Assessing Shortcomings Of Taliban Rule After Two Years – OpEd


The situation in Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s return to power two years ago on August 15, 2023, demands a nuanced assessment. This period has illuminated the Taliban’s distinctive governance style, characterized by a blend of authoritarianism and pragmatic adaptation. Despite their absence of formal international recognition, the Taliban has effectively solidified their de facto authority in Afghanistan, even if not yet established as the de jure governing body.

Domestically, the Interim Afghan Government’s performance remains subject to debate and criticism, underscoring the Taliban’s ongoing transformation. Their current interim governance structure, established on September 7, 2021, mirrors aspects of their 1990s rule, featuring a supreme leader, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers whose policies adhere to a constrained interpretation of Sharia law. Notably, the Taliban have retained over 500,000 members from the previous administration and have maintained the pre-existing ministerial framework with only a few exceptions, such as the dissolution of the electoral commission and the replacement of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs with the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, signaling a setback for women’s rights.

While the Taliban initially pledged an inclusive and accountable government, their cabinet composition still falls short in terms of ethnic diversity and gender representation. While some members from diverse ethnic backgrounds hold positions, the cabinet remains exclusively male and Pashtun-dominated. Furthermore, the suspension of the 2004 Afghan constitution, without a replacement, raises questions about the country’s future governance structure and legal framework. Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada retains significant influence over the Taliban’s governance and decision-making processes. Despite opposition from multiple armed groups and political factions, there is no substantial visible political opposition within Afghanistan, with exiled officials from the previous government fragmented and lacking resonance among the population.

Despite governance shortcomings, the Taliban have managed to establish a degree of security, stability, and centralized authority, providing basic services and economic stability. Notably, violence decreased significantly in 2022, and security perceptions improved. The Taliban have displayed pragmatism in revenue generation through taxation, customs, and trade, as well as efforts to combat corruption and reduce poppy cultivation. Nonetheless, significant concerns persist regarding political and social cohesion, exacerbated by an ongoing humanitarian crisis and the presence of transnational terrorist groups. The denial of fundamental human rights, particularly the severe restrictions on women’s rights, remains a grave concern. While some members within the Taliban have voiced support for women’s education, the group’s unwavering commitment to its ideology and supreme leader’s authority hinder substantial policy changes.

The Taliban face challenges from a fragile economy, weak institutions, and an acute humanitarian crisis. An estimated 20 million people in Afghanistan face acute hunger, further complicating the situation. Transnational terrorist organizations, including Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), pose serious threats to both Afghanistan and the wider region. ISKP, in particular, continues to launch attacks, despite initial Taliban crackdowns. Afghanistan hosts approximately 20 terrorist groups, further complicating the security landscape.

Despite assurances to prevent Afghan soil from becoming a haven for international terrorist organizations, the Taliban’s inability to address these threats has strained diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan. Afghanistan’s neighbors increasingly express frustration with the Taliban’s perceived reluctance or incapacity to counter terrorism effectively. The Taliban have engaged diplomatically with regional and international actors, expanding their outreach beyond the immediate neighborhood. Their engagement includes meetings with foreign delegations, participation in international and regional forums, and overseeing Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions in various countries.

In conclusion, the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan remains in a state of transition, characterized by authoritarianism and emerging pragmatism. The disparity between stated policies and their implementation poses challenges to their international recognition and legitimacy. Afghanistan’s significance extends beyond regional concerns, especially given the ongoing threat from transnational terrorist groups. The international community should persistently engage with Afghanistan to address these complex challenges.

Hammad Baloch

Hammad Baloch is a MPhil student of social sciences at Punjab University, Lahore, and often writes on issues of regional and international concern.

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