Afghan Taliban a year in power

Atta Ullah Khan

August 15 marks the fall of Kabul to Taliban. Earlier last year, Afghan National Army disintegrated in the face of Taliban onslaught despite their numerical superiority, advanced weaponry and intelligence apparatus.

February 29, 2020 Doha Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the United States of America” gave a decisive incentive to the Taliban.

After the deal, Taliban intensified their attacks against the government forces and emerged stronger as compared to the ANA.

The pernicious effects of the abrupt evacuation of foreign troops were quite drastic on the ANA.

ANA lost every hope to gain any traction in the fight against their opponents, thinking how they were supposed to defeat Taliban if super power could not do so.

Military personnel’s esprit de corps or sense of duty is an indispensable element of warfare. The situations exacerbated when Taliban started compensating army officials prior to the ANA disintegration in rural areas for abandoning supporting central government.

Following the seizure of Kabul, the world was expecting Taliban to take transformative institutional, civil, political and economic reforms in the war torn country.

Also many people were sanguine about role in the nascent regime, as it had been playing a pivotal role in shoring up the ‘Intra-Afghan Dialogue’ and preceding it the ‘Afghan Peace Process.’

Pakistan has been rendered its services to spur the dialogue process. But what happened was completely opposite.

When the fall of Kabul was appearing as writing on the wall, Taliban explicitly iterated time and again that they have abandoned their 1990s harsh streak.

Taliban leadership had proclaimed on many occasions that they would adopt innovation and technology, make existing institutions and agencies to more inclusive and pluralistic ones, promulgate policies that guarantee equal rights and responsibilities, uphold rule of law, allow women to get education and continue their jobs, ensure freedom of speech, halt the economy from crumbling, prevent terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and ISIS from getting foothold in Afghanistan and provide the war-weary people with equal opportunities and prosperous living standards.

It has been a year since the Taliban ascendency in Kabul but they have neither introduced any reforms nor do they intend to do so.

Taliban promised to allow female education but later they reneged on this promise. In response to a question about the resumption of female education, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for Afghanistan’s government, said the government would reopen high schools for females by March 21 this year.

However, when overjoyed Afghan girls arrived at their school in Kabul they found the school gates padlocked and the guards sent them back.

Taliban spokesman also said that male and female sections would be segregated in high schools above 6th grade.

First anniversary of the fall of Kabul has passed but girls are still deprived of the right to education. They, the Taliban, are afraid of the creative destruction which empowered-women will bring. They perceive empowered and independent women as a potential threat to their hegemony. One of the sole demands of international community is ensuring girls’ education by the new administration.

The nascent government is facing harsh economic crisis. Government revenue plummeted as businesses and trade stopped working due to lack of incentive and conducive environment. Foreign contractors ceased operating their projects and pulled their investments and wherewithal out of the country.

The economy further stagnated when the United States frozen over US$ 9 billion worth foreign reserves of Afghanistan central bank.

The Taliban appointed a Taliban leader, Muhammad Idris, not having rudimentary understanding of economy as Afghan Central Bank chief.

International community poured dollars into Afghanistan during the previous government and bulk of which was spent on grandiose projects while remaining was utilized on extravagantly unproductive and unnecessary stuffs by the corrupt elites. The county recorded historical spike in unemployment and poverty. UN has warned that the situations could worsen to “universal poverty” if not curbed in a timely manner. Many are starving to death and others are begging for two times meal.

It is pertinent to mention the sheer scale of humanitarian crisis. The World Bank has warned that more than third of Afghan population has no sufficient money to feed them.

According to UN report, “acute malnutrition is spiking across the country and 95 percent of households have been experiencing insufficient food consumption and food insecurity.”

The International Rescue Committee in a survey found that 82 percent of Afghan families had lost wages since August 2021. The survey further stated that, “the huge spike in prices caused by the economic crisis has left many families unable to afford food.”

According to a World Food Program survey released in February 2022, nearly 100 percent of female-headed households were facing insufficient food consumption and 85 percent taking “drastic measures” to obtain food.

The health services have shattered following the Taliban takeover. Dr. Manucher, a doctor at Jamhuriat Hospital, Kabul said that the health department does not have budget to finance medicine and other medical equipments except salaries.

Many patients have sold their household items and properties to treat their loved ones and buy medicines for them. New born babies are dying from malnutrition. Many women are vulnerable to acute diseases due to lack of proper hygiene and care. It has been a year and the new administration has not tackled the problem to earmark sufficient money for public health.

Another serious concern of the international community is gross human rights violations: persecution of social activists, harassment of journalists, draconian restraints on free speech and restrictions on women participation in public life are the prevalent violations under the current regime.

On 13 August 2022 Afghan authorities opened fine on peaceful women activists in Kabul. The women iterated that their struggle would continue until their demands of equal rights for women are met. The authorities also use different tactics to intimidate journalists. The new administration controls all the news networks and TV channels, and only disseminates what suits them.

Moreover, the Taliban are badly failed to prevent proscribed organizations from operating from Afghanistan. Terrorism is emanating from the country which is a serious concern for the regional stability and peace. The new administration is miserably failed to stamp the terrorist outlets out of the country.

The Taliban has assured the United States in the February, 2020 peace agreement to not let any individual or group from using the soil of Afghanistan against the United States or its allies.

The recent al-Qaida leader’s killing reflects the Taliban’s reluctance to dismantle these groups. Though, Taliban leadership has denounced the allegations that the al-Qaida leader was in their patronage in Kabul, while the US has proclaimed that they have video witnesses of the al-Qaida leader. Furthermore, Pakistani faction of Afghan Taliban aka TTP Leadership also have safe haven in Afghanistan. The Taliban administration has been providing shelter to these insurgents.

The new administration needs to reform the policies that can spur economic growth and embark the economy on the path to rapid development. For this they have to open up space for women participation in decision making process, forge inclusive political and economic institutions, lift ban on girls’ high education, and give media freedom. For a peaceful Afghanistan, the Taliban needs to establish pluralistic institutions, and allow women to have say in decision making process. Also the international community, particularly US, should not seek vengeance from the innocent people. The people should not be punished for Taliban’s wrongs. The people of Afghanistan are in dire need of foreign assistance for their survival. They are facing a hazardous humanitarian crisis that may culminate in vanishing large segments of the population due to lack of food, medicine and shelter.

The author is a graduate of International Relations from University of Sargodha Pakistan.