By Dr Farah Naz, Assistant Professor Department of Government and Public Policy
August 15, 2022, marks the first year of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. The Taliban are struggling with the basic conditions to get recognition such as the formation of a broad-based government and secondly its soil is not used for terrorist activities. The Taliban government is trying to address these concerns, but they are facing issues from within. Taliban 1.0 are not very friendly towards women’s empowerment while Taliban 2.0 wish to provide women with their due share in politics and education. On the other hand, the Taliban government is facing serious criticism for terrorist activities on its soil. To date they could not convince any state to get recognized.
Post withdrawal two key issues stand out: Firstly, the future of the Afghan military under a new Taliban government. Secondly, SIGAR has routinely warned the US Congress about the waste in US public spending on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. An example of inefficiency is the supply of UH-60A transport helicopters without an adequate number of trained personnel to operate and maintain them. In another case, equipment given to the Afghan forces had no proper operation and maintenance manuals, or manuals only in English. This indicates that the US and its allies’ never aimed to train the Afghan people using advanced machinery and military equipment, instead, they should rely on the US and its partners. The US claimed that they have spent a huge sum of money on the Afghan army training process but left behind an army that was ill-trained to stand against the Taliban takeover. Here the issue is how can such an army help and support its people and Taliban? America, a high-tech country, never aimed to transfer or train Afghan people with tech-based learning processes that could have helped the public in running their life post withdrawal. Infrastructure was not developed despite a few hospitals etc. Then how did they manage state affairs?
When it comes to the Independence Day celebration on August 15, 2022, several questions come to mind. The basic one is whether there are some achievements of the Taliban that they can claim to celebrate or not.
Firstly, in the presence of severe threats from Daesh on its soil but still, they managed to survive is one of the biggest achievements of the nascent Taliban rule.
Secondly, since the US is holding USD9 billion of the Afghan assets it is hard for the Taliban to manage their finances. They are not collecting taxes but trying to manage finances via trade revenue. Though the international community has boycotted trade with Kabul – still some regional countries are showing interest in trade. According to the UN reports so far Taliban have acquired around USD3.74 billion via trade.
Thirdly, the Taliban government is dealing with fewer resources as a serious hurdle but still managing its affairs. Which again requires strength and determination to work harder with fewer incentives in return. How safe can such a trade route be? If we look at the overall safety and security situation in Afghanistan it seems to be stable. Despite drone attacks on Aimen Al Zawahiri and the killing of Khorasani – the Taliban aim to ensure safety and security for its people and trade partners.
Fourthly, the value of Afghanistan’s currency was tumbling during the first few months of the Taliban takeover, but the Taliban managed somehow to maintain its currency well. Currently, one USD is equal to 89 Afghani.
Moreover, the Taliban movement remained intact to date. It is a rare example where fights and clashes are not there. Though some rumours about the clash of opinion between Siraj Haqqani and Mullah Yaqub surface and lack in depth.
Also important to note that despite the US and its allies rule in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021, the Taliban allowed UNAMA to help support Afghans in assisting humanitarian aid. The Taliban government ensured that international communities like the UN and ICRC be provided security to access different Afghan territories and run humanitarian assistance activities. But these organizations failed to utilize their position well because they tried to recruit the same old corrupt people to help and support them. When the Taliban found out they stood against the international organization’s decision. Later, the international organizations also realized and acknowledged with time. Even today the Taliban support zero tolerance on corruption and provide a corruption-free environment to the public. That is worth consideration by all.
Seventhly, UNODC reports the Afghan 94 percent poppy production is down to zero percent. Which is marvelous. Though they can make a huge business out of this. However, if we look at the opium cultivation numbers in Afghanistan, they were stronger during the US presence in Afghanistan. In 2020 there was an increase in cultivation by 37 percent in comparison to 2019 and the difference amounts to USD500 million. Perhaps that money was used by the US to finance the war in Afghanistan.
Despite all of the achievements the Taliban government is badly criticized for their failures such as the current Taliban regime’s struggles to deal with the issue of women empowerment. Currently, girls and young women are allowed to seek an education, but certain age groups are yet not allowed to go to school. Girls at primary and tertiary levels are regularly visiting schools and continuing their education (except for a short pause during the early days of the Taliban takeover when the newly formed regime was getting stabilized to manage their affairs). However, girls from grades 6 to 12 are still not allowed to go to school. But what are the problems associated with this age group for seeking education? Taliban 1.0 considers this age group as sensitive. They want to provide safety and security to them before getting exposed to society. They wish to ensure all means of safety and then let them continue with their education.
Human Rights issues still loom large in Afghanistan. Girls’ Schools reopening is a major concern. The issue where females are not allowed to travel without mahram caught attention. Imposing a dress code for females and maintaining bears for men received criticism at international levels. The Taliban consider it a part of their tribal customary law.
Unfreezing Afghan assets is one of the major setbacks of the Taliban. Da Afghanistan Bank is the central bank of Afghanistan. The banking sector faces serious sanctions post-Taliban took over. Billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves and foreign development aid have been frozen to prevent it from falling into Taliban hands. International banks are wary of breaching sanctions, leaving the United Nations and aid groups struggling to get enough money into the country. Liquidity is also a problem. The UN has about $135 million in the bank in Afghanistan but is unable to use it because the Taliban-run central bank cannot convert it to the Afghani currency. According to Al Dardari, head of the UN Development Programme in Afghanistan, there was about $4 billion worth of Afghanis in the economy, but only about $500 million worth was in circulation. The UN had taken the US dollars into the country and deposited it with the Afghanistan International Bank with a clear promise from the central bank that fresh cash will be automatically converted to Afghanis. But, this did not happen. Joseph Stiglitz, the 2022 Nobel Prize award winner, also requested the US to return the Afghan USD 9 billion. Media usage is not up to international standards. But here both Taliban and the international community complain of not providing ground realities. Despite several odds, they are working on maintaining stability, security, and normalization of their affairs with zero corruption. This is not something small but too big an achievement to celebrate by a one year old government.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the institute’s policy.