given its humiliating departure, the US will use this to the hilt to create pressure. Obviously the Taliban is not its target but the backers- China and Russia- are. That means if the Taliban fails to govern properly, there is a huge power cost.
Many Afghans are fleeing the country including the professionals wherever they can, whether the US or Pakistan. This will create a vacuum that has to be filled if they have to survive. Going by what is seen till date, the competence of the Taliban is limited at best so a new crisis looms over them. However, the Taliban has decided that preventing women from working and shutting down specialized departments established to assist women are its priority.
The scenario is not a pleasant one to behold for the Afghans However, the gaps will have to be plugged and that means just like Panjshir, where Pakistani troops did the job, they may be doing the same in the administrative departments. Neither Russia nor China will commit large scale human resources if needed.
Essentially, Afghanistan is becoming the space where a proxy war between the West and the Sino-Russian alliance is shaping up. Although Europe now has more differences with the US than ever before, the NATO spirit may still prevail. But it's neither Afghanistan’s nor Taliban’s war and thus their fate won’t matter.
If the Taliban can’t figure out that times have changed and so must they, the price will have to be paid and its backers won't buy it but them. That is why it sits on a bench made of fragile threads. It doesn't understand the good old days that died 20 years ago.