August 19, 2021

Take Time to Judge Taliban’s Actions, Not Words

By Lisa Curtis

During their first week back in power, the Taliban leadership has gone to great lengths to show the world their movement has evolved on issues of governance, terrorism, and women’s rights since they ruled the country 20 years ago. However, the international community must approach the Taliban pledges with skepticism and wait to see if their actions on the ground match their early statements. While countries like Russia and China with little interest in defending civil liberties may rush to recognize the Taliban, the United States and its like-minded partners must condition diplomatic recognition on the Taliban meeting human rights and counterterrorism standards.

On Tuesday the Taliban leadership in Kabul offered amnesty to those who worked for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who fled to the United Arab Emirates as the militants advanced on Kabul. They vowed there would be no reprisal killings. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters that women would be allowed to work and study and could participate in society “within bounds of Islamic law.” He went on, “when it comes to experience, maturity, vision, there is a huge difference between us in comparison to 20 years ago.” Another Taliban leader even allowed himself to be interviewed by a local female journalist.

The United States and its like-minded partners must condition diplomatic recognition on the Taliban meeting human rights and counterterrorism standards.

At the same time, there were reports in other parts of the country of women being prevented from entering a university campus and told to stay home unless accompanied by a male relative. Many girls’ schools also remained closed. The United Nations reported that the Taliban apparently had lists of people it seeks to question and punish, mostly former police and military officials, and there are numerous accounts of the Taliban knocking on doors and threatening people.

There’s good reason to be suspicious of the Taliban claims of amnesty. It’s only been two weeks since the Taliban assassinated the former Afghan government state media chief as part of a systematic campaign to assassinate government officials, civil society leaders, human rights activists, and journalists. Indeed, I have argued that the United Nations should sanction senior Taliban leaders for those atrocities. Taliban leaders may have decided to declare amnesty for government officials because they recognize they need some bureaucrats to keep the wheels of government turning. It is unclear how the Taliban will treat those workers once they resume their duties.

Read the full article from Just Security.

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