Taliban Government: What Next for Afghanistan?

Former Taliban fighters hand over weapons at a reintegration ceremony in 2012. Source: isafmedia (via Wikimedia Commons)

By Ella Lloyd | Political Editor

As the Taliban celebrate their victory, questions are beginning to be raised as to what the new Taliban government will look like.

The Taliban haven’t been in power since they were ousted by US forces in 2001. Since then, their presence has been as an insurgent organisation, and many are now wondering what the transition to government will look like. 

What will Taliban rule look like?

The Taliban have announced an interim government headed by Mullah Mohammed Hasan Akhund, and including the head of the Haqqani network as interior minister. The Haqqani network is an Islamic militant group which fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. It has since been allied with Al-Qeada and has been responsible for a number of attacks in Kabul, possibly including an assassination attempt on Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president. It is a designated terror group in the US, unlike the Taliban.

During their rule in the 1990s, the Taliban enforced a brutal interpretation of sharia law, but have promised to be less severe. 

The Taliban claims there will be no reprisals for those who worked with western forces or the former Afghan government. However, many remain skeptical of this claim, especially as the announcement was made from the seat of government spokesperson Dawa Khan Menapal, killed by the Taliban just last month, in what the Taliban called ‘punishment for his deeds’. There are unconfirmed reports that former members of Afghan special forces and soldiers have been killed in Kandahar and Jalalabad. 

The future for Afghan women is also a concern. The Taliban assured reporters that they will respect women’s rights ‘within the framework of Islamic law’– a framework which remains undefined. 

Billboards displaying women have been painted over, and women have been instructed to stay home temporarily, as Taliban fighters are not ‘trained’ to respect them. There have also been reports of women being sent home after leaving the house without a mahram or male relative as chaperone. 

Senior Taliban told BBC Pashto that women would be allowed to work, however ‘may not’ be employed in top positions, or in the cabinet. Reports out of Badakhshan province suggest that girls of a UK secondary school age are not being allowed to attend schools, whilst The Guardian reports universities will require intense segregation.

Women have staged protests demanding rights in both Kabul and Herat. Recently, they were joined by others opposing Taliban rule. The Taliban fired warning shots to disperse the crowd and stopped journalists filming. 

Another concern is the Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qeada. They agreed not to allow them to operate in Afghanistan under the US peace deal, however they may be reluctant to end their long-running allegiance with Al-Qeada, which cements their popularity with other hardliners. 

What has the international response been to the Taliban?

The US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland has said the Taliban would be judged by their deeds, not their words. The UK Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has confirmed that the UK will not recognize the Taliban government. 

The Taliban have called China their greatest ally, hoping funding from them will help rebuild Afghanistan’s economy. China has confirmed it will keep its embassy in Kabul open, and seek ‘friendly and cooperative’ relations. 

President Putin has said he is open to dialogue with the Taliban and hopes they will become ‘civilized’. The Taliban is still formally recognized as a terrorist organization by Russia. 

The Role of Pakistan

Pakistan may prove to be a significant mediator between the west and Afghanistan. The two countries share many cultural connections as well as a border, and western powers may need to cooperate with Pakistan to ensure their remaining nationals can leave Afghanistan, and humanitarian aid can get in.

Both British and German foreign ministers have visited Pakistan in recent days, however US President Joe Biden has cut communication with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan since taking office. 

Many in the US have accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, something the country denies. They recognized the Taliban government of the 1990s, however positioned themselves as the US’s ally during the 2001 invasion. 

Pakistan has interests in Afghanistan being governed stably as it wants to avoid terror attacks from groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K (an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan) being launched over the border. They also cannot afford to take any more than the three million Afghan refugees they already house.

Ella Lloyd Politics

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

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