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Taliban's Repetition as Strategy of Persuasion

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) or the Taliban referred to as the Defacto Authority in Kabul have been using repetition as a strategy for persuasion of the international community for recognition, release of assets that have been held mainly by the United States and also aircraft and helicopters that were flown out of the country by former Afghan Air Force (AAF) pilots.

The Taliban acting officials claim that a responsible regime is governing in Kabul which fulfils the requirements for recognition that have been set as per international parameters and thus should be undertaken immediately.

In a major conference on "Economy of Afghanistan," held on January 19, Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund appealed to Islamic countries to be the first to recognize the Afghan government.

The meeting was attended by members of the Islamic Emirate cabinet and UN representatives as well as representatives of 20 foreign countries.

Akhund also urged the US to release the Central Bank's assets.

At the same conference, Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting minister of Foreign Affairs, claimed that Afghanistan already has an independent government. "It is obvious to them that Afghanistan has a government which is responsible, committed and believes in acting in mutual interest," he said.

The conference was telecast live on the state-run RTA channel indicating that the Taliban have very quickly adapted to exploitation of international media channels to effect.

However Taliban claims of a responsible and committed government fall flat as explained by Atal Ahmadzai, St. Lawrence University and Faten Ghosn, University of Arizona, writing in the Conversation highlight how the Taliban's promised transformation from Taliban 1.0 to Taliban 2.0 is restricted to a public relations campaigns on mainstream and social media.

"As political science professors specializing in conflict and violence, we find that the Taliban's changes are limited to international public relations campaigns on social media and other outlets," write the academics adding, "While promoting a moderate face to the world, with promises of living "peacefully" and respecting women's rights, the regime has continued to systematically violate human rights and strengthen its autocratic grip".

This is evident from the fact that while Taliban claim that women will be provided equal rights, there are numerous restrictions imposed from ban on travel long distance without a male relative, closure for women and participation in sports activities. Stooping to a ridiculous level, the Taliban have even gone to the extent of beheading mannequins in shops in Herat.

To claim that action is being taken against deviants, officials of the Islamic Emirate from time to time warn their members to uphold personal privacy. These warnings were issued after numerous complaints of citizens over actions of the Islamic Emirate forces that included "phone-searching and home-to-home searching."

The Ministry of Vice and Virtue has indicated that, "No one has the right to violate others' privacy. They should not go through phones and other electronic devices. The investigation of residences, stores and hotels should be based on legal documents."

However, blatant violations of this dictat is evident and reported on the social media.

The Ministry of Interior of the Taliban has reported that 3000 affiliates have been dismissed from the organisation, yet the incidents of violations are continuing.

There is a "slip between the cup and the lip," as the saying goes with little impact on the ground and the slip in this case is costing millions of Afghans their life and liberty.

Given this reality, the Taliban's strategy of repetition is not likely to earn them international recognition unless there are perceptible changes on the ground.

Release of Financial Assets

Reiteration is also being used to convince the United States to release the assets that have been held and also curtailment of project assistance by the World Bank and support by the International Monetary Fund.

The IEA has successfully gained support of China and the UN on this issue though the latter only partially.

Importantly the funds are essentially economic and development aid committed to the Afghan government of the past and are not necessarily assets that have been created by the national economy, thus the Taliban have no claims on the same.

However, what is provided by the United States and the United Nations and many countries is humanitarian assistance through cash and food items reaching directly to the beneficiaries.

The United States has released almost $ 1 Billon of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, UN agencies are also active and delivery has commenced.

The people's suffering is undoubtedly immense but may not be necessarily due to withholding of financial assets.

Release of Afghan Air Force Aircraft

Afghanistan is also seeking the release of tens of aircraft of the erstwhile Afghan Air Force which were flown out of the country by pilots on Taliban taking over. Multiple times Afghan leaders have called for a release of these assets.

Acting Defense Minister Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob on January 11 at a ceremony in Kabul called on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to return Afghan aircraft warning of consequences.

"Our aircraft that are in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan should be returned. We will not allow these aircraft to remain abroad or to be used by those countries," he said.

Afghanistan had over 164 active military aircraft, of which 81 are in the country. The rest were first flown to the Central Asian countries mentioned and then to the UAE at a US military facility as per multiple media reports. These include about 40 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and Black Hawk helicopters.

Technically and legally as the aircraft were provided for and maintained with the assistance of the United States there is no obligation for return of these to the Islamic Emirate.

Thus, it was not surprising that US Department of Defence or Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby at a press briefing on January 18, in response to a question on the fate of the aircraft, said, "I don't have any update on it for you or any decision about how they will be handled. But it is safe to assume that they will not be sent into Afghanistan to be used by the Taliban," he said.

Facts Will Determine Outcome

Despite this Taliban is expected to sustain their strategy of repetition and reiteration of demands convinced that this may lead the United States and others to recognise the government in Kabul, release assets and aircraft.

For a group that has claimed in the past that they have the "time," on their side sustenance through repetition is expected to be the way ahead.

However, decisions are made on factual and not perception, thus till the facts on the ground change, Taliban may not find success in achieving their aim.

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