Just over one year ago, the Taliban swept back into power in Afghanistan. Leading up to this takeover, in February 2020 President Donald Trump agreed to a deal with the Taliban that would have seen the phased withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. This agreement served as the starting point that eventually led to the Afghan government’s collapse and the Taliban’s return to power. In January 2021, President Joe Biden entered office. Instead of cancelling the flawed agreement with the Taliban— something that was in his power to do—he merely delayed America’s withdraw date from May to September. By July, almost all US and international forces had left. On August 15, the Taliban took Kabul. By the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2021, the Taliban controlled more of Afghanistan than it did on September 11, 2001.
Since the Taliban’s return to power, one credible and non-extremist group has been willing to take up arms in opposition: the National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan. Based in the Panjshir Province and operating in a dozen other provinces, the NRF has continued the fight against the Taliban against all odds and without any international support. While the US does not have many good policy options in Afghanistan because of the Biden administration’s actions, the US and international community need to consider how to support the NRF at this perilous time. This assistance can include establishing formal contact with the NRF leadership and inviting Ahmad Massoud to Washington, DC; refusing to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan; providing the NRF with winter gear; allocating a certain percentage of all frozen Afghan central bank funds to the NRF’s political wing, and consulting and coordinating privately with Tajikistan, which harbors sympathies for the ethnic Tajik minority that comprises much of the NRF.