Overview: A year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Overview: A year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – A year after the Taliban’s return to power, the Islamist group’s efforts to manage an economy already battered by drought, the Covid-19 pandemic and waning confidence in the government it toppled have largely proved fruitless.

In Afghanistan’s last fiscal year before the collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed coalition government – 2020-21 – 75% of public spending from the country’s $5.5 billion annual budget was taken from foreign aid. But when the US left, international civilian aid and security assistance was abruptly cut off and the new rulers were sanctioned.

The United States seized the majority of the country’s foreign reserves and froze about $7 billion held in the United States by Kabul’s central bank, linking its release to the improvement of women’s rights and the formation of an inclusive government.

FILE - Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 13, 2022. FILE - Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 13, 2022.

Karzai: US seizure of money against Afghans

While the Taliban and many other countries have demanded the release of the Afghan-owned reserves, aid initiatives that directly benefit the Afghan people have continued unabated, particularly to alleviate suffering caused by food insecurity and natural disasters. Since April 2020, for example, the number of Afghans facing acute food shortages has almost doubled to 20 million – more than half of the country’s 38.9 million population.

USAID and other international donors have provided short-term bridging funding to avoid a complete collapse of Afghanistan’s public health system.

ENVIRONMENT - Hundreds of Afghan men gather to apply for humanitarian aid in Qala-e-Naw, Afghanistan, on December 14, 2021. ENVIRONMENT - Hundreds of Afghan men gather to apply for humanitarian aid in Qala-e-Naw, Afghanistan, on December 14, 2021.

Humanitarians fear the Afghan hunger crisis could kill more than war

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that donors contributed $1.67 billion to Afghanistan’s humanitarian assistance program in 2021, with the United States contributing the largest amount, over $425 million. In January 2022, the White House announced an additional $308 million in US humanitarian aid.

However, the Taliban have proven surprisingly adept at raising revenue, collecting $840 million between December 2021 and June 2022, a large portion (56%) of which came from customs collection, as well as through export of coal and fruit to Pakistan.

According to The Economist, researcher David Mansfield, who has studied Afghanistan’s illicit economy for 25 years, estimates that the group made between $27.5 million and $35 million annually by taxing the drug trade and about $245 million at checkpoints along main roads, where Taliban fighters extorted fees. from truck drivers moving food and fuel.

As a result, the Taliban’s budget for the current fiscal year — 2022-23 — is $2.6 billion.

Training

Although US and Taliban officials have exchanged proposals to release the billions of dollars frozen overseas into a fund, significant differences remain between the sides. A problem is the Taliban’s commitment to ensure Afghans’ right to education and freedom of expression within the framework of Islamic law.

Immediately after the Taliban took over sought to allay international concerns on Afghan women’s rights, insisting that the Islamic emirate is committed to women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

FILE - A Taliban fighter stands guard as two women enter the government's passport office, in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 27, 2022. Afghanistan's Taliban leadership has ordered all Afghan women to wear the full-covering burqa in public. FILE - A Taliban fighter stands guard as two women enter the government's passport office, in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 27, 2022. Afghanistan's Taliban leadership has ordered all Afghan women to wear the full-covering burqa in public.

UN observer says Taliban policies make Afghan women invisible

The group’s Ministry of Education promised that secondary schools for girls from grades 7-12 would reopen at the start of the spring term in March 2022. However, the Taliban abruptly reversed course on March 23, citing a need for additional planning time to determine gender. – Separate facilities So far, high school girls in most parts of the country are awaiting a decision, while boys’ schools reopened almost immediately after the fall of President Ghani’s government.

However, some families manage to send their daughters to school. Even as the girls’ high school rejected students in Kabul, some were able to return to classes ahead of the start of the spring term in the northern cities of Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif. There were also reports from Nawabad in Ghazni province of continued classes in schools run by a Swedish NGO called the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA).

There are also several private companies that aim to undermine the state ban, such as clandestine schools run by activists like Pashtana Durrani, who told VOA, “I hold four classes for 400 girls in four different regions in two languages.”

These deviations appear to indicate what some observers describe as the new government’s largely erratic policy-making as it struggles to adopt a unified, nationwide approach on key issues, as well as divisions within the Taliban ranks.

When the Taliban were last in power, about 5,000 Afghan girls entered school. By 2018, the number had jumped to 3.8 million.

There were also UNESCO reports of widespread corruption in the school sector.

Media, other freedoms

In their first press conference after taking power in August 2021, the Taliban said they would welcome a “free and independent press”.

But in the following month it issued a series of media directives that critics said amounted in some cases to earlier censorship.

Female journalists are banned from working in state media and those in privately owned media are only allowed to appear with their faces covered; journalists in some provinces must seek permission from local officials before reporting; and with media companies banned from broadcasting music or popular soap operas and entertainment shows, and sources of advertising revenue cut off, many stores closed.

Afghan journalists attend a press conference for former President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 13, 2022. Afghan journalists attend a press conference for former President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 13, 2022.

Survey: Journalism ‘decimated’ in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

Afghanistan dropped to 156 out of 180 countries RSF World Press Freedom Indexwith Reporters Without Borders saying the Taliban’s return to power “has had serious repercussions for respect for press freedom and the safety of journalists, especially women.”

Aside from media restrictions, a three-day conference with the Taliban leadership in March decided that men working in government jobs must wear beards and Islamic dress on the job, that city parks must be gender-segregated and that women cannot travel by plane without an accompanying male relative, or mehram. The Taliban also ordered shopkeepers to do so remove the heads of all the mannequinscalling them un-Islamic.

The provincial branch of the Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice also banned women from bathhouses in Balkh and Herat provinces. For many of the women in these provinces, their only access to a bath was these hammams.

Foreign relations, internal security

Internally, the Taliban’s greatest threats come from the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and al-Qaeda.

While the number of bombings has dropped across the country since the Taliban took power, a school bomb killed at least six people in April. There was also a series of bombings in May 2022, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. A Sikh temple was targeted in Kabul in June, killing two and injuring seven, and a bomb blast at a cricket match in Kabul in July killed two.

On the international front, the Taliban have not yet been recognized by any country, but the Taliban leadership was invited to an international conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which included delegates from 30 other countries, including the European Union, the United States and representatives of the United Nations.

However, Western governments insist on seeing the Taliban improve their record on women’s and human rights, as well as inclusion in government, before they can engage in any meaningful way and give the Taliban official recognition.

FILE - In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for pictures with Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting foreign minister of the interim government of the Afghan Taliban, in Kabul, March 24, 2022. (Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua via AP) FILE - In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for pictures with Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting foreign minister of the interim government of the Afghan Taliban, in Kabul, March 24, 2022. (Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua via AP)

Security concerns bring China closer to the Taliban

China has maintained direct communication with the Taliban administration and both sides have met on several occasions, bilaterally and internationally, to discuss plans for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Beijing has also been active in various international, multilateral and bilateral talks on Afghan issues with regional governments and international powers.

International organizations such as the Aga Khan Development Network continue their work to improve historic structures, parks and structural facilities.

This story originated in VOA’s Urdu service.

    Source: sn.dk

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