Wednesday May 22, 2024

Taliban: one year on

By Editorial Board
August 11, 2022

In just a few days, it will be exactly one year since the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, after nearly two decades of war. The US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban marched onto Kabul even more easily than they had in 1996. The storming back to power of the Taliban resulted in the removal of the Ashraf Ghani regime that had solely relied on foreign aid and assistance both economically and militarily. The world continued to watch on as a ‘rag tag army’ of militants from the southern province of Kandahar defeated an Afghan army that the US and its allies had been training for 20 years and equipped them with state-of-the-art military hardware and software. For the Taliban, occupying Afghanistan was just one challenge, consolidation of power and running the economic and financial machinery was another. Since the state in Afghanistan heavily depended on foreign aid, a sudden elimination of that life line resulted in hardships not seen in decades. The Taliban called for unfreezing of bank funds but even after a deadly earthquake that did not materialize.

As they won back control of the country, the edicts of the Taliban became all-pervasive, especially targeting women and imposing curbs on their education, employment, and movement. Though it hardly took the Taliban 12 days to vanquish the Ghani government and occupy Afghanistan, it has now been 12 months that they have not been able to win a single country’s diplomatic and official recognition. Washington has frozen some $7 billion in Afghan reserves in US banks and donors have also suspended or drastically reduced their aid to the country. For now there is an apparent calm, but there is also an inherent chaos in the state machinery. From commerce and communication to defence and development – nearly all miniseries are short of funds and lack competent leadership that can manage the country. Those who aided the outgoing government have gone into hiding for fear of reprisals from the Taliban. Sporadic suicide bombings have killed hundreds of people and various militant groups such as the ISIL or ISIS have been regrouping and posing a threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has also been emboldened by the victories of the Afghan Taliban.

The Taliban claimed to have ended their repressive ways, but all signs are to the contrary. Still the government in Afghanistan is an interim arrangement consisting mostly of hardliners in all key posts and no woman is part of any administration across the country. The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is once again in place and hounding violators of their moral codes, enforcing their own interpretation of religion. Hazara and Shia people are once again on the receiving end as their mosques and gathering places have become a target of attacks. The country is in a deep economic and humanitarian crisis but the Taliban are refusing to mend their policies. Girls have been barred from school, government employees must grow beards, and women TV presenters are forced to cover faces. Women are also barred from making long-distance journeys alone. After the devastating earthquake in June, international aid agencies did come to the rescue – sending food, medical supplies and tents – but even then the Taliban did not budge from their policies. For now, the future of Afghanistan looks bleak, with no one there who can either force the Taliban out or make them change their ways.