Qari Fasihuddin is a Taliban senior leader. Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Fasihuddin was named army chief of the Taliban government.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html.
An ethnic Tajik, Fasihuddin quickly rose through the Taliban’s ranks. Following the Taliban’s fall from power in Afghanistan in 2001 after seizing control of Kabul in 1996, the movement created a de facto governmental order that placed Taliban members—shadow officials—in control of specific areas within Afghanistan. At one point, Fasihuddin was the shadow governor of Badakshan, with reports claiming he was referred to as “conqueror of the north” given Badakshan’s shared border with Tajikistan and China.Kabir Taneja, Sushant Sareen, Kriti M. Shah, and Saaransh Mishra, “The Kabul Dossier,” Observer Research Foundation, September 2, 2021, https://www.orfonline.org/research/the-kabul-dossier/. The movement used these operational areas to counter the Afghan government and repel U.S. troops deployed in the country following the al-Qaeda orchestrated 9/11 attacks. Before the attacks, al-Qaeda had used Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan attacks against western targets. Following U.S. military deployment in the country, the Taliban conducted regular attacks to enforce their control among the Afghan population, resulting in two decades of political and social instability throughout Afghanistan.“Who are the Taliban,” BBC News, August 18, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11451718.
To reduce ongoing violence and put an end to the Afghan War, the U.S. government and the Taliban began peace negotiations in February 2019, eventually signing a peace agreement on February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar.Kathy Gannon, “Mullah’s rise charts Taliban’s long road back to power,” Associated Press, August 18, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-abdul-ghani-baradar-e80165eb6c65fc7ea8fae50212ba56c8; “Pullout and guarantees dominate talks with US: Taliban spokesman,” Al Jazeera, February 26, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/2/26/pullout-and-guarantees-dominate-talks-with-us-taliban-spokesman; Ayaz Gul, “Taliban Expects Peace Deal With US in Next Meeting,” Voice of America, July 31, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/south-central-asia_taliban-expects-peace-deal-us-next-meeting/6172955.html. The terms of the Doha agreement stated that the United States would fully withdraw military troops from Afghanistan within the next 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to renounce al-Qaeda and prevent al-Qaeda and other groups from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism against the United States. The Taliban also agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with other Afghan militants and the Afghan government.Asad Hashim, “Pakistan warns US of ‘spoilers’ on US-Taliban deal in Afghanistan,” Al Jazeera, March 1, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/pakistan-warns-spoilers-taliban-deal-afghanistan-200302093650382.html; Matthew Lee and Kathy Gannon, “US and Taliban sign deal aimed at ending war in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, February 29, 2020, https://apnews.com/491544713df4879f399d0ff5523d369e; Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, “Afghan government objects to elements of U.S.-Taliban peace deal,” Washington Post, March 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-government-questions-aspects-of-us-taliban-peace-deal/2020/03/01/0a973228-5a68-11ea-8efd-0f904bdd8057_story.html.
The Taliban began its offensive against major Afghan cities on August 6, 2021.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans poured into Kabul’s airport as Taliban fighters entered the city. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, declaring the war in Afghanistan had ended.Rahim Faiez, and Joseph Krauss, “Taliban sweep across Afghanistan’s south; take 4 more cities,” Associated Press, August 13, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-taliban-c6c8d4a41c554f36031a8131538d1402. The last U.S. troops flew out of Kabul on August 30, 2021, ending a 20-year war that took the lives of 2,500 American troops and 240,000 Afghans and cost about $2 trillion.Peter Baker, “All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan.,” New York Times, September 1, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/28/us/politics/trump-taliban-biden-afghanistan.html; Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold, “Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan After Nearly 20 Years,” Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/last-u-s-troops-leave-afghanistan-after-nearly-20-years-11630355853. The Taliban has claimed that it would take on a more “moderate” approach in their ruling of the country, and that women are allowed to have roles in public life in observance of “Islamic law.”“Factbox: Taliban seek to present a moderate face as they take control in Afghanistan,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-seek-present-moderate-face-they-take-control-afghanistan-2021-08-15/.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Fasihuddin was named the military commander in Panjshir to curb the anti-Taliban resistance led by Ahmad Massoud, the head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), and Amrullah Saleh, the former Afghan vice president. Fasihuddin’s command was successful, and Panjshir quickly fell to the Taliban’s control.Kabir Taneja, Sushant Sareen, Kriti M. Shah, and Saaransh Mishra, “The Kabul Dossier,” Observer Research Foundation, September 2, 2021, https://www.orfonline.org/research/the-kabul-dossier/; “Resistance leaders Massoud, Saleh still in Afghanistan, diplomat says,” Reuters, September 8, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/resistance-leaders-massoud-saleh-still-afghanistan-diplomat-says-2021-09-08/.
On September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Fasihuddin was named army chief.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early nineties.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87.
At a news conference in Kabul on September 15, Fasihuddin stated that Afghanistan will soon have a “regular and disciplined” army of its own and that soldiers would be trained to defend Afghanistan’s borders. Fasihuddin was also quoted as saying “we will not let a civil war erupt. Those disturbing security and stability will be trampled and those opposing the Taliban will be arrested.”Anil Kumar, “Afghanistan will have 'regular, disciplined' army: Taliban army chief Qari Fasihuddin,” India Today, September 15, 2021, https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/afghanistan-will-have-regular-disciplined-army-taliban-army-chief-qari-fasihuddin/ar-AAOtjFr?li=AAggbRN&c=7349812266460360760&mkt=en-us.