September 14, 2021

Taliban Government

“The Taliban [last] Tuesday announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition… The announcement came hours after Taliban fired their guns into the air to disperse protesters in the capital of Kabul and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week that heavy-handed tactics were used to break up a demonstration.” AP News

Both sides argue that the new government shows the Taliban have not fundamentally changed since 2001:

Nothing [in this government] is going to help them achieve the international recognition that they need. Nothing is going to help them appeal to a broader constituency inside the country that is here to help them govern Afghanistan better. Many of these people are given posts, and it’s seen as a distribution of power, not because they have any kind of qualification to run those posts…

“The person who’s the head of the central bank was the person who was running [the Taliban’s] finances. Running the finances of an insurgency group is obviously different than dealing with World Bank, IMF, and the system of finances of the world. But he’s the guy in charge. Does he know monetary policy? I highly doubt that. Does he know how to navigate the international economic structure that exists? Obviously not…

“Not putting Sirajuddin Haqqani, a person who’s on wanted lists, in the government would have helped them get funds. [Haqqani was named interior minister.]… Letting women in would have made their appeal broader to Afghans and internationals. But also it would have upset their base, which sees women’s inclusion as an ideological betrayal. Can the Taliban government make that hard choice? It seems like it cannot.”
Haroun Rahimi, Vox

“The State Department expressed its concerns about the Taliban forming a government that ‘consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women,’ before hedging that the United States ‘will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words.’…

“The State Department is also ‘concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals.’ After all, why shouldn’t they be? Several members of the Haqqani network, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., make up the Taliban Cabinet. That includes Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has a $10 million bounty on his head on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. He is now set to be the Taliban’s interior minister… Somehow, our seasoned professionals at the State Department have missed the fact that the Taliban are still the Taliban.”
Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The answer to the question – have the Taliban changed? – seems obvious. But perhaps it’s the wrong question. As the Islamists drag the country down, a more important question is: has Afghanistan changed? Individual acts of courage and public demonstrations speak to a mood of defiance among ordinary people that was less evident before 2001. They indicate a will to resist. Afghans, especially the youthful majority, know their rights. They know what freedom feels and sounds like…

“They have expectations about education, careers, healthcare, travel, and a modern, connected economy in which banks function efficiently, the currency has value and there is food in the shops. They expect state help with Covid and a national drought. All these rights, all these expectations are cruelly imperilled by bigoted, incompetent, corrupt Taliban rule, cynically propped up by China. How long can the Islamists ride roughshod with whips and guns before their control begins to slip?”
Observer Editorial, The Guardian

Without intervention, the Afghan economy could collapse in short order. That could threaten Western nations even more than the new regime — destabilizing the region (which includes a nuclear-armed Pakistan), sending a tide of refugees toward Europe, and opening even more space for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The Taliban, meanwhile, can probably generate enough revenue to pay their fighters come what may. Betting on their wish to protect ordinary Afghans from suffering seems unwise…

“A general license for aid organizations to work in Afghanistan is needed, together with clear statements of support from U.S. officials. The Treasury Department should use ‘comfort letters’ to reassure specific banks and companies engaged in these tasks. The U.S. should lead efforts to close the shortfall in United Nations aid and to devise longer-term assistance packages for neighboring countries hosting refugees…

“A special banking channel could be developed to purchase food, medicines and other humanitarian goods… This unavoidably complex agenda will require that sanctions be adjusted and targeted as the situation evolves.”
Editorial Board, Bloomberg

“If you want to understand what Islamist militancy today is really about, pay attention to this statement by the Taliban’s spokesman last week: ‘China is our most important partner, and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us.’ Let me remind you that China is credibly accused of massive and pervasive persecution of its Muslim population — including mass incarceration, systematic ‘reeducation,’ 24/7 surveillance and, in some cases, forced sterilization...

“In other words, the world’s most ideologically committed Islamist government has said that its closest ally will be a nation engaged in what many observers call cultural genocide against Muslims. Lesson: The Islamist militant movement has always been more about power than about religion.”
Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post

From the Right

“Mr. Haqqani will fit comfortably in the new Afghan government led by Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. He’s an Islamic fundamentalist who wants to govern the country under strict Shariah law. The new prime minister is Mullah Hassan Akhund, who was foreign minister in the pre-9/11 Islamic Emirate in Kabul. Critics who said the Taliban were never serious about negotiating a power-sharing agreement were right…

“These are the men that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden are counting on to allow the departure of the Americans and Afghan allies who are still trapped in Afghanistan. They are also supposed to prevent jihadists from again using the country as a sanctuary. In the aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush declared that the U.S. would no longer distinguish between terrorists and the governments that harbor them. Now, after Mr. Biden’s calamitous withdrawal, the U.S. is in the incredible position of hoping to make a government run by terrorists our partners.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The Biden administration must take immediate action if it wants to salvage any credibility. The U.S. should coordinate with its international partners and allies to denounce the appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani, refuse to recognize the new Taliban government, and prohibit aid to the Taliban from the U.S. or international financial organizations

“The Taliban’s ascension prompted the international community to crack down on Afghanistan’s finances, freezing assets and pausing crucial foreign aid. The World Bank suspended funding for dozens of projects in Afghanistan, and the International Monetary Fund announced that Afghanistan would be ineligible for loans until a government is formally recognized. Instead of bailing out the new government, the U.S. needs to treat the Taliban as the pariah it is.”
Seth G. Jones, Wall Street Journal

“While the Taliban is no less bloodthirsty and ruthless in dealing with its critics and opponents, it now cares more than it did about its appearance in the Western world. When it first came to power in 1996, the Taliban banned the internet. Now it has come to recognize its uses and is seeking to use social media to create a positive international image for itself. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesperson, has nearly 400,000 Twitter followers. Suhail Shaheen, another official has almost half a million followers…

“Shaheen has also been eager to show that the Taliban is a serious organization dedicated to governing Afghanistan properly: one of the first videos he posted in the wake of the American withdrawal was a video of a road being rebuilt…

“The Taliban is trying to use social media to seek legitimacy; its official messages, especially those in English, are moderate, comical even. One recent post showed Taliban fighters enjoying themselves eating ice creams in the baking Afghan heat… The rise of Taliban Twitter surely demands a rethink of how western tech giants operate.”
Limor Simhony Philpott, Spectator World

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