Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan August 2021

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Afghanistan April-August 2021

Malala pleads with world to protect Afghan girls’ education
(Reuters) – Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan as she left school in 2012, pleaded with the world on Friday not to compromise on the protection of Afghan women’s rights following the Taliban takeover.
As countries and organizations take the first steps to engage with the hardline Islamist group, the 24-year-old Yousafzai said she worried the Taliban would act as they did when they were in power 20 years ago despite a sharp increase in work and education opportunities for Afghan women since then.
A Dangerous Scramble to Evacuate Afghan Nonprofit Workers
Women who steered programs to empower girls are fleeing the country. But unlike people who worked for the U.S. military, they have no clear path to the United States.

23 September
Don’t isolate the Taliban, Pakistan urges
By Edith M. Lederer
(AP Interview) Be realistic. Show patience. Engage. And above all, don’t isolate. Those are the pillars of an approach emerging in Pakistan to deal with Afghanistan’s resurgent, often-volatile Taliban.
Pakistan’s government is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban — with incentives if they fulfill its requirements — and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia’s leaders.
“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” [Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood] Qureshi told the AP. “At the same time, the international community has to realize: What’s the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”
Taliban official: Strict punishment, executions will return
Mullah Turabi, one of the founders of the Taliban, says the hard-line movement will once again carry out punishments like executions and amputations of hands, though perhaps not in public.
By Kathy Gannon
(AP) — In an interview with The Associated Press, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi dismissed outrage over the Taliban’s executions in the past, which sometimes took place in front of crowds at a stadium, and he warned the world against interfering with Afghanistan’s new rulers.
Since the Taliban…seized control of the country, Afghans and the world have been watching to see whether they will re-create their harsh rule of the late 1990s. Turabi’s comments pointed to how the group’s leaders remain entrenched in a deeply conservative, hard-line worldview, even if they are embracing technological changes, like video and mobile phones.
Turabi, now in his early 60s, was justice minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — effectively, the religious police — during the Taliban’s previous rule.
How deep are divisions among the Taliban?
Sources told Al Jazeera that as with other Afghan governments, the divisions among the Taliban fall along personality lines. But unlike previous administrations, the Taliban does not just suffer from overly ambitious members or opposing political views, its split is much more fundamental. Currently, the Taliban, say the sources, is made up of fighters still awaiting the spoils of war versus politicians who want to assuage the fears of the Afghan people and the international community.
… Another point of contention for the two factions is the role of regional neighbours – Pakistan and Iran – which have long been accused of supporting the Taliban.
Suspicions of Pakistan rose when the chief of Pakistani’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), visited Kabul just before the announcement of the cabinet. The reporter said General Faiz Hameed called for a more inclusive government, which would make room for Shia Muslims and women, but that the hardliners, already suspicious of Islamabad, refused.
Afghan Uyghurs Fear Deportation as Taliban Cozy Up to China
Members of the ethnic group, seen by China as potential extremists, are afraid they will be sent there as part of a deal for economic aid.
For years, Chinese officials have issued calls for leaders in Afghanistan to crack down on and deport Uyghur militants they claimed were sheltering in Afghanistan. The officials said the fighters belonged to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist organization that Beijing has held responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in China since the late 1990s.

22 September
Taliban’s pick for Kabul University chancellor had called for killing ‘spy journalists’
Appointment of Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat as Kabul University chancellor sparks furore on social media, with questions being raised about his qualifications

17-18 September
Taliban replace women’s government ministry with all-male ‘virtue’ ministry
The women’s ministry in Afghanistan has been replaced with an all-male ‘vice and virtue ministry’ designed to enforce the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.
(SBS Au) The Taliban inside the new ministry said on Saturday they had not been informed about where or if a new women’s ministry was being planned.
Also on Saturday, staff from the World Bank’s $100 million Women’s Economic Empowerment and Rural Development Program were escorted off the grounds.
A program member, Sharif Akhtar, who was escorted out with his staff, was at a loss to explain how or if the program could continue.
Pakistan calls for engagement with Taliban as West highlights concerns of abuse
(WaPo) For years, Pakistan has been accused of secretly backing Taliban insurgents in next-door Afghanistan. Now leaders here, reluctant to criticize the new Afghan rulers, find themselves facing pressure from the West to help keep their neighbors in line. The question of how much influence the Pakistani government retains over a group that once depended heavily on its support has become especially relevant since the Taliban announced an interim cabinet Sept. 7.
To the dismay of many Afghans and foreign governments, the cabinet includes leaders of the Haqqani network, a militant group that American and former Afghan officials have charged was covertly sponsored by Pakistan’s military-led intelligence agency. The Pakistani government denies those charges.
The prominence of the Haqqanis, a group blamed for deadly terrorist attacks as well as scenes of Taliban fighters repressing protesters and journalists, has undermined the new Afghan government’s attempts to put a benign face on its intentions and has prompted Washington and other Western governments to press Pakistan to take a strong stance.

UN Security Council extends Afghan mission mandate for six months
Fifteen-member body unanimously passes resolution that also calls for establishment of an ‘inclusive and representative government’.
The document, which was drafted by Estonia and Norway…called for “full, equal and meaningful participation of women, and upholding human rights, including for women, children and minorities”.
Afghanistan’s new rulers, however, have formed an interim government made up only of Taliban members and associates and no women.

16 September
Friction among Taliban pragmatists, hard-liners intensifies
(AP) — Friction between pragmatists and ideologues in the Taliban leadership has intensified since the group formed a hard-line Cabinet last week that is more in line with their harsh rule in the 1990s than their recent promises of inclusiveness, said two Afghans familiar with the power struggle.
The wrangling has taken place behind the scenes, but rumors quickly began circulating about a recent violent confrontation between the two camps at the presidential palace, including claims that the leader of the pragmatic faction, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was killed. … Then on Wednesday, Baradar appeared in an interview with the country’s national TV.
Shortly after the Kabul takeover, Baradar had been the first senior Taliban official to hold out the possibility of an inclusive government, but such hopes were disappointed with the formation of an all-male, all-Taliban lineup last week.
In a further sign that the hard-liners had prevailed, the white Taliban flag was raised over the presidential palace, replacing the Afghan national flag.

15 September
This Is Life in Rural Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover
Since the Taliban takeover, much of Afghanistan’s countryside has seen a big drop in violence after 20 years of fighting. “It has been a long time now since a bullet hit our homes.”
(NYT) Long before their full takeover, the Taliban were already governing and delivering swift justice in many areas, often through their own court system. Chak-e Wardak, along with many parts of rural Afghanistan, has been under their de facto control for two years.
But the question remains whether the movement, which has brutally put down protests in urban areas against its rule, can pivot to a solid governance structure soon enough to cope with the problems underlying the country’s gathering humanitarian crisis.

13-14 September
Anand Gopal on the Future of the Taliban
There’s a sense among rank-and-file Taliban members that the group should govern “without making any concessions towards women’s rights,” the writer Anand Gopal says.
The New Yorker contributor discusses whether the group might rule Afghanistan differently this time, and its long-term prospects for staying in power.
The Other Afghan Women
In the countryside, the endless killing of civilians turned women against the occupiers who claimed to be helping them.
By Anand Gopal
a penetrating report on an unlikely source of support for the Taliban during their stunningly quick reconquest of Afghanistan: the country’s rural women. While the Taliban’s recapture of Kabul sparked panic among residents of that city, the response of women in Afghanistan’s countryside—home to the majority of the population, and the site of much of the violence of the two-decade U.S. occupation—was more complicated.

4-7 September
Taliban announces new government in Afghanistan
(Al Jazeera) The Taliban has appointed Mohammad Hasan Akhund, a close aide to the group’s late founder Mullah Omar, as head of Afghanistan’s new caretaker government, weeks after it took control of the country in a rapid offensive.
The list of cabinet members announced by chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday was dominated by members of the group’s old guard, with no women included.
Hard-liners predominate as the Taliban begins filling the government
The new Taliban government, whatever the attempts to rebrand, is beginning to look a lot like the old one.
(NYT) In the weeks after assuming near-total control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 20 years after being toppled from power by U.S. forces, Taliban officials chose their words carefully. The world, after all, was watching closely.
If the first Taliban government was infamous for its unyielding extremism, this one, they said, would be more moderate. And if the last was notable for its single-mindedness of vision, this one, they said, would feature an inclusive style of governing.
But on Tuesday, when the Taliban announced a caretaker government — taking a major step in re-establishing their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — it was clear that many movement veterans from the regime of the 1990s were back. … The top security posts went to two relative newcomers from a younger generation of Taliban leaders, both serving as Sheikh Haibaitullah’s powerful military deputies.
One, Sirajuddin Haqqani, 48, was appointed as acting minister of the interior, presided over the insurgency’s campaign of urban bombings that terrorized Kabul for years. His new post will give him extensive authority over policing and legal matters.
The ‘new’ Taliban regime in Afghanistan: different methods but the same political goal
Niels Terpstra, Assistant Professor, Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University
(The Conversation) The Taliban’s ideology has not changed, nor has their ultimate political goal of establishing their version of an “Islamic government”. The post-2001 Taliban have, however, shown themselves to be pragmatic and open to the influence of external actors. A few strategic incentives, such as conditional foreign aid and investments, may induce the Taliban to show some restraint, at least in their public outlook. However, their current political pragmatism should not be confused with ideological moderation.
Old men of ‘good character’ can teach women in Afghan universities: Report
Poulomi Ghosh
Women will have to finish their lesson five minutes before men so that there is no mingling after the classes, the Taliban diktat said.
(Hindustan Times) As some private universities in Afghanistan are planning to resume classes on Monday, the Taliban have issued a detailed diktat specifying how women attending universities should dress, news agency AFP reported. Earlier, the Taliban ordered that women will be allowed access to higher education, but there will be no provision of co-education
Mullah Baradar promises ‘inclusive’ government
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Taliban leader stresses security is necessary to overcoming challenges facing the country.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office, has told Al Jazeera the group is in the process of forming an inclusive government following its lightning takeover of the country last month.
On Friday, sources within the Taliban told Reuters news agency Baradar would lead the new government in Afghanistan, with Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob – the son of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar – and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai taking senior roles.

3 September
Temur Umarov: Do the Taliban Pose a Threat to Stability in Central Asia?
It goes without saying that the crisis in Afghanistan will create new risks for the region, but Central Asia has long lived with chaos on its borders, and already has twenty years of experience in dealing with the Taliban.
(Carnegie Moscow Center) Concerns have been expressed that the region will be flooded with refugees and drugs, that it will suffer a constant stream of terrorist attacks, and that the ruling regimes will be defeated by Islamists inspired by the victory of their Afghan counterparts.
Much depends, of course, on the future actions of the Taliban, but it’s already clear that such catastrophic forecasts are generally based on false perceptions of the fragility of the Central Asian states.
…the region has had plenty of time to prepare for the Taliban returning to power, and those preparations included shoring up borders and holding military exercises, including joint drills with each other, with Russia, and with the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
The popularity of radical Islam in Central Asia and the threat to the region’s stability from events in Afghanistan should not be exaggerated. The fact that the countries border Afghanistan and that their regimes are neither particularly efficient nor popular does not mean that their inhabitants are ready to take inspiration from the Taliban’s success and build something similar at home. Afghanistan and the Central Asian nations may be close in terms of religion and ethnicity, but they have long been developing under completely different conditions, and have a lot less in common than might appear.

Afghan airport aid corridors may open within 48 hours: Qatar
Qatari envoy expresses hope ‘humanitarian corridors’ will allow aid to enter through Kabul and other airports
(Al Jazeera) The United Nations said it had restarted humanitarian flights to parts of the country, linking the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, with Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south.
Restoration of Kabul’s Closed Airport Begins as Some Afghan Aid Resumes
Despite the Taliban’s effort to project themselves as responsible stewards after seizing power, there was still no word on when a new government would be announced.
Afghanistan’s plunge into chaos, isolation and near-destitution under its newly ascendant Taliban rulers appeared to slow on Thursday, with the first significant moves to salvage Kabul’s inoperable airport, an increased flow of U.N. aid and word that international money transfers had resumed to the country, where many banks are shuttered.
The airport remained closed to the public on Thursday, its hangars strewn with debris and some aircraft damaged by shrapnel, bullets and vandalism, but…security personnel and technicians from Qatar who had been sent to help reopen the airport were busy.
Afghan women demand rights as Taliban seek recognition
(AP) — A small group of Afghan women protested near the presidential palace in Kabul on Friday, demanding equal rights from the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new rulers work on forming a government and seeking international recognition.
The protest in Kabul was the second women’s protest in as many days, with the other held in the western city of Herat.
The women demanded access to education, the right to return to work and a role in governing the country.

1 September
Shifting to Governing, Taliban Will Name Supreme Afghan Leader
Facing immense challenges in a devastated country, and a hard transition from war to administration, the Islamist movement is preparing to name a new, theocratic government.
On the second full day with no U.S. troops on Afghan soil, the Taliban moved Wednesday to form a new Islamic government, preparing to appoint the movement’s leading religious figure, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, as the nation’s supreme authority, Taliban officials said.
The Taliban face a daunting challenge, pivoting from insurgence to governance after two decades as insurgents who battled international and Afghan forces, planted roadside bombs and plotted mass casualty bombings in densely packed urban centers.
Now, with the Taliban’s rule fully restored 20 years after it was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the group is confronted with the responsibility of running a country of some 40 million people devastated by more than 40 years of war.

31 August
Will the Taliban regime survive?
Vanda Felbab-Brown
The answer depends on how it handles and prevents armed opposition to its rule and manages the country’s economy and relations with external actors.
(Brookings) That the Taliban is back is power in Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is immensely painful to the United States, NATO, and many Afghans. In 2001, the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime to defeat al-Qaida, a goal it largely accomplished. But the U.S. also sought to vanquish the Taliban and leave behind a pluralistic, human-rights-respecting, and economically-sustainable Afghan state. It failed in those objectives. There were plenty of mistakes and problems with the international efforts, but most importantly the United States never succeeded in inducing good governance in Afghanistan or persuading Pakistan to stop its multifaceted support for the Taliban. Afghan leaders constantly put their parochial and corrupt self-interests ahead of the national one. The misgovernance rot hollowed out even the Afghan security forces which the U.S. spent 20 years constructing at the cost of some $88 billion.
The most significant threat to the Taliban regime could come from within. The Taliban’s success as an insurgency rested on its ability to remain cohesive despite NATO efforts to fragment the group. But the group’s challenge of maintaining cohesiveness across its many different factions of varied ideological intensity and material interests is tougher now that it is in power.

Remarkable pictures!
Thousands flee Taliban-held Afghanistan walking miles through desert across Pakistan and into Iran
(Daily Mail UK) The almost-biblical scenes of the mass migration across the desert where the borders of, and all meet shows an endless river of people flowing between the mountains.

30 August
Taliban celebrates victory as last US troops leave Afghanistan
Taliban hails withdrawal of US forces as a ‘historic moment’ and says the country has now gained ‘full independence’.
(Al Jazeera) Taliban fighters fired their guns into the air in celebration in the Afghan capital as the United States completed the withdrawal of it forces from Afghanistan, nearly twenty years after it invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
The Taliban Celebrate Victory, With a Crisis Looming
(NYT) With the final U.S. troops gone, triumphant scenes were clouded by the prospect of famine and financial collapse. The Taliban spokesman called for international engagement.
Qatar has emerged as a key player in Afghanistan after the US pullout.
(Al Jazeera) Qatar has played an outsized role in US efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.
Now it is being asked to help shape what comes next for Afghanistan because of its ties with both Washington and the Taliban.
Qatar will attend a virtual meeting on Monday hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO.
Meanwhile, international UN agencies are asking Qatar for help and support in delivering aid to Afghanistan.
Taliban in talks with Qatar, Turkey to manage Kabul airport
After the US’s withdrawal Kabul airport is without air traffic control services and talks are on to secure the airport.

29 August
Economic aid is Canada’s leverage against Taliban: Garneau
Agreement reached with Taliban on safe passage, according to joint statement
(CBC) “We’re working through various channels, along with many other countries, to speak to the Taliban and to get them to agree to a very fundamental demand, which is that all Afghans who wish to leave the country should be able to do so,”
Minutes after that interview, a joint statement by 98 countries, including Canada, said an agreement had been reached with the Taliban ensuring that departures from the country could continue.
“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” the statement said
The statement noted that countries “have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries,” but departures would rely on the Taliban’s holding to that agreement. The statement did not include any mention of consequences for breaking the agreement.
U.S. in final phase of Kabul evacuations as Taliban prepare to take control of airport
Just over 1,000 civilians remained at the airport on Sunday to be flown out before the troops finally leave, a Western security official told Reuters.
“We want to ensure that every foreign civilian and those who are at risk are evacuated today. Forces will start flying out once this process is over,” said the official, who is stationed at the airport.
‘Multiple’ suicide bombers targeting Kabul airport killed in drone strike, U.S. says
(CBC) A U.S. drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate on Sunday before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, American officials said. An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.

27 August
Taliban say Afghans will be able to travel freely in future
(Reuters) – Afghans with valid documents will be able to travel in the future at any time, a senior Taliban official said on Friday in a televised address aimed at calming fears the movement planned harsh restrictions on freedom.
“The Afghan borders will be open and people will be able to travel at any time into and out of Afghanistan,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy head of the movement’s political commission said.
The message came as thousands have struggled to get onto the last flights leaving Kabul airport before a deadline for the Western evacuation operation ends next week.
Calling on Afghans to unite to rebuild their country, Stanikzai said that trained and educated people should come back to work.

26-27 August
The threat of ISKP in Afghanistan has been underestimated
The Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate could derail Taliban efforts to establish security and stable rule.
Ibrahim al-Marashi, associate professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos.
(Al Jazeera) Although foreign media started paying attention to this group only now, ISKP has been terrorising Afghans since 2015 and it will continue to do so after the August 31 withdrawal of US troops.
… First, ISKP attacked the airport primarily to discredit its rival, the Taliban, in yet another escalation of the larger conflict between Sunni extremist armed groups. Second, ISKP made it clear that the Taliban will find it hard to keep its promises to ensure the safety and security of civilians, especially women and minorities under its rule.
… ISIL was formed by defectors from al-Qaeda in 2014 in Syria who then attacked their parent organisation and its Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. ISKP was formed primarily by defectors from the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2015, who then went on to attack the Afghan branch. In both cases, the defectors considered their former organisations not extreme enough or not committed enough to attack fellow Sunnis, who they considered deviants, or Shia Muslims.
… The brunt of the violence by these groups has been borne by the Hazara, a Shia ethnic minority group, living in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
… Calling this a “sectarian conflict” would be inaccurate because that would suggest equality between the two sides. It would also obfuscate the racism that along with anti-Shia sentiment drives the attacks on the community, which has long been wrongly considered “non-indigenous” to Afghanistan by other ethnic groups.
U.S. braces for more ISIS attacks after 85 killed in Kabul airport carnage
(Reuters) – U.S. forces helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule braced for more attacks on Friday after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 85 people, including 13 U.S. soldiers outside the gates of Kabul airport.
General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said U.S. commanders were on alert for more attacks by Islamic State, including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport. …adding that some intelligence was being shared with the Taliban and that he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them.”
Factbox: Recent major attacks linked to Islamic State in Afghanistan
The Taliban, whose members are guarding the perimeter outside the airport, are enemies of the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) after an old name for the region.
Here are some other attacks linked to the Afghan offshoot of Islamic State in the past 12 months:

The next Afghan civil war just started
(Politico Nightly) AFTER THE KABUL ATTACK — When Bruce Hoffman heard about the attack on Kabul’s airport this morning, he pretty quickly saw the ISIS-K coordinated suicide bombings for what it was: the clearest sign yet that even after the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, the Taliban faces major threats to its grip on power in the country.
“The Taliban is overwhelmed,” said Hoffman, a senior fellow for counterterrorism and homeland security at the Council on Foreign Relations who has spent four decades studying terrorist groups. “They are very effective at bullying and victimizing civilians, but they are incompetent at battling groups that look like themselves.”
The Taliban overwhelmed Afghan military forces and captured Kabul with shocking speed. But now the Taliban must figure out how to dispatch rival terror groups like the Islamic State Khorasan that have rushed into Afghanistan’s power vacuum.
“You have the beginnings of a massive relocation of radical Islamists to Afghanistan,” Jason Blazakis, a former State Department official and terrorism expert at The Soufan Center, a nonprofit focused on global security, told Nightly.
This is not entirely new, of course. About 18 of the 72 State Department designated terrorist groups operate out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Blazakis said.
But between 8,000 and 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters have recently flooded into Afghanistan, according to a United Nations report released in June. Most of these fighters are Taliban-affiliated, but there are also those who support al Qaeda or ISIS.
The Taliban works closely with al Qaeda and the Haqqani network, a militant group that has taken over security in the Afghan capital. Together they face a bitter rival in ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot that sees its predecessor as not hardline enough.

25 August
In Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, resistance to the Taliban faces long odds.
A group of former mujahedeen fighters and Afghan Army commandos rallied 70 miles north of Kabul in the Panjshir Valley, the last area of Afghanistan not under Taliban control.
Budding Resistance to the Taliban Faces Long Odds
For now, the fighters have merely two assets: a narrow valley with a history of repelling invaders and the legacy of a storied mujahedeen commander.

24 August
Afghan Women On What’s At Stake For Women In Afghanistan
(NPR) The Taliban, now in control of the country of Afghanistan, has promised that women will be treated well under its new government. At a public appearance last week, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid vowed that women’s rights would be honored, within the framework of Islamic law. The extremist militant group says women and girls will still be able to attend school and join the government.
Advocates working on the ground say those promises are nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Taliban rule presents aid agencies with moral, fiscal dilemma
(Reuters) – As foreign governments, aid institutions and companies scramble to evacuate staff from Afghanistan, a crucial question is emerging: should they engage with the ruling Taliban or abandon years of investment in the country and 38 million Afghans?
The Taliban in the past week has pledged peaceful relations with other countries, women’s rights and independent media but some former diplomats and academics said the Islamist militant group, while more media and internet savvy than the Taliban of the 1990s, is just as brutal.
For foreign aid agencies the situation presents “a paradox,” said Robert Crews, a Stanford University history professor and author of the 2015 book “Afghan Modern: The History of a Global Nation.”
Afghanistan’s government budget is 70% to 80% funded by international donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said Michael McKinley, who served as ambassador to Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016.
The country faces economic collapse without that aid.
While foreign governments and aid groups evacuate thousands of people, they’re leaving billions of dollars in projects hanging in the balance, much of it through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. …
Citing a lack of clarity over its members’ recognition of the Afghan government, the IMF suspended Afghanistan’s access to Fund resources, including some $440 million in new monetary reserves that the IMF allocated on Monday. read more
Companies, including the U.S.’s big social media firms and natural resources groups are split in how to deal with the Taliban, a microcosm of wider inconsistencies in how the international community classifies the group. read more

Taliban urges US to stop evacuating skilled Afghans
Taliban spokesman says the country ‘needs their expertise’ and Afghans should not be encouraged to leave.
The Taliban on Tuesday urged skilled Afghans not to flee the country, as the new rulers of Afghanistan warned the United States and its NATO allies they would not accept an extension to a looming evacuation deadline – even as Western countries said time was running out.
A spokesman for the group told America to stop taking “Afghan experts” such as engineers and doctors out of the country

Taliban has appointed former Guantanamo detainee mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as acting defense minister, Qatari based Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday, citing a source in the Islamist movement.

UN rights boss says she has credible reports of Taliban executions
(Reuters) – The U.N. human rights chief said on Tuesday that she had received credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban in Afghanistan, including “summary executions” of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered.
Michelle Bachelet gave no details of the killings in her speech to the Human Rights Council, but urged it to set up a mechanism to closely monitor Taliban actions.
Under a resolution agreed later on Tuesday by the Geneva forum, she is to report back at its September-October session on the situation and on any violations committed by the Taliban, and make a fuller written report in March 2022.

August 23
How Will the Taliban Rule?
Governing Afghanistan Is More Difficult Than Conquering It
By Carter Malkasian
(Foreign Affairs) The Taliban’s advance into Kabul and the collapse of the democratic government of Afghanistan unfolded with stunning speed over the course of a few weeks. The dizzying turn of events and the scenes of chaos and desperation that followed have understandably led to a torrent of questions about how things went so wrong so quickly. But the Taliban’s rapid success also has much to tell us about the prospects of their rule—both the considerable freedom the Taliban will likely have to enact their vision over the next few years and the steep challenges that will emerge as time goes on.
The Taliban have shown themselves to be the most effective political organization in Afghanistan. For two decades, while Afghan politicians have bickered and democracy has faltered, the Taliban’s values, organization, and cohesion have proved enduring. … But that doesn’t mean their victory represents an end to Afghanistan’s 40 years of war, uncertainty, and trauma. The Taliban face the poverty, internal strife, illicit crops, meddlesome neighbors, and threat of insurrections that are endemic to their country—and have proved the bane of all its rulers.
… The Taliban say they are drafting a new constitution and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is in Kabul discussing the future government with Karzai, Abdullah, and others. Whatever those discussions entail, the new government will likely enshrine Islamic law as the sole basis of the legal system, centralize power under a single Taliban leader, and share a token amount of power with other Afghan leaders (perhaps Karzai or Abdullah, but far more likely lesser-known religious and tribal leaders who have sympathized toward the Taliban cause). The new constitution may allow for elections, but they will be designed in a way that will preserve Taliban control over key functions of the state.
… For the past 40 years, no ruler has managed to bring stability to Afghanistan. There have been other moments when the Afghan people seemed exhausted by war and violence seemed to have come to an end: the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the Taliban’s first takeover in 1996, the U.S. intervention in 2001. Each time, violence returned before long, helped by Afghanistan’s internal fissures, rugged terrain, scarce resources, and troublesome neighbors. The same obstacles to stable rule persist today. Even if they seem well positioned to enforce order, the Taliban still face real structural challenges.
…there is good reason to think that Afghanistan’s 40 years of civil war and trauma may not be over. One way or another, the Taliban are likely to find governing Afghanistan to be far more difficult than conquering it.

20-22 August
Chaos Persists at Kabul Airport as Taliban Discuss New Government
The militants engage the former officials Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as Moscow, to seek help in building an “inclusive” government while cementing their rule.
Roger Cohen
(NYT) Little in the Taliban’s history suggests readiness to compromise on their harsh Islamist principles or to share power, but the United States has warned the militant group that going it alone will result in continuous conflict and isolation. In this context, Mr. Karzai, who led the county between 2001 and 2014, appears to have emerged as a possible mediator.
Mr. Karzai, 63, a wily maneuverer who as president fell out with the United States over American drone attacks, corruption allegations and other issues, has stepped into the void left by the flight a week ago of President Ashraf Ghani.
… A delegation of Taliban leaders also visited the Russian Embassy in Kabul, asking officials there to pass along an offer of negotiations to a group of Afghan leaders holding out in northern Afghanistan, the Russian ambassador, Dmitri Zhirnov, told a Russian television interviewer on Saturday.
How the United States will view Mr. Karzai’s re-emergence was unclear. So, too, was whether Afghans would believe the sudden professed moderation of the Taliban, whose oppression of women and brutality have been hallmarks of their fundamentalism.
Amanpour & Co. How will the Taliban govern?
Interview with Michael Semple
Taliban hunting for ‘collaborators’ in major cities, threat assessment prepared for United Nations warns
(WWaPo) The Taliban has stepped up its hunt for former Afghan security officials and people who may have worked with U.S. or NATO forces, according to a confidential threat assessment prepared for the United Nations and seen by The Washington Post.
The militants are going house to house, setting up checkpoints and threatening to arrest or kill relatives of “collaborators” in major cities, the Wednesday assessment said.
The document, produced by the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, a U.N.-linked intelligence support center, describes an empowered Taliban eager to seek out and interrogate or punish those affiliated with the U.S.-backed government.
At particular risk are people who were in central positions in military, police and investigative units, according to the analysis, despite a Taliban pledge this week to grant amnesty to former officials.

Anti-Taliban fighters claim victories as first stirrings of armed resistance emerge
(WaPo) Groups of armed Afghans attacked the Taliban on Friday, driving Afghanistan’s new rulers out of three northern districts, the first assault against the Islamist militants since they swept into Kabul last week and seized control of the government.
Local anti-Taliban commanders claimed in interviews they had killed as many as 30 of the group’s fighters and captured 20 in the takeover of the districts in Baghlan province, just over 100 miles north of the capital. Former Afghan service members were joined in the fight, they said, by local civilians.

Afghanistan is not the country the Taliban last ruled. Will that matter?
Khaled Hosseini on the vastly changed cultural landscape the new regime faces
(WaPo)  … Maybe the Taliban has noticed that the country it has conquered in 2021 is not the one it decamped from in 2001 — … while the Taliban was busy launching RPGs at police cadets, the country was transforming. Over the last 20 years, Afghanistan formed a robust base of educated urban professionals.
… perhaps, in these 20 years, the Taliban changed as well. Perhaps it sees the wisdom of inclusive, more moderate methods. After all, it is one thing to conquer a nation but a whole other matter to govern it. In the 1990s, too, the Taliban took control of the struggling country with ease, but it left Afghanistan in 2001 in near-total economic collapse. Today, wouldn’t the know-how and education of young Afghans serve the Taliban well to rebuild civil society and steer the nation toward a more stable and prosperous future?
Maybe the Taliban is not prioritizing those things. But it should — if not for the good of ordinary Afghans, then for its own. Moderation and inclusivity would help secure its place as a credible player in the region and help ensure its durability far more than whips and guns and gallows.
In all likelihood, this is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Afghanistan Would Be Better Off If It Had Been Left Alone
By Margaret Kimberley
(Eurasia Review OpEd) The U.S. presence in Afghanistan should not be dismissed as merely a mistake and no one should be sorry that it is winding down. It was the ultimate act of cynicism, a war crime, and no one should try to defend it. Nor should anyone defend the presidents and members of congress who vote for defense spending that is now more than 60% of the discretionary budget. There are many guilty parties in this story.
Afghanistan would be better off if it had been left alone to resolve its own issues. The same is true for every other country the United States claims to be helping. When presidents, and corporate media op-eds, and congress, and think tanks make the case for war, the rest of us must reject their arguments out of hand. Let us not forget Afghanistan when we are told to support sanctions, drone strikes, or boots on the ground anywhere else.

19 August
The men vying to run Afghanistan
(Politico Nightly) With the Taliban now firmly in control of Afghanistan after seizing the capital Kabul, who’s officially in charge of the country?
It’s complicated — a variety of figures old and new are vying to become the successor to ousted president Ashraf Ghani. Filling the vacuum he leaves behind could be up to the same guys who once harbored al Qaeda and became international symbols of barbarism and cruelty — but an opposition is emerging, too. Among the contenders:
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud
Hamid Karzai

Taliban 2.0: Older, media-savvy and still duplicitous
The group hopes its pledge to protect women and minorities could win it Western recognition as the new Afghan government.
(Politico EU) This is all about recognition. China, for example, is a prime target of the charm offensive, and is being given assurance that the Taliban will no longer be supporting Uyghur militants in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
Being nice to Hazaras is all about keeping Iran sweet. Iran, which is majority Shiite, has settled into a phase of fragile cooperation with the Taliban, with whom it was united against a common U.S. foe, but any repeat of the Taliban’s previous violence against the Shiite minority could quickly reignite Tehran’s enmity.

19 August
Collapse and Conquest: The Taliban Strategy That Seized Afghanistan Updated 19 August
Starting in the spring, the Taliban negotiated wholesale surrenders and seized roadways and weapons, handing them vital propaganda victories and freedom to move quickly to the next opportunity.
By David Zucchino
(NYT) Each surrender, small or large, handed the Taliban more weapons and vehicles — and, vitally, more control over roads and highways, giving insurgents freedom to move rapidly and collect the next surrenders as the security forces were progressively cut off from ammunition, fuel, food and salaries. Each victory also added to a growing sense of inevitability that the Taliban would eventually prevail, especially after the militants poured so many resources into winning the north, a traditional stronghold of anti-Taliban militias. As those outposts and districts fell, the Taliban gained important propaganda victories, quickly spreading the word that they could overcome even dogged resistance, and would keep their word to allow soldiers and policemen to walk away with their lives.
The result was a lopsided fight between an adaptable and highly mobile insurgent juggernaut, and a demoralized government force that had been abandoned by its leaders and cut off from help. Once the first provincial capital city surrendered this month, the big collapses came as fast as the Taliban could travel.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Person second from left is a former bodyguard for Ghani. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)

Fear Spreads in Kabul as Taliban Take Charge (Updated 19 August)
(NYT) The day after the Afghan president fled and the Taliban installed themselves in the presidential palace, uncertainty reigned. Kabul’s airport was reopened for evacuation flights.
In remarkable scenes broadcast on Al Jazeera, Taliban leaders ensconced themselves in the palace only hours after Mr. Ghani fled.
Former President Hamid Karzai said he had formed a council with other political leaders to coordinate a peaceful transition to a new Taliban government. Mr. Karzai also asked the head of the Presidential Protection Service to remain at his post and ensure that the palace was not looted.
Though not a formal surrender, it might as well have been.

A free press was trying to take root in Afghanistan. Now journalists are bracing for Taliban rule.
(WaPo) Over the past 20 years, a vibrant and growing media industry has taken root in Afghanistan, with many independent outlets reporting news from around the country, even in the face of violence and instability. Now its journalists are confronting an even more dangerous and uncertain future under Taliban rule — and meeting the moment with a mixture of anxiety, fear and a sense of duty.

17-18 August
Heather Cox Richardson August 18, 2021
Central to affairs there is money. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with about half its population requiring humanitarian aid this year and about 90% of its people living below the poverty line of making $2 a day.
The country depends on foreign aid. Under the U.S.-supported Afghan government, the United States and other nations funded about 80% of Afghanistan’s budget. In 2020, foreign aid made up about 43% of Afghanistan’s GDP (the GDP, or gross domestic product, is the monetary value of all the goods and services produced in a country), down from 100% of it in 2009.
This is a huge problem for the Taliban, because their takeover of the country means that the money the country so desperately needs has dried up. The U.S. has frozen billions of dollars of Afghan government money held here in the U.S. The European Union and Germany have also suspended their financial support for the country, and today the International Monetary Fund blocked Afghanistan’s access to $460 million in currency reserves.

Questioning the Taliban’s extreme makeover
(Politico Nightly) The Taliban’s current P.R. blitz, aimed at repairing its global image, has focused on promising that women can continue to work and go to school in the country.
The Taliban wants to boost its credibility and rule over a functioning country. “The Taliban will want to keep lights on and cars on the road and infrastructure operating,” Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Nightly. But the international community shouldn’t give the group legitimacy, she said, unless it maintains the last two decades of advances in Afghan women’s rights.

Left to the Taliban: ‘Nobody from Canada has contacted us’
Adnan R. Khan: While other countries hurriedly work to get people out, Canada’s Prime Minister appears to not have a clue. And this country’s silence is deafening
(Maclean’s) Canadian officials have intimated that they are waiting for the situation outside the airport to come under control before sending in evacuation flights. The situation there remains dire, according to a source in Kabul, requesting anonymity because his organization does not allow him to speak to the media. “The problem is that there are these huge crowds outside all three of the gates leading to the airport,” he told me. “There is an initial cordon guarded by Taliban. If you can get past them you have to deal with U.S. or British soldiers who don’t want to open the gate because it risks letting another flood of people into the airport, which they then have to coral and clear out.”

How Will the Taliban Rule? Here’s the Early Evidence.
By Ashley Jackson, author of “Negotiating Survival: Civilian-Insurgent Relations in Afghanistan.” Currently based in Oslo, she lived in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012 and from 2017 to 2019.
(NYT Opinion) For all the recriminations and finger-pointing about how the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan so rapidly, there is a hard truth that needs to be reckoned with: The Taliban have spent years preparing for the eventual U.S. withdrawal. Despite numerous military surges, relentless airstrikes and thousands killed on all sides, no one was able to stop them. Year by year, Taliban soldiers methodically gained ground as they coerced and co-opted large swaths of the population now living under their rule and set up a shadow state. The Taliban exploited anger at the abuses of foreign forces and Afghan government corruption to gain support in village after village.
..the Taliban have been essentially controlling parts of Afghanistan for years. And yet it is far easier to capture territory as an insurgency than it is to govern it. This was one of the more painful lessons for the Taliban in the 1990s, which quickly swept to power but was a disaster when it came to governing. So we don’t yet know how the Taliban intend to govern the nation as a whole.
Already their administration is rudimentary and stretched thin, and there are stark differences between the deeply conservative areas that have long been under Taliban influence and the mainly urban and relatively more progressive areas they have recently gained control over.
Taliban face financial crisis without access to foreign reserves
Analysis: As the US freezes Afghan reserves and Germany halts aid, the new rulers may find they are far short of what is required to govern
Taliban Promise Peace, but Doubt and Fear Persist
In their first statement since taking control, the Taliban hinted at a rule unlike their brutal regime a generation ago, trying to placate skeptics.
(NYT) After days of uncertainty around the world over Afghanistan’s swift fall to a group notorious for its brutality, Mr. Mujahid’s words, delivered in a restrained tone, were a glimpse into a Taliban desire to portray themselves as ready to join the international mainstream.

Afghans desperate to leave country remain stuck at Kabul airport
In chaotic scenes outside shuttered airport, hundreds of families gather as Taliban tries to disperse crowds.
Afghanistan: reports emerge of Taliban beating Afghans seeking to flee Kabul
US voices concern at reports of violence against women and children trying to pass through Taliban checkpoints, as evacuations continue
(The Guardian) Taliban promises of “safe passage” to the Kabul airport for Afghans trying to flee the country have been undermined by reports of women and children being beaten and whipped as they try to pass through checkpoints set up by the militants.
With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan’s land border, Kabul airport is the only way out of the country. The US military has secured the airfield itself, after chaotic scenes over the weekend, but the Taliban control the road to the airport and have set up numerous checkpoints in Kabul’s north.
The US says the Taliban has committed to “safe passage” for people who want to reach the airport. But reports from the Afghan capital say there has been violence at checkpoints on Airport Road, including photographs of a woman and a child with head injuries after reportedly being beaten and whipped after trying to cross a checkpoint. Sources in Kabul told the Guardian the Taliban were checking documents and forcibly turning some people around at checkpoints, refusing to let them reach the airport.
In photos: Flights evacuating civilians out of Afghanistan resumes at Kabul airport after Taliban takeover
Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan resumed early on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.

Taliban says no one will use Afghan territory to launch attacks
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says group won’t allow territory ‘to be used against anybody or any country’.
By Zaheena Rasheed, Arwa Ibrahim and Usaid Siddiqui
(Al Jazeera) The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.
The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.
The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government.
Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.
The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.
China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

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