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The fall of Kabul to the Taliban within such a short span of time has certainly surprised the whole world. Looking at the fast-changing ground realities, the political pundits rushed to inculcate the Taliban about the promises they have made including the formation of an inclusive government, respect for minorities’ rights especially women, and commitments related to counter-terrorism.
The Taliban, mindful of the legitimacy they acquire, have given a general amnesty to its opponents, but the goodwill gesture failed to bear fruit as of now. The struggle continues to wrap up the political fiasco amid uncertainties and speculations about the Taliban’s lofty promises.
Interim Political Structure
The recent announcement of an interim government in Afghanistan by the Taliban was met with disappointment and it was at odds with early statements and assurances to the world that they will form a broad-based and inclusive government. Taliban termed the political setup as a caretaker arrangement.
The Taliban government of Afghanistan is comprised of hardliners that raised a great number of apprehensions at the international level in general and particularly in South & Central Asia. It is the beginning of Taliban 2.0 and so they must demonstrate their willingness to depart from the past. It will surely change the perception and conversation of political debate about the new regime.
It took 23 days to announce an interim political setup in Afghanistan. The 33-member cabinet is headed by Mullah Hasan Akhund, who remained a close aide of Mullah Omar. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who was earlier tipped to become the Prime Minister would serve as his deputy along with Abdul Salam Hanafi.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was once the most wanted militant, has been nominated as interior minister; defense ministry was awarded to Muhammad Yaqoob Mujahid, son of late Mullah Omar; Foreign affairs to Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi with deputy foreign affairs position to Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai. The Army Chief position was awarded to Qari Faseeh Udin who fought against the National Resistance Front (NRF) in Panjshir, while Abdul Haq Wasiq was given the task to manage the intelligence setup.
Of the 33-member cabinet, only 2 are Tajiks and 1 Uzbek, with the three being hardcore Taliban leaders. The cabinet has no female representation which is why the interim political arrangement drew criticism from certain western countries. The initial reaction from great powers suggest that the Taliban failed to rally support in their favor to be recognized.
The Cabinet portfolio suggests that women, ethnic, religious, and moderate voices were completely ignored which could have brought some legitimacy and recognition to the Taliban. The Taliban cannot afford to keep this transitionary political setup because it will give rise to speculations about ideological differences within Taliban ranks. That was evident when Anas Haqqani and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar made video statements to deny and dispel rumors of Taliban rifts.
If we go back and look at how the Afghan saga unfolded, it is mainly due to the tragic state of affairs for really long decades, for Afghanistan has not seen complete and sustainable peace. Right now, the situation is highly volatile, critical, and confusing. The Ashraf Ghani government failed to make peace and then it failed again to restrict the Taliban offensive.
Political institutions under the Ghani administration were dysfunctional and it created serious challenges for the Taliban cabinet comprised of mostly Pashtun hardliners. The inclusiveness aspect given by the West of the future government’s cabinet proved to be different from the Taliban’s interpretation of the term.
For the West, inclusion meant having opposition figures in the future cabinet, while the Taliban considered an inclusive cabinet to have people from different ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds who joined the Taliban movement.
The political uncertainty after the Taliban gained control of Kabul is going to lead to economic meltdown and uncertainty. The deteriorating economic situation is leading the country towards a humanitarian disaster. The Taliban government doesn’t have the resources and money to pay for the salaries of government servants. Right now, even the international community who advocated for securing human rights can’t help the women and children suffering in Afghanistan.
There is, however, also a positive development. Donors from different countries pledged more than $1.1 billion to Afghanistan including $64 million from the US to avert poverty, hunger, mass exodus, and drought. World Food Programme (WFP) has urged political leaders to provide $200 million to continue its mission in Afghanistan.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley said that out of 14 million people in Afghanistan 1/3rd of the population was facing food insecurity including 2 million children who are already malnourished. Pakistan played an important role and established a humanitarian air corridor to help and assist Afghanistan and stressed the need to rise above geopolitics and support Afghanistan. Pakistan also provided humanitarian assistance to its neighbor which include 4 consignments of relief goods including medical supplies and food items.
Prioritizing the People of Afghanistan
International and regional countries have a shared interest in peace, stability, and security in Afghanistan and they have offered assistance to avert a possible humanitarian crisis. The international stakeholders should give the Taliban some time, it should be a wait and watch policy because the Taliban have to devise a system whereby they can govern Afghanistan.
The world should not view Afghanistan with a pre-determined mindset and should prioritize the people in their policies towards the country. The regional and international governments should put aside their political demands and rush for humanitarian assistance to safeguard the people. They have already suffered a lot from 40 years of war, political instability, and social injustice.
The world should incentivize the Taliban, through engagement and assistance, in return for commitments on a moderate style of government. The world must not abandon Afghanistan because this would lead to mass migration and a security vacuum that would allow ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda, ETIM, and IMU to thrive once again in Afghanistan. To stem out the menace of extremism and terrorism, the world must constructively engage with Afghanistan.
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