Great expectations

Published September 29, 2022

CONSIDERING that the Afghan Taliban have been in the saddle for over a year now, the UN has expressed frustration with the lack of progress the hard-line group has made in several key areas. Expectedly, lack of rights for girls and women, as well as a soft stance on terrorism, top the list. Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday, the multilateral body’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan Markus Potzel said that for many in the international community, “patience is running out” with the Taliban. He went on to list the areas where the Taliban have performed poorly, particularly criticising the continued ban on girls’ secondary education enforced by Afghanistan’s rulers. Moreover, Mr Potzel claimed that the Afghan rulers had “dismissed” the UN’s warnings about the activities of IS-Khorasan. He also mentioned allegations of extrajudicial killings levelled against the Taliban, as well as the fact that the ruling movement has not set up any “mechanisms for citizens” to express their views to the rulers.

There can be little argument with the UN official’s plaints against the Taliban. Yet during the same UNSC session, Mr Potzel highlighted the conundrum confronting the international community by saying that not talking to the Taliban is not a feasible option. The fact is that the Taliban may be unreliable and rigid partners, but with a lack of any viable alternatives in Afghanistan, what choice does the world have? Moreover, as the Afghan economy has practically collapsed, the funds belonging to the country being held by the US need to be utilised for the benefit of the Afghan people. Pushing the Taliban to the wall may only bring the outfit closer to even more violent actors, as was the case the last time the group was in power. Both the prime minister and the foreign minister have argued against isolating the Taliban. As the UN official put it, “continued qualified engagement” is the best solution to protect Afghan citizens’ rights, and prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into chaos.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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