Afghanistan is still the world’s problem even though the Taliban are in power

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By John J. Metzler

It’s seems like a profound contradiction; trying to convince Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities to accept foreign humanitarian help for their own starving population.

Thus as beleaguered Afghan civilians endure a brutal winter, the sanctimonious Islamic fundamentalist regime in Kabul has largely restricted international aid agencies because they employ women.

Women and girls have been ordered by the Taliban to stop attending school beyond 6th grade and stop using parks, gyms. Women also are banned from most areas of the workforce. / Video Image

The appalling collapse Afghanistan in August 2021 to the Taliban militants due to the shameful and shambolic pullout by the Biden Administration opened the floodgates for a wider tragedy in this long suffering South Asian state and moreover whetted the political appetite for authoritarian regimes worldwide to probe new aggressions.

Into the fray came the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and her delegation for a four-day fact-finding mission to try to talk sense and try to find some common ground with the “de facto authorities” aka the Taliban, so that fewer Afghans will be at the mercy of medievalist mullahs.

Currently up to 25 million people depend on foreign humanitarian assistance.

This aid was threatened recently when the Taliban ordered that women would be barred from working in aid agencies. The visiting UN team stated, “the delegation directly conveyed the alarm over the recent decree banning women from working for national and international non-governmental organizations, a move that undermines the work of numerous organizations helping millions of vulnerable Afghans.”

Prior to arriving in Kabul, the UN delegation visited Muslim countries in the Middle East as well as Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey to assess attitudes towards the extremist Taliban measures. Amina Mohammed cultivated ties with moderate Muslim states as a way to indirectly pressure the Taliban in her words to “travel from the 13th century to the 21st.”

The UN team added that this latest “clampdown on working women followed edicts from the fundamentalist Taliban to close universities to female students, until further notice, and preventing girls from attending secondary school.” Equally, women and girls have been ordered to stop using parks, gyms, and banned from most areas of the workforce.

Separately the UN Security Council was “deeply alarmed by reports that the Taliban have suspended access to universities for women and girls,” and barred girls from schools beyond the sixth grade.

Is this 1223 or 2023??

Amina Mohammed, herself a Nigerian Muslim stated, “these restrictions present Afghan women and girls with a future that confines them in their own homes, violating their rights and depriving the communities of their services.” She lamented, “Afghanistan is isolating itself.” She added, “We can’t abandon the women of Afghanistan.”

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has not been recognized by any member of the international community. She claimed the Taliban authorities in Kabul view diplomatic recognition as a prize.

UN Women’s chief executive Sima Bahous warned, “What is happening in Afghanistan is a grave women’s rights crisis and a wakeup call for the international community.”  “It shows how quickly decades of progress on women’s rights can be reversed in a matter of days,” she conceded.

Amina Mohammed told correspondents, “We want to look for light in this darkness.”

Nonetheless the UN mission was working in a grey area in Afghanistan with few tangible results.

This remains a key point. During the military commitment, the U.S., Britain, Canada and a score of other allies shed blood and massive financial commitments to help this land.

More than 2,456 Americans were killed in action and thousands more wounded.  Adding insult to injury, during the hasty U.S. pullout from strategic Bagram Airbase, billions of dollars in military equipment and weapons fell into the hands of the Taliban.

But beyond the twenty years of the American and Allied military presence in Afghanistan, the society was slowly and largely changed for the better.  Women and girls were enfranchised with political rights and as importantly educational opportunities.  An entire generation of female Afghans were afforded unknown freedoms under which many of them flourished in business, medicine and in governance. Since the return of the so-called reformed Taliban, many if not all of these rights were cynically abolished or curtailed.

Nonetheless the Taliban are confronted by the determined resilience of Afghan women both inside the country and abroad.  There’s a tough and educated population, admittedly a vocal minority who knows that this regime of darkness and dystopia is a passing plague upon the  country.  But how long must they wait for the dawn?  Hope is in short supply.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]