The Taliban 2.0 have been trained well by their Pakistani allies in the art of double-gaming the world community.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, in the Moscow Format meeting attended by 10 countries on 20 October 2021, assured everyone that they have moved as quickly as possible on opening up their government, guaranteeing rights to women and that Afghanistan will never allow its soil to be used as a base for anyone threatening the security of another country. The myth of his statement was broken by the news of the beheading of Mahjubin Hakimi, a woman volleyball player in Kabul, apart from their interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani honouring and rewarding the suicide bombers who killed US and Afghan soldiers as “martyrs” and “heroes of Islam” at a function Kabul, exposing the ground reality. The people of Afghanistan, especially women, children and minorities continue to suffer despite the UN Resolution for their protection.
ARE COUNTRIES HOPING TALIBAN 2.0 TO BE MODERATE BEING REALISTIC?
With the announcement of a caretaker government led by 18 UN designated terrorists, 30 Pashtuns out of 33 ministers, the Taliban mocked the global community, the UNSC, all world players and actors, who were propagating Taliban 2.0 to be moderate and reasonable, hoping for an inclusive government. Even the expansion of the caretaker government to 50 ministers did not see the inclusion of women and the minimal inclusion of some minorities, the Ministry of Women Affairs was replaced by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue to discipline women. Ban on protests, women sports and scores of restrictions, public hanging, street justice through killings by fighters are enough indicators of the revival of the barbaric laws of the Taliban of the 1990s.
The desperate cries of Afghan women and attempts of people to throw babies out of Taliban controlled land, shamed the world community, finding itself helpless due to varying interests, hiding behind a “wait and watch” policy. All promises of Taliban leaders that they are a moderate Taliban capable of meeting people’s aspirations, stand junked as Shariah law like curbs are back in place. The most disgusting was the listing of single girls between 15 and 45 years, to be married to Taliban fighters as reward; amputation on streets for wearing a dress of one’s choice; besides not allowing girl children to attend schools so far. Sportswomen have either sought asylum elsewhere or are hiding to save their lives.
Some women did pick up the courage to protest, but faced a heavy crackdown. All women’s activities in sports, political and social spheres have almost ceased due to security concerns. Even if Taliban leaders pose to be moderate by falling back on the 1964 Constitution, their fighters will not let the leaders settle down for anything less than the Shariah law. It is not possible for their leaders to survive against the wishes of their fighters, because they got into power due to them and the barrels can point at them if they try anything else.
DOUBLE-GAMING WORLD COMMUNITY
The Taliban 2.0 have been trained well by their Pakistani allies in the art of double-gaming the world community. Taliban kept promising that their territory would not be used for terror activities against anyone, but they were prompt to release all ISIS cadres from jail the moment they entered Kabul, resulting in a series of attacks by IS(K) on foreigners, minorities, and innocents. The UN reports and inputs of most countries indicate the largest conglomeration of terror groups in Afghanistan-Pakistan region; hence, the appreciation of the Taliban by some countries is politically motivated by their self-interest. Taliban government itself has enough cadres of the Haqqanis, Al Qaeda, ISIS, JeM, LeT and many other terror groups, who keep changing groups to improve their profile in the terror industry.
The anxiety shown by Pakistan to make the world recognise Taliban, and China urging to lift sanctions to meet the financial needs of the Taliban, may prove to be a bad honeymoon. Taliban will not divorce TTP or ETIM, the impact of which is visible with increased attacks in Pakistan by TTP. It will be felt by China as well, after they recognise the Taliban regime. Taliban are smart enough to wait in exchange for support from the P5 nations. They so not mind making false promise of discarding these groups and claim deniability for their action, replicating the model adopted by Pakistan of posing to help the US, while helping the Taliban simultaneously. Most countries including Russia are interacting with the Taliban to prevent the export of terrorists and refugees in their areas of interest/territory.
The Taliban are threatening of a humanitarian crisis if they are isolated or cash strapped, but the origin of this humanitarian crisis is the Taliban-Pakistan nexus, dislodging an elected government by force and failing to put up a viable governance structure. The jubilation amongst Taliban and Pakistan of seemingly defeating the most powerful US and allied forces, “breaking shackles of slavery” and gaining the freedom to form a “government, which is of the terrorists, by the terrorists, and for the terrorists”, has rejuvenated terrorism, a fundamentalist ideology and self-belief in victory. The resultant hostage situation of the people within, has muted the response of many, who otherwise could have been critical of blatant human rights violations, leading to unprecedented human disaster. People in Afghanistan are suffering and they cannot be helped unless Taliban are spoken to. This has triggered the comity of nations and UN to find out ways and means for delivering humanitarian assistance.
HOW TO DELIVER HUMANITARIAN AID?
Taliban as per their current behaviour do not deserve recognition, legitimacy and a seat in the United Nations. The US should not open its treasury for Taliban after all the mocking and embarrassment. Last time when the Taliban were was in power, they were recognised by only three countries. Humanitarian aid to it should be given in kind through UN agencies and not in cash, which is unlikely to reach the people. UN seems blackmailed to be pushing for financial aid to the Taliban government composed of many UN designated terrorists, keeping humanitarian crisis in forefront or perhaps under Chinese pressure. If cash has to be distributed, that too should be delivered through the UN agencies directly to the people. Taliban need to be given a hard choice—either to accept these terms or manage the crisis and aftermath by themselves and by Pakistan offering PKR 5 billion and China offering $31 million worth aid. Taliban will have to accept these terms because the converse could be disastrous, as they are not a popular regime and a humanitarian crisis will soon turn into a fresh wave of violence against Taliban and Pakistan. The EU is offering 1 billion euros worth of aid, out of which 346 million euros worth has been sent. Countries offering aid including India (offering food grains and medicines) have to talk to Taliban, but talking does not mean recognition/legitimacy of the regime, which should be made amply clear.
Major General S.B. Asthana (Retd), SM, VSM is an Army veteran. The views expressed here are his personal.