Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan January 2022-
Deported Afghans return home by the thousands to unexpected welcome
(WaPo) Many of the returning Afghan refugees who arrived here last week expected the worst as they stepped onto muddy Afghan soil amid torrential rain.
Caught up in a major deportation drive and forced to leave their homes in Pakistan, some had never been to the war-ravaged country their parents were born in. Others assumed they would barely recognize the cities they fled after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, where schools are now closed for many girls and music is prohibited.
But as they entered their transformed country, many refugees appeared puzzled. There was a poster wishing them a “good and comfortable life.” Rifle-wielding soldiers handed out food and wore bright garlands to celebrate the refugees’ return. Trucks stood ready to transport the returnees and their belongings to sprawling tent cities where 30,000 have found shelter and most families receive a $140 cash payment from the government. …
The deportations come amid mounting frustration in Islamabad with a surge in attacks in Pakistan that officials largely blame on religious militants suspected of hiding in Afghanistan’s rugged border mountains. By implicitly threatening to overwhelm Afghanistan with returnees, the Pakistani campaign appears designed to pressure the Afghan leadership to cracking down on the militants, analysts and humanitarian workers say. Afghan officials deny they are harboring the militants.
Pakistan’s deportation efforts may actually play into the hands of the Taliban-run government. It now has a rare opportunity to present itself as a government capable of managing a major humanitarian crisis and willing to welcome returnees, including those who fled the group’s 20-year armed campaign to seize control of Afghanistan.
Pakistan and Iran are Afghanistan’s neighbours, but their treatment of Afghans is shameful
Shoaib Rahim, Toronto-based associate professor at the American University of Afghanistan, who served as the acting and deputy mayor of Kabul from 2016 to 2019. He also lectured at University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
(Globe & Mail opinion) …while many Pakistanis have been welcoming and generous to a people with whom they empathize, their government has systemically put paths to citizenship, and the basic legal protections that come with it, out of reach for Afghans. Islamabad, which once viewed Afghan migrants as a means to extract more funding from donor agencies and western capitals, now blames them for unemployment while pushing outdated narratives that they pose safety and national security risks. This fear-mongering has led to threats, intimidation and yet more undignified treatment. …
Afghans in Iran, meanwhile, almost entirely speak Farsi and many are Shia Muslims, sharing a love for Rumi’s poetry and a civilizational identity – yet the situation there is even worse. Even if Afghans are born in Iran, they are typically not given permanent residency; recently, nationality has been offered only to those who are willing to serve in the Islamic republic’s regional proxy wars. Instead, Afghans face xenophobia and outright racism in Iran, which seem to serve the populist narratives of the country’s political class.
Pakistan carries out a mass expulsion
(WaPo) As global attention centered on Gaza and the compounding upheavals and traumas triggered by Israel’s war on Hamas, another population is in crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees are being forced to leave Pakistan as the country implements an order from its interim government to remove undocumented people from within its borders. Of the roughly 4 million Afghans living in Pakistan, about 1.7 million people are thought to be in the crosshairs of this “repatriation” plan.
The Pakistani government set a Nov. 1 deadline for when people without legal documents — primarily Afghans, but also potentially asylum seekers from persecuted groups such as China’s Uyghurs and Myanmar’s Rohingya — to remain in the country must leave, or otherwise face arrest and deportation. A network of “holding centers” for detained migrants has been set up in Pakistan’s provinces, and locals report a surge in police harassment and abuse of Afghans living in the country. Close to 200,000 Afghan refugees have already returned to a homeland some do not even know, with the numbers rising.
Afghans return to Taliban rule as Pakistan moves to expel 1.7 million
(Reuters) The Taliban government in Afghanistan said some 60,000 Afghans returned between Sept 23 to Oct 22 from Pakistan, which announced on Oct 4 it will expel undocumented migrants that do not leave.
And recent daily returnee figures are three times higher than normal, Taliban refugee ministry spokesman Abdul Mutaleb Haqqani told Reuters on Oct 26.
… Pakistan is home to over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom are undocumented, according to Islamabad. Afghans make up the largest portion of migrants – many came after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, but a large number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Cash-strapped Pakistan, navigating record inflation and a tough International Monetary Fund bailout program, also said undocumented migrants have drained its resources for decades.
Taliban representative arrives in Beijing to attend Belt and Road Forum
(Reuters) – The Taliban’s acting commerce minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to attend the Belt and Road Forum, the Afghan embassy said, which is among the highest-profile summits it has been invited to since taking power in 2021.
Beijing has sought to grow its official ties with the Taliban administration ever since U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew from the country two years ago, despite its lack of formal recognition by any government. The impoverished country could offer a wealth of coveted mineral resources.
China’s Foreign Ministry said: “China has noted that the interim government of Afghanistan said it hopes to take the ride of the ‘Belt and Road’… and realise national stability and economic development as soon as possible” …
Azizi will invite “large investors” to Afghanistan and continue discussions with Chinese officials on plans to build a road through the Wakhan corridor, a thin, mountainous strip in the country’s north, a commerce ministry spokesperson said.
China has also been in talks with the Taliban over plans, begun under the previous foreign-backed government, for a possible huge copper mine in eastern Afghanistan.
Another 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan’s western province of Herat on Wednesday. Authorities had to redeploy rescue teams that were already in the field after a series of quakes on Saturday. Health officials say that more than 100 people were injured and taken to the hospital. People had been sleeping in the open after their homes were destroyed by the previous quakes. UNICEF says that more than 90% of those who died in this week’s earthquakes were women and children.
Afghanistan earthquake death toll rises to 2,000: Taliban officials
Taliban officials call for urgent help as rescuers try to save people trapped in debris in the wake of magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Herat province.
(Al Jazeera) The death toll from powerful earthquakes in western Afghanistan is estimated to be 2,000, a senior Taliban leader said, adding that the number might rise further in one of the deadliest quakes to hit the country in two decades.
Afghanistan’s Corruption Was Made in America
How Self-Dealing Elites Failed in Both Countries
By Sarah Chayes
(Foreign Affairs) In the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s swift reconquest of the country, and the chaotic, bloody exodus that has followed, U.S. officials have lamented that the Afghans failed to put up a fight. But how did the Americans ever expect Afghans to keep risking their lives on behalf of a government that had abused them—with Washington’s permission—for decades?
There is also another, deeper truth to grasp. The disaster in Afghanistan—and the United States’ complicity in allowing corruption to cripple the Afghan state and make it loathsome to its own people—is not only a failure of U.S. foreign policymaking. It is also a mirror, reflecting back a more florid version of the type of corruption that has long been undermining American democracy, as well.
BRICS’ Silence on Taliban: The World Must Not Abandon Afghanistan & Its Women
While BRICS has priority issues, it’s undeniable the RIC nations abandoned the Afghan issue in their deliberations.
C Uday Bhaskar
(The Quint) Afghan women were dealt yet another body blow by the Taliban regime which declared that women were not observing the hijab regulations inside parks in the prescribed manner and hence, would be forbidden from entering such recreation spots. … Ironically, this draconian restriction was announced on a day – traditionally celebrated in the USA as ‘Women’s Equality Day’ – to commemorate the granting of voting rights to women in 1920.
… Over the last two years, it is evident that the Afghan issue has gone off the radar of the major powers, and barring anodyne references at multilateral summits and at the UN that are made periodically – the women of Afghanistan have been abandoned to the misogynistic mercy of the Taliban regime.
… With India preparing to host the G20 summit from 8 to 10 September, one hopes that there will be the appropriate degree of high-level political attention accorded to Afghanistan and its stoic women who have borne the brunt of cruel and grossly iniquitous gender policies.
The brave women teachers in Afghanistan who continue to teach the girl child secretly despite the Taliban diktat merit a salute for keeping the flickering flame alive. Their plight and resolve should not be erased from the collective global memory.
More than 200 former Afghan officials and security forces killed since Taliban takeover, UN says
(AP) — More than 200 extrajudicial killings of former Afghan government officials and security forces have taken place since the Taliban took over the country two years ago, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday.
The groups most targeted by the Taliban have been former army, police and intelligence forces, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
UNAMA documented at least 800 human rights violations against former Afghan government officials and security forces between Aug. 15, 2021, when the Taliban seized power, and the end of June 2023.
Two-year timeline of events in Afghanistan since 2021 Taliban takeover
(AP) — Here is a look at key dates since the Taliban came back to power two years ago, as U.S. and NATO forces withdrew from the country:
Aug. 15, 2021 — The Taliban march into Kabul as internationally backed President Ashraf Ghani flees the country.
Aug. 26, 2021 — Islamic State group suicide bombers and gunmen kill over 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops in an attack on the crowds trying to be evacuated at Kabul’s airport.
May 7, 2022 — The Taliban Virtue and Vice Ministry issues orders that women in public must wear all-encompassing robes and cover their faces except for their eyes. It advises them to stay home unless they have important work outside the house.
June 22, 2022 — A powerful earthquake hits a remote region of eastern Afghanistan, killing more than 1,100 people. The Taliban struggle with rescue efforts, underscoring a lack of resources and a reliance on aid groups.
July 31, 2022 — The U.S. kills al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike on a safehouse in Kabul where he has been staying for months. U.S. officials accuse the Taliban of sheltering him in violation of the Doha Agreement.
Sept. 5, 2022 – An IS suicide bombing kills two diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Kabul, a rare assault on a foreign diplomatic mission. Russia is among the handful of countries with a working embassy in Afghanistan, and the only European one.
Sept. 30, 2022 – A suicide bomber strikes an education center in a Shiite area of the capital, killing dozens of people, including teenagers taking university entrance exams.
Nov. 10, 2022 – A nationwide ban on women using gyms and parks comes into force. The Taliban they they imposed the ban because women allegedly disobeyed gender segregation rules or didn’t wear hijabs, or Islamic headscarves, properly.
Nov. 20, 2022 – The Taliban lash 19 people, including alleged adulterers, in the first public flogging since the return to Taliban rule.
Dec. 8, 2022 – The Taliban execute a convicted killer before hundreds of spectators in the first public execution since the takeover.
Dec. 21, 2022 – The Taliban bar female students from attending university, having already banned girls from middle school and high school.
Dec. 24, 2022 – The Taliban bar Afghan women from working with national and international nongovernmental groups, after already excluding them from most jobs.
March 9, 2023 – The U.N. says Afghanistan has become the most repressive country in the world for women and girls, depriving them of virtually all their basic rights.
April 6, 2023 – The Taliban’s chief spokesman relocates his office from Kabul to Kandahar, the spiritual birthplace of the movement and the base of the supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada. It’s the clearest sign yet of a power shift to the south.
April 10, 2023 – The U.N. warns that its Afghan operations remain severely under-funded. It previously said that Afghanistan is its lowest-funded operation globally, despite being the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
July 4, 2023 – The Taliban order beauty salons to shut down for offering un-Islamic services like eyebrow shaping. The decision affects as many as 60,000 female entrepreneurs and further restricts meeting places for women outside the home.
July 19, 2023 – The Taliban use stun guns on women protesting a ban on beauty salons, spraying the demonstrators with water and firing into the air to break up the crowd.
The Taliban are entrenched in Afghanistan after 2 years of rule. Women and girls pay the price
(AP) The Taliban have settled in as rulers of Afghanistan, two years after they seized power as U.S. and NATO forces withdrew from the country following two decades of war.
The Taliban face no significant opposition that could topple them. They have avoided internal divisions by falling in line behind their ideologically unbending leader. They have kept a struggling economy afloat, in part by holding investment talks with capital-rich regional countries, even as the international community withholds formal recognition. They have improved domestic security through crackdowns on armed groups such as the Islamic State, and say they are fighting corruption and opium production.
But it’s their slew of bans on Afghan girls and women that dominated the Taliban’s second year in charge. They barred them from parks, gyms, universities, and jobs at nongovernmental groups and the United Nations – all in the space of a few months – allegedly because they weren’t wearing proper hijab — the Islamic head covering — or violated gender segregation rules. These orders followed a previous ban, issued in the first year of Taliban rule, on girls going to school beyond sixth grade.
UN ready for ‘heartbreaking’ decision to pull out of Afghanistan
Officials say it will leave in May if Taliban cannot be persuaded to let local women work for organisation
The warning comes after UN officials spent months negotiating with the group’s leaders in the hope of persuading them to make exceptions to a hardline edict this month barring local women from working for it, according to the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner.
The threatened move comes as two-thirds of the population, or 28 million people, are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023, and the US government and other G7 members have been threatening to cut aid.
Ottawa, and the lessons unlearned in Afghanistan
(Globe & Mail editorial) … Why is the government apparently putting more energy into employee recognition than into doing a full public review of what went wrong during the 2021 evacuation, as [the parliamentary Special Committee on Afghanistan] called on it to do in a report tabled last June?
The committee’s report concluded that Ottawa should have assumed the country would fall quickly after the U.S. pullout was announced, should have been more cognizant that its local allies would be in danger, and should not have contributed to a worst-case scenario. Instead, thousands of people who had aided Canada were abandoned to their fates.
Those findings suggest a public re-examination of the evacuation is in order, so that Canadians know that Ottawa understands how badly it failed our Afghan allies.
HONOURING CANADA’S LEGACY IN AFGHANISTAN: RESPONDING TO THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND HELPING PEOPLE REACH SAFETY – Report of the Special Committee on Afghanistan (June 2022)
Canada ‘limited’ on ability to help Afghans, Trudeau says after ex-MP killed
(Global) Trudeau said, the Taliban is making it difficult to heed the calls.
“We’re going to continue working to make sure that the most vulnerable people are able to get out,” the prime minister said, speaking to reporters on Tuesday. …we have to recognize that the Taliban is not allowing people to leave, it’s putting people at risk. So our ability to do that is extremely limited.”
MPs implored federal government to bring former Afghan politician to Canada before she was killed
Concerns remain for 8 other women who are former MPs still stuck in Afghanistan
(CBC) … Canadian politicians had been trying to bring her to Canada and are urging the government to act quickly to expedite the immigration of eight other women who are former lawmakers from Afghanistan.
Former Afghan Lawmaker Shot Dead at Her Home in Kabul
The legislator, Mursal Nabizada, was one of a few female parliamentarians who remained in the country after the Western-backed government collapsed and the Taliban seized power
(NYT) When the Taliban took over in August 2021, the Parliament was dissolved. Ms. Nabizada, who was sworn in to Parliament in 2019 under the previous government, initially wanted to leave the country along with most of her colleagues, who were evacuated by Western governments. But she chose to stay in Afghanistan because she was unable to find a way to bring her family members with her, said Shinkai Karokhail, a former member of Parliament who served with Ms. Nabizada.
The death of Ms. Nabizada comes at a precarious moment for women in Afghanistan. In recent months, the Taliban administration has issued a flood of edicts rolling back women’s rights and all but erasing women from public life. Women are now barred from gyms, public parks and high schools; they cannot travel any significant distance without a male relative; and they must cover themselves head to toe in burqas and headpieces in public.
More recently, officials also barred women from attending universities and from working in most local and international aid groups — prompting many major organizations to suspend their operations and threatening to plunge the country deeper into a humanitarian crisis.
Afghanistan: What’s in store for 2023?
(Al Jazeera) Late last year the Taliban implemented a new set of stringent restrictions on the rights of women and girls. Not only were women banned from parks, gyms and public baths but they were also banned from universities and working with humanitarian organisations. And some fear even further rollbacks may yet happen in the months ahead.
In response to the ban on women in aid, a number of humanitarian organisations suspended or reduced operations in the country citing the essential role of women in the provision of humanitarian support. With two-thirds of the population expected to require humanitarian assistance in the year ahead, further erosion of aid risks exacerbating the country’s already acute humanitarian crisis. According to the World Food Programme, nearly 20 million people are expected to be food insecure in 2023 with nearly 875,000 children anticipated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
In this episode of The Stream, we discuss some of the latest headlines from Afghanistan, the country’s urgent humanitarian needs and what may be in store for 2023.
Dozens of people killed as cold wave sweeps Afghanistan
At least 70 people and 70,000 cattle have died within a week as many provinces witness a cold wave, with temperatures dipping to as low as -33C (-27F).
NGOs resume some Afghan operations with women workers
(Al Jazeera) Three foreign aid groups restore work in the health sector after the Taliban bans women from working with NGOs in Afghanistan.
Several aid organisations have restored some operations in Afghanistan after they received assurances from Taliban authorities that women could work in areas such as health, in spite of restrictions last month barring female workers in nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).
The International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children and CARE said this week that they were again operating some programmes, mostly in health and nutrition.
G7 tell Taliban to reverse ‘reckless and dangerous’ ban on female aid workers
UN aid programmes in Afghanistan under threat after decision to bar women from agencies and charities, foreign ministers warn
Major world powers have called on the Taliban to urgently reverse a “reckless and dangerous” decision to ban women from working for aid agencies and charities.
In a joint statement, foreign ministers from 12 countries, as well as an EU representative, warned the ban on women working in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would have an inevitable impact on UN aid programmes because many of these multimillion-dollar relief efforts were delivered and designed by NGOs.
UN Afghanistan head meets Taliban over ban on female aid workers
At least seven international NGOs have suspended aid, saying they cannot work without female staff
(The Guardian) Ramiz Alakbarov met the Taliban’s economy minister, Din Mohammad Hanif, in Kabul, telling him that millions of Afghans need “humanitarian assistance and removing barriers is vital”.
Nida Mohammad Nadim, the Taliban higher education minister, responded to the international criticism, saying his government will not change its mind on girls’ access to education “even if they drop an atomic bomb on us” adding “we are ready for sanctions by the international community”
In Afghanistan, the lights go out for women
(WaPo editorial board) With a single decision, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have crushed the dreams of a generation of women. The Islamist regime announced Dec. 20 that women would be prohibited from attending universities, on top of earlier decrees banning girls from middle school and high school.
Returning to power in August 2021 after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban promised to take a more moderate stance in running the country. It has not. Right after the announcement, young women saw university gates slammed shut and Taliban guards blocking the way. Many educated Afghans who had remained after the withdrawal and hoped for change are now likely to flee. The decision might lead to the proliferation of secret and forbidden study groups for women. The minister of higher education, Nida Mohammad Nadim, claimed the ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. This is balderdash. What really happened is that the hard-liners among the Taliban, those with the harshest Pashtun village mores, have triumphed over more moderate voices and factions.
…the Taliban decision drew condemnation from majority-Muslim Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “neither Islamic nor humane,” and added, “What harm is there in women’s education? … Our religion, Islam, is not against education; on the contrary, it encourages education and science.”
On Saturday [24 Dec] the Taliban took another step to restrict women, banning them from working in nongovernmental organizations, both domestic and foreign.
U.S. Establishes Trust With $3.5 Billion in Frozen Afghan Central Bank Funds
The Afghan Fund, which will be based in Switzerland, is meant to help stabilize Afghanistan’s economy and pay for imports like electricity — without benefiting the Taliban.
The Biden administration moved on Wednesday to establish a foundation to begin spending $3.5 billion to benefit Afghans, using funds that President Biden had frozen and seized from Afghanistan’s central bank after the Taliban took over the country last year.
With several international partners, the U.S. government announced the creation of a foundation based in Switzerland that will use the money to help address the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan — while keeping the funds out of the hands of the Taliban. The United States and Partners Announce Establishment of Fund for the People of Afghanistan
Exclusive: U.S. commits to Afghan asset talks despite frustration with Taliban
By Jonathan Landay
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will press ahead with talks on releasing billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s foreign-held assets despite late al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and foot-dragging by the Taliban and Afghan central bank, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.
The decision to pursue the initiative to help stabilize Afghanistan’s collapsed economy underscores growing concern in Washington over a humanitarian crisis as the United Nations warns that nearly half the country’s 40 million people face “acute hunger” as winter approaches.
Dueling views remain a year after Afghan pullout
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
(AP) — A year after America’s tumultuous and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan, assessments of its impact are divided — and largely along partisan lines.
Critics slam the August 2021 evacuation of more than 120,000 American citizens, Afghans and others as poorly planned and badly executed. They say the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces opened the door to a resurgence of al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in the country. And the exit, they say, signaled the United States’ lack of commitment to the broader Middle East and its unwillingness to stand by a partner in need.
Supporters counter that it was time to end America’s longest war and that leaving forces in the country would risk their lives and gain little. It was time, they said, for the Afghan people to take charge of their own country and its security so that the U.S. could focus on threats from China and Russia, and on other critical issues such as climate change and the pandemic.
As Afghans go hungry, the West contends with the Taliban’s broken promises
Western governments struggle for a diplomatic approach to a regime bent on isolation
(CBC) Despite its early pledges to the contrary, the Taliban have driven women out of public life and have made every effort to control their private movements as they work to restore the repressive patriarchy that made them an international pariah during their first go-round in government.
Western leaders at times described the two-decade war in Afghanistan as a fight for the rights of Afghan women and girls. No longer.
Other symbols of western culture have been jettisoned by the hardline regime.
During peace negotiations with the United States, the Taliban promised national peace talks that never took place and vowed to prevent al-Qaeda and other militants from operating in Taliban-controlled territory.
That pledge was blown away when the United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in central Kabul several days ago.
[Deborah Lyons, former UN Special Representative and Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan] called the decision to host the al-Qaeda leader “a major mistake on the part of the Taliban.” She said it has reawakened counter-terrorism concerns in the West while leaving the international community wondering whether the regime can be trusted to keep its peace and security promises.
These photos show who is (and isn’t) included in the Taliban’s Afghanistan
(NPR) One year ago this August, the Taliban raised their white flag over Afghanistan’s capital for the second time, pulling down the tricolor flag of the republic that had endured for the two decades between.Their victory gave the radical religious movement supreme power over a country with a median age of 18 — which means most citizens weren’t alive for the Taliban’s violent years in power from 1996-2001
The self-proclaimed Islamic emirate now controls government compounds, universities and other institutions surrounded by blast walls — concrete structures once built to keep out the Taliban, along with bombers from other extremist groups.
From Kabul and beyond, a year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan
By Lyse Doucet
Hamid Karzai stays on in Afghanistan — hoping for the best, but unable to leave
(NPR) “In terms of [an] end to widespread fighting and conflict, we are happy — there’s more stability, there’s more security,” Karzai said. “But in terms of Afghanistan having a government that all Afghan people find themselves [in], we still have a way to go. In terms of the economy of the country, it’s a disaster. In terms of Afghans leaving their own country, it’s a huge disaster and a shame upon us. And this is something that the Taliban have to address.”
After the Fall: What Afghanistan Looks Like Since the Taliban Takeover
A photographer traveled to Afghanistan three times since the Taliban returned to power. Here’s what he saw.
By Lorenzo Tugnoli
(WaPo) People had returned to their jobs, and the rush-hour traffic was back to its usual madness — but much was different. Around the city, the symbols of the previous government had been erased. The blast walls of the former American Embassy, once covered with pro-government imagery, were now painted over with the Taliban flag and a new slogan: “Oh my country, congratulations for your freedom!” Around the former so-called Green Zone, which used to be heavily patrolled by security forces and where photography invariably raised scrutiny, nobody minded my camera anymore.
Taliban facing backlash after U.S. drone strike against al-Qaeda leader
Popular anger could push regime to retaliate and further turn away from the West in favor of hard-line religion
(WaPo) The U.S. drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri here early Sunday morning also struck a humiliating blow to the Taliban regime, which had secretly hosted the aging extremist in the heart of the Afghan capital for months but failed to keep him safe.
Just as the Taliban was preparing to celebrate its first year in power later this month, the attack has sparked a nationalistic backlash against the beleaguered regime at home and taunting comments on social media calling for revenge against the United States.
Several leaders of the hard-line Haqqani network, long denounced by U.S. officials for directing high-profile terrorist attacks, hold powerful positions in the regime.
Now, some Afghan and American analysts said, the drone strike may harden Taliban attitudes and push the regime toward an open embrace of the extremist forces it pledged to renounce in its 2020 peace deal with the United States.
What Ayman al-Zawahri’s death says about terrorism in Taliban-run Afghanistan
(Brookings) This impressive show of the effectiveness and persistence of U.S. counterterrorism efforts is also an important demonstration to the world — and to terrorist groups in Afghanistan and beyond — that despite not having U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, the United States retains a potent capacity to deliver effective counterterrorism punches.
Afghanistan a year after the Taliban occupation: An ongoing war on human rights
Ferdouse Asefi, PhD candidate, Sociology, University of Toronto
(The Conversation) The word “anniversary” usually brings about happy and memorable moments. But Aug. 15 marks one year since the Taliban takeover and occupation of Afghanistan, and it’s not a happy occasion for my homeland.
Recently, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report entitled “Human Rights in Afghanistan,” delving into the situation in the country since the takeover.
The report is troubling but not shocking as it highlights civilian casualties, restrictions on women’s rights and freedom of speech, extrajudicial killings and ethnic minority persecutions. Yet a lot is under-reported due to the difficulties in gathering evidence against the Taliban, which has censored the media and mistreated journalists.
C Uday Bhaskar: Taliban complicity impacts India’s Af policy
(The Tribune, India) Despite the scale of the earthquake tragedy, the global isolation of the Taliban regime [has] prevented a more robust international aid effort from reaching the victims and this remains the geopolitical cross that weighs down heavily on the people of Afghanistan.
The return of the Taliban to power in Kabul in August 2021 after the hasty US withdrawal has compelled many nations to review and rewire their Afghanistan policies and India is no exception.
Given the enormous humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Afghanistan and the scant resources that the Taliban can muster — including skilled human resources (thousands of qualified Afghans have fled their nation, fearing retribution) — it is evident that the regime in Kabul is keen to have Delhi back as a dependable aid and development donor.
[However] The terror attack by the IS-KP on the Karte Parwan gurdwara has resulted in Delhi putting on hold whatever initiatives had been envisaged by way of engaging with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, while reviewing the larger security implications of this revival of the terror footprint.
… Periodic reviews by the UN Security Council’s Monitoring Team on Afghanistan have noted the presence of al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba in the country and the role of the Haqqani network and, cumulatively, all these strands pose a security challenge to India that has been dealing with the state-supported terrorist scourge for decades. The fact that Sirajuddin Haqqani, a UN-designated global terrorist, is the interior minister in the Taliban regime points to the multilayered complexity that the Indian establishment has to contend with.
In this maze of terror networks and state complicity in relation to Afghanistan, the close strategic relationship between China and Pakistan further shrinks the space for India. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a meeting on March 31 of Afghanistan and its neighbours — that predictably excluded India — in the Anhui province of China and the participants collectively affirmed their support to the Taliban regime.
Afghan health official warns of disease outbreak among earthquake survivors
(Reuters) – Thousands affected by a deadly earthquake in eastern Afghanistan are in need of clean water and food and are at risk of disease, an Afghan health ministry official said on Sunday, days after a U.N. agency warned of a cholera outbreak in the region.
At least 1,000 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in Wednesday’s earthquake, after which the U.N. humanitarian office (OCHA) warned that cholera outbreaks in the aftermath are of particular and serious concern
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake has killed around 1,000 people and injured another 1,500 in Afghanistan, with the death toll expected to rise. One of the deadliest in decades, the quake struck in the eastern Paktika province, a rural mountainous region. The Taliban government said it would provide emergency funding for the families of those affected, and called for greater foreign assistance and humanitarian aid. The country is currently facing a severe economic and food crisis. The US and its allies froze around $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves after the Taliban recaptured control of the country in August, cutting them off from international funding.
UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons’ farewell statement to the people of Afghanistan
I could not have imagined, when I accepted this job, the Afghanistan that I am now leaving. My heart breaks in particular for the millions of Afghan girls who are denied their right to education, and the many Afghan women full of talent who are being told to stay at home instead of using those talents to rebuild a society that now experiences far less conflict but in some ways as much fear as before. It is an irony that now that there is space for everyone to help rebuild the country half of the population is confined and prevented from doing so.
It was an honour as a woman to be selected to be SRSG in March 2020. It is that much more painful as a woman to leave my Afghan sisters in the condition they are in. I leave convinced, however, that the best hope lies in an engagement strategy that demonstrates to the de facto authorities that a system that excludes women, minorities, and talented people will not endure, and that at the same time it is possible to construct a polity that is both inclusive and Islamic.
Taliban enforcing face-cover order for female TV anchors
Afghanistan’s rulers have made a hard-line pivot in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the Taliban ordered all women in public to wear head-to-toe clothing that leaves only their eyes visible. The decree said women should leave the home only when necessary and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations, starting with a summons and escalating to court hearings and jail time.
The Taliban leadership has also barred girls from attending school after the sixth grade, reversing previous promises by Taliban officials that girls of all ages would be allowed an education.
Afghan women deplore Taliban’s new order to cover faces in public
In their latest decree, the Taliban say it is ‘required for all respectable Afghan women to wear a hijab’.
(Al Jazeera) The Taliban’s recently reinstated Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice announced on Saturday that it is “required for all respectable Afghan women to wear a hijab”, or headscarf.
The ministry, in a statement, identified the chadori (the blue-coloured Afghan burqa or full-body veil) as the “best hijab” of choice.
While the Taliban have always imposed restrictions to govern the bodies of Afghan women, the decree is the first for this regime where criminal punishment is assigned for violation of the dress code for women.
Taliban supreme leader urges world to recognise ‘Islamic Emirate’
Haibatullah Akhunzada calls on the international community to recognise the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.
The Taliban-led government is yet to be recognised by any country since it returned to power last August, 20 years after it was toppled in a US-led invasion
World Bank to push ahead with some Afghan projects, maintain pause on education support -sources
(Reuters) – The World Bank has resumed work on three projects in Afghanistan focused on health, agriculture and livelihoods, but will maintain a hold on some $150 million for education projects, two sources familiar with the decision said Tuesday.
Group of Seven partners and other major donors to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) will meet to discuss the country’s mounting economic and food security problems on Friday during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the U.S. Treasury announced on Monday.
Some multilateral organizations, including the IMF, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Islamic Development Bank, will also take part, one of the sources said.
The Taliban Promised Them Amnesty. Then They Executed Them.
An Opinion Video investigation reveals the Taliban have been on a campaign of revenge killings against former U.S. allies
(NYT) When the Taliban swept into Kabul last year and reasserted control over Afghanistan, they suggested that their rule would be kinder, less extreme and more forgiving than it had been the last time they were in power.
But the video … reveals that nearly 500 former government officials and members of the Afghan security forces were killed or forcibly disappeared during the Taliban’s first six months in power.
Taliban Outlaw Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan
The move will have far-reaching consequences for the many farmers who turned to the illicit crop as a brutal drought and economic crisis have gripped the country.
“All compatriots are informed from the date of the issuance of this decree, poppy cultivation is absolutely prohibited in the whole country and no one can try to cultivate the plant,” said the decree, issued by the Taliban’s leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada. “If someone violates this, his cultivation will be destroyed and the violator will be dealt with according to Islamic Law.”
The Taliban’s decision to ban opium poppy in Afghanistan, which accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s supply of opium, comes as the group is under increasing international pressure after a series of decrees targeting women, including their ability to attend secondary school.
Taliban blocks dozens of women from taking flights out of Afghanistan
Women, including some bound for Canada, denied boarding because they were travelling without male guardians
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers refused to allow dozens of women to board several flights, including some bound for Canada, because they were travelling without male guardians, two Afghan airline officials said Saturday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from the Taliban, said dozens of women who arrived at Kabul’s international airport Friday to board domestic and international flights were told they couldn’t do so without a male guardian.
Some of the women were dual nationals returning to their homes overseas, including some from Canada, according to one of the officials. Women were denied boarding on flights to Islamabad, Dubai and Turkey on Kam Air and the state-owned Ariana Airline, said the officials.
Taliban U-turn over Afghan girls’ education reveals deep leadership divisions
A lack of teachers and school uniform issues blamed for school closures but confusion is a sign of differences in vision for Afghanistan’s future
(The Guardian) Earlier this week, girls across Afghanistan arrived for lessons on the day secondary schools were due to open for them for the first time since the Taliban seized power. They were told to go home, and informed schools would remain shut indefinitely.
As international outrage grew at the U-turn, the official Taliban response was confused and contradictory. The group blamed a lack of teachers on the closures and said they first needed to create an appropriate environment for girls to study, and decide on appropriate uniforms.
A statement issued by the Taliban’s education ministry then said school openings would be postponed “until further notice when a comprehensive plan, in accordance with Sharia and Afghan culture, is developed”.
Experts say that the decision to close education to girls over 11 is nothing to do with uniforms. Instead, it is a sign of deep divisions within the group about the future direction of rule in Afghanistan.
Taliban sends daughters to school despite closing classrooms for other female students
As education stops for Afghan girls, high ranking officials are sending their children to overseas state schools and universities
Nonstate threats in the Taliban’s Afghanistan
(Brookings) While Afghanistan’s new Taliban leadership has been preoccupied with the near-term challenges of forming a government, managing internal tensions, and pursuing foreign recognition and funding to stave off an economic collapse, nonstate armed actors in Afghanistan have begun to assess the opportunities and limitations that come with a return to Taliban rule. For them, the new environment is likely to be favorable. These groups, including designated terrorist organizations, will find themselves less vulnerable to monitoring and targeting by the United States and its coalition partners; will be able to take advantage of a huge pool of experienced armed labor drawn from former Taliban, Afghan security forces, and other militant ranks; and will have increased space to forge new collaborations and plan operations in the region and further afield.
The first risk is that the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), which has had an openly adversarial relationship with the Taliban, takes advantage of the new government’s weakness and preoccupations to bolster its own recruiting, fundraising, and territorial control within Afghanistan; and that its pressure on the government makes the Taliban leadership less likely to offer concessions to domestic or foreign critics.
The second risk is that a Haqqani-dominated Taliban government in Kabul, with few reputational incentives to constrain the activities of al-Qaida or Pakistan-aligned militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), will allow these groups increased freedom to use Afghanistan for logistics, recruiting, and planning, and to reduce their dependencies on Pakistan.
The third risk is that the increasingly permissive and opaque environment in Afghanistan, combined with the large pool of unemployed armed labor, will lead to novel operational partnerships among nonstate armed actors that could make it hard to identify new threats to the U.S. and its partners.
The risks, in other words, are not simply anchored in what the counterterrorism community can discern about today’s Taliban-led Afghanistan, but about what it cannot see or predict. Afghanistan is a fecund environment for new militant partnerships.
UN chief pleads for nations to pave way for humanitarian aid to reach Afghanistan
Afghanistan is “hanging by a thread,” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council on Wednesday, calling for countries to authorize all transactions needed to carry out humanitarian activities in the Taliban-ruled state.
He also pushed for a suspension of any rules or conditions constricting “lifesaving” aid operations as millions in the country suffer extreme hunger, education and social services are on the brink of collapse, and a lack of liquidity limits the capacity of the United Nations and aid groups to reach people in need.
“We need to give financial institutions and commercial partners legal assurance that they can work with humanitarian operators without fear of breaching sanctions,” said Guterres, noting that the 15-member council last month adopted a humanitarian exemption to UN sanctions tied to Afghanistan.
Some $9.5 billion US in Afghan central bank reserves remain blocked abroad and international development support has dried up since the Taliban seized power in August. Donors seek to use the money as leverage over the Taliban on issues including human rights.
In December, donors to a frozen World Bank-administered Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund agreed to transfer $280 million US to the World Food Program and UN children’s agency UNICEF to support nutrition and health in Afghanistan. Guterres said the remaining $1.2 billion US in the fund needed “to be freed up urgently to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter.”
In Afghanistan, Taliban diktat sparks debate about women’s attire
Some Afghan women have protested the imposition of a dress code while others say the Taliban should focus on more pressing issues.
(Al Jazeera) The Afghan Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice plastered posters across Kabul’s cafés and shops earlier this month to encourage the wearing of the burqa, a full-body veil that also covers the face. It did not issue an official directive.
Afghan women face hardship as Taliban struggles to revive economy
Several Afghan women Al Jazeera spoke to say they have struggled to put food on the table as Taliban fails to revive the economy.