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The international community in a quandary over Taliban

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Afghan female students react against Taliban's university ban in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 21, 2022. (Bilal Güler - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 23, 2022 - 09:02 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – After the 2020 American elections in the United States of America, President Joe Biden announced that the US will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan regardless of whether there was progress in the peace negotiations among Afghans or whether the Taliban had reduced its attacks on the Afghan army, security forces and civilian population. After two decades of the US intervention in Afghanistan, the international community had witnessed the US trying to get its self-induced “White men’s burden” in Afghanistan off its shoulders. By the 30th August 2021, neither terror was wiped off of the region, nor a central authority capable of fighting terror was established in Afghanistan.

After the US armies backed off from the region, the Taliban easily took control of the country. Yet, while it was apparent for two decades that there was not a central authority in Afghanistan, the US answered the accusations for Taliban takeover by giving the Afghan authorities’ unwillingness to take control and insufficiency to fight against Taliban as pretext. This indicates that rather than assisting on the constitution of an independent political authority, the US policies have created an increasingly aid dependent country in the region. The US’s immediate withdrawal from the Afghanistan equaled to delivering the country to Taliban with its own hands.

Since 30th August 2021, on one side, the international community witnesses the frustrated Afghan population trying to run away from the Taliban regime and the Taliban induced brutalities in the region. Other than concerns for the lives of civilians dwelling in the region, the regimes’ policies against women’s participation in daily life and girls’ basic educational rights raise extra concerns for the prospects of Afghan people.

Will Taliban compromise politically?

On the other side, not willing to get under the extra fiscal burden of intervening into the region, the US and other world countries try to negotiate with the Taliban regime and urge it to adapt into the international world system and its requirements. However, as the United States Institute of Peace states, right now the Taliban has the battlefield advantage in the region. Given the US’s eagerness to disengage itself from Afghanistan, Taliban has very little incentive to compromise politically. [1]

After the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Biden administration had frozen the Afghanistan government reserves in the US as a disincentive. However, as of now it is not certain to what extent these and similar sanctions could be effective in convincing the Taliban to engage with the international community. Even though none of the world countries have officially recognized the Taliban regime, in October 2021 ten countries including Russia, China and Iran declared that they will work with Taliban to promote security in the region. [2]. As such, the card of international isolation seems to have lost its impact.

Conflicting interests in Afghanistan

It seems clear that as long as Russia, China and Iran continue to work with Taliban neither the US nor the European countries would like to cut their ties with Afghanistan. Biden’s speech this August, after the killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, noting that the US is still in track of any possible threats in Afghanistan [3], could be read as a sign that the US is willing to be seen in control in the region.

Parallel to that in 27th September the UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Markus Potzel underlined the necessity of engaging in Afghanistan despite Taliban’s reluctance to conform the International Community’s demands. The objectives of the so-called engagement are stated as promoting a governance that would benefit the Afghan people and respect the norms of global community.[4] There have also been ongoing discussions in the UN as to the necessity of sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Still, there are concerns over how to make sure Taliban would not get their hands on those sources. Even if there is no certainty in that respect, in December 10 the UN Security Council almost unanimously adopted resolution to exempt humanitarian aid from UN sanctions.[5]

Whether those news would be welcome by Iran, Russia and China who are suspicious of the US’s incentives in the region is another issue. In November 25, the speech of the Iranian Ambassador to Kabul Bahador Aminian at a high-level meeting in Tehran was leaked by the hacker group Black Reward. In this speech, Aminian was expressing his concerns that despite the 20 year-long war in the region, the US could easily take Taliban under its control. To him, it would be wrong to call Taliban an anti-American group since it was financially supported by the US. As such, while calling the Taliban regime as a “continuing misery” for the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Shiites, Aminian was stating that despite everything, Tehran should cooperate with Kabul in order to control Taliban’s negative impacts upon Iran [6]. In such a fragile atmosphere, there is the risk that the so-called UN humanitarian aid could be understood by Iran and other world countries as attempts to finance the Taliban regime. This could further urge Iran, Russia and China to deepen their relations with Taliban in order to enhance their strategic competition with the US.

Conflicting interests seem to work for Taliban

It seems that the international community neither wants to cooperate nor could break ties with Taliban. Ideally, the US would be willing to work with a centrally established authority which would both accept the American supremacy and yet to some extent be capable of functioning on its own. Yet, since this has proved to be not possible, the international community seems to be in search of a way to communicate and to somehow legitimize Taliban rule. This December, the Economist’s interpretation of the lives of Afghans under the Taliban seems to be a clear indication of this inclination, as well. The Economist presents both the pros and cons of living under Taliban rule with five different stories from the daily lives of Afghans and suggests that “The new Taliban regime is not quite as medievally brutal as the last.” [7] However, how does this approach relate to Taliban’s recent ban on the higher education of young women in Afghanistan is another question. [8] In the current situation, the international community seems to be at a loss over what to do with Taliban.

[1] https://www.usip.org/publications/2022/08/year-after-taliban-takeover-whats-next-us-afghanistan

[2] https://www.trtworld.com/asia/russia-china-iran-agree-to-work-with-taliban-for-regional-stability-50900

[3] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-strike-kills-al-qaeda-leader-al-zawahiri-in-afghanistan/2651166

[4] https://unama.unmissions.org/briefing-deputy-special-representative-markus-potzel-security-council-0

[5] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/un-security-council-adopts-resolution-to-exempt-humanitarian-aid-from-un-sanctions/2760107

[6] https://iramcenter.org/iranin-afganistan-buyukelcisinin-gozunden-taliban/

[7] https://www.economist.com/1843/2022/12/05/the-secret-life-of-afghans-under-the-taliban

[8] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/taliban-ban-on-higher-education-for-young-women-not-humanistic-turkiye/2770003​​​​​​​

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