(Bloomberg) -- Leaders of the world’s top economies failed to agree on how to deal with the Taliban at an extraordinary summit, pledging only to channel aid through the United Nations as a humanitarian crisis looms. The group’s track record since taking power helps explain the reluctance.
While the U.S. and its Western allies held formal talks with Taliban officials in the lead-up to the Group of 20 summit on Tuesday, they have repeatedly emphasized that the new Afghan government will be judged by actions rather than words. And politically, it’s not easy for them to convince voters the Taliban deserves a bunch of cash -- if even an economic collapse could bolster extremist groups.
The Taliban have insisted they’ve changed, pledging to form an inclusive government, let women continue to study and work, prevent Afghanistan from being used for terrorist activities and allow the safe passage of citizens with valid travel documents.Here’s how the Taliban have fared since sweeping to power in August:
The Islamic State continues to be one of the biggest threats to the Taliban, carrying out at least three major attacks since the U.S. evacuation. The latest came last weekend, when a suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shia mosque in northern Kunduz province.
The Taliban have said they don’t need assistance from the U.S., particularly after they fought a 20-year war to eliminate foreign soldiers from Afghanistan. The group also has enough incentive to fight the Islamic State: The rival jihadist group poses the biggest political threat, as more conservative Islamists look to lure away Taliban fighters who want an even stricter Sharia-based system.
Still, the U.S. is worried about the Taliban’s ongoing ties with key al-Qaeda figures. The Afghan cabinet includes senior members of the Haqqani Network, a group linked to al-Qaeda that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. And that group was instrumental in sidelining Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a moderate figure who led peace talks with the U.S., in a dramatic shootout at the presidential palace last month.
Women have seen their lives upended since the Taliban took over. The group has ordered female government workers to stay at home until offices can ensure gender segregation -- and it’s unclear when that will happen in most cases.
Private universities have resumed segregated classes for men and women, but public universities are yet to open due to the “budgetary, logistical, and technical issues” to separate the students, according to Daud Samim, an assistant secretary to the minister of higher education. Schools also remain shut for girls from the sixth grade onwards in most cities, but boys are back in school.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday acknowledged the Taliban’s lack of progress in this area, appealing to the group to stop breaking its promises and allow women to work and girls to have access to all levels of education.
The Taliban’s interim cabinet announced in early September included no female leaders, while the group disbanded the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Many prominent Afghan women leaders have either fled the country or are in hiding.
The cabinet also avoided any officials who took part in successive U.S.-backed administration, including key leaders from the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, and other minorities such as Hazaras and Uzbeks that collectively make up almost half of the population. Rather, it consists almost exclusively of loyalist hard-liners and from the Pasthun ethnic group.
What’s more, Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani said on Oct. 4 there’s no space in the government for workers who received diplomas and degrees in the past two decades, saying their training lacked proper Islamic values. That could further cut the ranks of diverse voices in the bureaucracy.
Amnesty for Former Government Employees
Soon after the Taliban came to power, they declared amnesty for all government employees and soldiers who served under the ousted administration. Still, Agence France-Presse reported that a confidential United Nations document showed the group was carrying out targeted door-to-door visits to find those had central roles in Afghan military, police and intelligence units -- as well as their families.
One official, who asked not to be named for fear of his safety, said the Taliban were also covertly seeking out prosecutors and lawyers from the former administration who had sentenced their members to prison. Thousands of jurists are now in hiding or have fled the country, according to the official, who said seven of his colleagues had been killed by the Taliban since they assumed power.
The UN document cited by AFP also said Afghans who worked with the U.S. military and NATO forces were possible Taliban targets for the Taliban. After foreign evacuation flights closed at the end of August, Western governments have urged the Taliban to allow safe passage for thousands of those former employees who couldn’t make it out in time.The Taliban have assured them that anyone with valid travel documents can leave the country and they have begun issuing passports. Still, international flights have yet to fully resume from Kabul airport and the land borders remain closed.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.