By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI – While celebrating the second anniversary of the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban are firmly entrenched as the rulers of the country with no significant opposition which could topple them.
Taliban completed two years of the capture of power on August 15, after the fall of Kabul from where the U.S.-led military coalition left, with the claim of having improved domestic security through a crackdown on armed groups.
During the last two years after the takeover, the Taliban have sought to keep the struggling economy afloat and improved domestic security, besides avoiding internal divisions, fighting corruption and controlling opium production. However, the biggest challenge before the Taliban is the non-recognition of its government by any country in the world as well as by the United Nations.
On August 15, marking the conquest of Kabul, the convoys of Taliban members gathered at Massoud Square near the abandoned U.S. Embassy building. Some of the men carried their weapons, while others took selfies as anthems blared and young boys sold the movement’s white flag inscribed with the Islamic Kalima as the declaration of faith. However, a military parade was cancelled in Kandahar, from where the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhunzada, rules by decree.
No country has formally recognized the Taliban government, as the international community continues to grapple with how to engage with the Taliban authorities. The U.S. has started engaging to some extent with the Taliban leaders. Recently, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Tom West held talks with a Taliban team led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Qatar in July.
The U.S. and the Taliban have two tracks of regular dialogue, one political and the second one more intelligence-based. The Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence’s chief Abdul Haq Wasiq is a frequent visitor to Doha in Qatar, where the Taliban still have political headquarters. Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is currently visiting Turkey, where he has held a series of meetings on bilateral cooperation.
Russia has also invited the Taliban government to the upcoming ‘Moscow Format’ consultations on September 29. Pakistan is also an active member of this process, which started in 2017. India has chosen to navigate its course in Afghanistan with humanitarian assistance for the people of the country. The Indian government has partnered with United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) for the internal distribution of wheat within Afghanistan.
Under the partnership, India has supplied a total of 47,500 metric tonnes of wheat assistance to UNWFP centres in Afghanistan. The recent ongoing shipments are being sent through Chabahar Port and being handed over to UNWFP at Herat in Afghanistan. India has also supplied almost 200 metric tonnes of medical assistance consisting of essential medicines and vaccines.
The U.N. Security Council had passed a resolution under India's presidency in August 2021 urging the international community to ensure that Afghanistan is not used as a base to launch an attack on another country, nor should it act as a shelter or financier. The resolution number 2593 also called on all parties to seek an “inclusive, negotiated political settlement, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”
Reopening of educational institutions for girls is a major issue in Afghanistan, for which the demand is forcefully coming both from within the country and abroad. The Afghan women also have demanded educational rights in an appeal to the U.N., but Hibatullah Akhunzada is not willing to give prominent space to women in public life. Some leaders believe that contemporary education is not obligatory for women and it should have no place in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
In December last year, when Afghans were expecting the reopening of girls high schools following international pressure, the Taliban leadership ordered an indefinite ban on university education for women. At the beginning of this year, they banned girls from taking university entrance exams, which remains in force till now.
The Taliban, which affirms that it respects rights in line with its interpretation of Islamic law, has also stopped most Afghan female staff from working with aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from public parks, and curtailed their travel unless accompanied by a male guardian. The ban on women is a major obstacle to any expectation of a formal recognition of the Taliban administration by the Western governments.
Most of the Muslim-majority countries and Islamic scholars have also rejected the Taliban’s stand on women’s rights. Some Taliban leaders also support education for women, with a senior leader saying that Islam grants women the right to education and work. The matter needs a prompt resolution to facilitate recognition of the Taliban government by the world and the U.N.
Amid all of these challenges, Afghanistan is struggling with its third consecutive year of drought-like conditions, the ongoing collapse in families' income, and restrictions on international banking.
It is also still suffering from decades of war and natural disasters.
Even though the Taliban are officially isolated on the international forums, their interactions and engagements for bilateral relations with several countries are likely to take Afghanistan to normalisation of the situation, followed by official recognition. Several countries consider it important to ensure cooperation with the Taliban on narcotics, refugees and counter-terrorism, while the countries like China, Russia and Pakistan want an end to sanctions.
In the current scenario of global turmoil, economic downturn and the war in Ukraine, there seems to be an international fatigue in helping Afghanistan. But the international community cannot lose interest and shirk responsibility for the situation in the country, where international law and human rights must be protected.
Taliban has affirmed that it wants a genuine Islamic system for Afghanistan and to build an “open and inclusive” Islamic government with the promises to make provisions for women’s and minority rights in line with cultural traditions and religious rules. The Western world needs more constructive approach in dealing with the Taliban after the chaotic pull-out of the U.S.-led forces from Kabul damaged its credibility as a superpower.