A survey of the two years rule of the Taliban which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, internationally named as De Facto Authorities, would reveal that Afghanistan has moved from a humanitarian concern to a crisis. There are signs of desperation for people in many parts of the country. 28 million people in Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance in 2023, up from 18.4 million in 2021. Of this total, 6.4 million are women and 15.2 million are children.
The climate crisis has led to the country facing multiple years of drought with no resources for mitigation. Reduction of donor support due to unrealistic isolationist policies of the Kandahar clique being blindly followed by the Taliban ruling elite means that resources for overcoming even the food crisis have been limited. WFP has had to cut aid to 8 million people, approximately one-third that received food support in times of extreme crises.
Multiple crises, including economic, unemployment, mass migration and an unresponsive administration that is spending most of its efforts on implementing hardline despotic Sharia interpretation is holding up progress. Adopting an isolationist approach – politically, diplomatically as well as economically – the twin-headed regime based in Kandahar and Kabul has failed to cash in on the attempts by international organisations such as the United Nations or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to garner assistance for the people at large.
The complete undermining of women in the country has drawn maximum flak, but the Taliban do not seem concerned. In its latest set of restrictions against female education, the Taliban authorities have supposedly prohibited girls older than 10 from going to elementary school classes in the Ghazni region, BBC Persian reported. Girls have not been allowed to take the University exam this year, while other bans, such as on beauty parlours, are driving women away from employment, social interaction, and economic opportunities. Curbs on the rights of media and so on have been tightened.
Relations with US
While the Taliban blames the United States for holding up funds, the U.S. has appropriated over $2.35 billion, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 9SIGAR) report said. “The U.S. government has appropriated more than $2.35 billion in 2022 and 2023 funding for Afghanistan reconstruction programming since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021,” the report said.
Underlying Taliban interference in humanitarian assistance, the report states, “Taliban interference in humanitarian assistance is the main barrier to beneficiaries accessing aid in 2023 … there were 110 access incidents related to Taliban interference in April 2023 alone”. This has been routinely denied by the Taliban. “We deny the SIGAR report. The interim administration has no interference in the distribution of aid. We have accurate monitoring on the distribution of assistance to Afghanistan,” according to Abdul Latif Nazari, Deputy Minister of Economy.
To entice the US into concessions, possibly adopting the policy of neighbour Iran, the Taliban is possibly undertaking a systematic roundup of holding Westerners hostage to trade for political advantage. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said “several” U.S. citizens are prisoners of the Taliban. Others in Taliban custody include British and Polish citizens, their governments confirmed. After suspending direct engagement with the Taliban for months, U.S. diplomats resumed face-to-face talks with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar this month. The talks revolved around some of the most contentious issues, including the Taliban's ban on women's work and education, which has drawn universal condemnation and also the release of US prisoners.
Relations with Key Regional Stakeholders
At present, the Taliban is having multiple conflicts with regional stakeholders, the principal ones being Pakistan and Iran.
Pakistan has openly called for curbs on the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan, the Pashtun terrorist group, which has expanded attacks in the country from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Taliban, in turn, is sending mixed signals on the ban on Afghans to fight in wars abroad. Mufti Abdul Rauf, who is a member of the Taliban's Supreme Court and head of the group’s Dar Al-Ifta, has issued a fatwa against the war in Pakistan and said that the Taliban had pledged in the Doha Agreement not to wage jihad outside of Afghanistan.
In turn, the Taliban spokesperson has indicated that the fatwa is not from Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, as reported earlier that he had called the war in Pakistan illegitimate in a fatwa. This provides some ambiguity for Taliban renegades to fight abroad as they owe allegiance only to Akhundzada. Taking matters into own hands, it is believed that Pakistan may have launched air strikes at a hotel in Khost city on August 14th, targeting TTP leaders.
With Iran, water and refugees have become a major issue. Taliban has stressed that Iran's water rights have yet to be provided due to drought in Afghanistan. The Taliban has emphasised that in case of rainfall and favourable conditions, the water rights of Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran will be provided as per the treaty, but given the current drought conditions, this appears unlikely in the near future. Both countries have threatened to
Security Dividend Notional
On the positive side, there is a substantial reduction of violence with attacks randomly undertaken during the week rather than multiple suicide bombings in the past, indicating that it was the Taliban who was behind these.
This dividend is notional as the people constantly live in fear – fear of the unknown, deprivation and uncertainty.
As the hard-core security is undermined by providing space to multiple global and regional terrorist groups, the Taliban is in denial. These have access to a large number of arms and munitions left behind by the US and NATO, especially night vision devices and assault weapons, providing them an edge in future operations.
And lack of control over their own cadres is another issue. Taliban’s Ministry of Defense has failed to even implement the wearing of uniforms by the troops. Enayatullah Khwarizmi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry in a recent statement said, “The leadership of the Defense Ministry has ordered that the (uniform) should be used in military centers and we—all personnel of the defense ministry -- should follow the order of the ministry of defense,” he said.
Conclusion – Acting Ministries
The overall political insecurity of the regime in Kandahar can be evident from the fact that all ministers continue to be Acting – thus, the sword of dismissal hangs heavy on the head of the administrators based in Kabul. Under the circumstances, the situation can be expected to get worse until there is a regime change in Kandahar – not Kabul.