On Aug. 15, amid the already chaotic withdrawal of US forces and their NATO allies from Afghanistan, the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, with virtually no resistance and promising a functioning government integrated with the world. A month later, virtually none of the promises have been fulfilled, and frequent political back-and-forth hinders and delays initiatives by the international community to provide aid or dialogue with the new regime, which has not yet been formally recognized by any country.
The group, which brutally commanded Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, returned to power after an offensive that, in a matter of months, brought virtually every district in the country under its control. Often without resistance from security forces, trained and armed by the US over two decades, the fundamentalist group entered the capital without difficulty as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
The speed of military victory surprised even the Taliban leadership: some even recognized that a government plan was not ready at that point. At the same time, representatives of the group were giving interviews with promises of an “inclusive” Cabinet —despite beforehand discarding ministerial positions for women— and a moderate Taliban, who wanted to leave behind the image of the militia that repressed women and ethnic and religious minorities and executed people on the lawn at the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul.
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In the following days, the practice went against its promises, starting with the women. In mid-August, the militia ordered the professionals, with the exception of the health sector, not to go to work, citing “safety reasons”. Unlike in the 1990s, women can now attend schools and universities, but in higher education classrooms, students must be separated by gender, including with curtains dividing the classrooms — the curriculum is also being revised. In addition, members of the deposed government and former rivals, who were promised amnesty, are being harassed.
— As much as the Taliban has issued public statements pledging to amnesty former security officials and government civil servants, prohibiting house searches and guaranteeing women’s rights under Islamic law, information (…) that we consider well-founded indicates that the practice often runs counter to such commitments,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.
The interim government Cabinet, announced just over a week ago, does not bring the promised inclusion. The ministers are mostly members of the majority Pashto ethnic group coming from the militia or allied groups — such is the case of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the Ministry of the Interior and is wanted by US authorities for terrorism, with a US reward. $10 million offered by the Department of State.
The Ministry does not bring representatives of ethnic or religious minorities, let alone place women in command posts, something the Taliban has already announced it will not do in the future. This absence has even been criticized by countries like Iran which, although a historic rival to the Taliban, had already hinted at relations with the new government.
“It is certainly not the inclusive government the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran had hoped to see,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh said on Monday. — We will have to wait and see if the Taliban responds to international demands.
This situation provoked a movement that did not exist in the first Taliban government. Every day, hundreds of people, mostly women, take to the streets of various cities across the country to protest in defense of their rights, against group repression and for a more inclusive nation. Some of the acts were dispersed with the use of violence by the group’s fighters, including shooting into the air.
The lack of definition about the Taliban’s plans, accentuated by the constant changes in the speeches of its representatives, makes the international community prefer to be cautious when dealing with the group. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, declared that the bloc needs to coordinate some kind of diplomatic presence and close deals with the militia to provide assistance, but without establishing formal ties.
Qatar, which has hosted the Taliban’s political office since 2013 and has been a key intermediary in the process of withdrawing foreigners, has rejected official recognition, citing human rights issues, but maintains direct dialogue with the militia, including on the operations of the Kabul airport. Pakistan, a former Taliban ally, is also trying to resolve old differences before forging formal ties with the neighboring country, even though it has already sent food and donations to Kabul.
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Not even China, which has had contact with the Taliban since at least 2018, says when it will recognize the new government — even so, it has kept its embassy in Kabul open and has pledged US$31 million in aid, money more than needed now.
The already battered Afghan economy practically collapsed after the group took power, when several sectors paralyzed their operations, and the new authorities found themselves faced with the freezing of international financing lines and the blockade of about US$10 billion by the Bank. Afghan central in US financial institutions. To try to meet urgent needs, a group of countries pledged, at a UN conference on Monday, to donate US$ 1 billion in humanitarian assistance.
— The people of Afghanistan need a helpline. After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they are facing perhaps their darkest hour. It’s time for the international community to stand by your side – declared the UN secretary general, António Guterres.
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At a press conference this Tuesday, the Afghan interim chancellor, Amir Khan Muttaqi, defended the immediate resumption of foreign aid lines, declaring that many essential projects were paralyzed due to lack of money. He didn’t mention the charges of little diversity in government or the restrictions placed on women — he just said that aid to Afghanistan should not become a political issue.
“We helped the US to the last person’s withdrawal, but unfortunately the US, instead of giving thanks, froze our financial assets,” Muttaqi declared. — The US is a great country, they should have great patience, we need to help each other.