It took them just six weeks to race to Kabul, completing their occupation of Afghanistan. But six more weeks down the line, the Taliban are yet to come up with a comprehensive plan to take the country out of the economic and political turmoil their rise to power has triggered.
A new normal is slowly settling in the war-ravaged country, but the great majority of the Afghan citizenry are passing through the hardest time of their lives despite the relative peace after decades of active hostilities.
Winning the people’s confidence is turning out to be a serious challenge for the new government, apparently at a loss as to how it can win their hearts and minds and allay their fears about future.
The Taliban have established their writ across the country militarily, but a political dispensation acceptable to all is nowhere in sight. The Taliban government is in the process of filling the vacant posts, and under fire for not appointing professional officials.
The new government is facing two major challenges: To secure international legitimacy and to put the country internally in order. Political consolidation has not been achieved so far.
The reported controversy between the first deputy prime minister, and head of the political office in Qatar Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the powerful Taliban Haqqani group have raised many questions. The issue has subsided for now with clarifications issued by both sides, but it remained a major news in the international media.
Another challenge for the government is about the scattered incidents of violence in some parts of the country. Islamic State of Khurasan or ISK has claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks and target killings.
Some administrative changes brought about in the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar reveal the intensity of the threat, although the Taliban leadership stated that they can handle Daesh or ISK by themselves do not need any outside support.
Some reported killings of the former government officials by the Taliban fighters have prompted Defence Minister Maulvi Mohammad Yaqoob to issue instructions with warnings to the forces to avoid such incidents.
“I direct you all to avoid revenge killings by yourselves as there is general amnesty to all by the Islamic Emirate”, Maulvi Yaqoob said in an audio message to the fighters and local commanders. “If you still want to take your personal revenge, then you have to file a case with the justice department to try the alleged killers.”
And he warned: “If you continue to defy the orders, then strict action will be taken against you. You will be arrested and removed from your posts.”
The Taliban decision to stop girls from attending school beyond grade 6 also invited criticism from around the world. The Taliban tried to defend the decision as saying that there is no ban on the girls’ education, and that the government is trying to formulate a policy for the female students under the Islamic shariah.
Once the policy is finalized, the girls will be allowed to go to schools, colleges and universities, the maintain.
Pointedly, the Taliban government has no representation from the other political groups, and women have been excluded. Thousands of women government employees have been staying at homes, as no clear cut policy has been announced about their future.
Their fate is yet to be decided, and there is utter uncertainty as to whether they would be allowed to return to their work or not. A number of women were the breadwinners of their families. There is some hope that all these issues could be resolved shortly, and these issues are under consideration.
But the critical phase is not yet over. Common people are worried about how to feed their families. The revival of economic and business activities is a huge task ahead of the Taliban government.
Reports coming out of Afghanistan reveal people are compelled to sell their household items to feed their families. Some families are struggling to manage even one decent meal a day. “In my neighbourhood, I know some families, who hardly get food once a day,” a woman resident of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, narrated.
She said: “There is no business and jobs for the people to earn livelihoods in a respectable manner. There is no system introduced so far to help such families by the Taliban government. Many such families do not spread their hands [euphemism for begging] for help”.
A fruit vendor at the roadside told an Afghan TV channel there were no buyers in the markets. People are confused. Either they are out of money, or too afraid to venture out of their homes. “I was earning 200 to 300 Afghanis a day in the past, but now I earn less than 50 Afghanis a day”.
According to World Bank estimates, 75 percent of people in Afghanistan are poor with 43 percent of the population living in abject poverty. If the current situation persists, more people may fall below the poverty line.
There is a widespread feeling that the world needs to make an emergency humanitarian plan to help the people of Afghanistan. If the International community ignores this situation, it may devolve into the worst humanitarian crisis even seen.
The people believe the Taliban cannot overcome the prevailing poor economic situation, as it is the result of over 4 decades war and violence.
Observers say the new government in Kabul may not be able to get life back on track. This is the responsibility of the developed world to play its role and help rebuild the war-ravaged Afghanistan. The world must not repeat the 1990’s scenario to abandon Afghanistan. Otherwise it may again become a headache for the international community.
Analysts say there may be political differences between the Taliban and the world on a number of issues, but it is better to engage with them. The only way is to help the common Afghans and engage with the Taliban to build the national institutions.
Billions of dollars of Afghanistan have been frozen by the United States and other countries of the developed world that have further added to the worries of the unfortunate Afghans. They have been suffering from decades of war some Afghans believe was imposed upon them.
Millions of Afghans have been living as refugees in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries for almost 40 years. If normalcy returns to their country, they can go home and help build a better future.
Thousands of government employees have left their jobs after the Taliban took over Kabul. The worst case scenario is for the salaried class, as many have not been able to return to their duties, and those who resumed their jobs have no idea when and how to get their current and pending salaries.
Some of the officials of the former government are also fearing that they may become the victims of the revenge of the Taliban.
The Taliban led Kabul government is looking to the International community to continue their financial aid as Afghanistan, being badly hit by violence, political instability and corruption, is mainly depending on international aid.
The Taliban government, or what they called it “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, has inherited a number of challenges. The Taliban are eager to secure recognition of their government, but the world is observing the situation as to what the Taliban policies would be for the people of Afghanistan.
Children and women are mainly affected in wars and violence. They are vulnerable in the destabilized society. In the recent developments, when Kabul fell to the Taliban, a political vacuum was created. For several weeks, there was no government in place and life came to standstill.
International humanitarian organisations are warning that millions of Afghan children may face severe malnutrition and health issues. Services have not fully been restored to provide basic facilities to the people. Everything is in a disarray. Some services have been restored partially, but this chaos is putting many lives at risk.
“With the needs of Afghan children greater than ever before, the world cannot abandon them now”, a senior official with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said after concluding a visit to the country a while back.
Not only have some been forced from their homes and cut off from their schools and friends, they have also been deprived of basic healthcare that can protect them against polio, tetanus and other diseases.
“Now, with a security crisis, skyrocketing food prices, a severe drought, the spread of Covid-19, and another harsh winter just around the corner, children are at greater risk than ever,” he warned.
UNICEF has predicted that if the current trend continues, one million under-fives in Afghanistan will face severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. Mr. Laryea-Adjei said more than four million children, including 2.2 million girls, are out of school.
Some of the International agencies have been visiting Afghanistan to engage with the Taliban and they are sensitizing the world about the on ground situation in Afghanistan. This is now the responsibility of the outside world to help the people of Afghanistan, especially the weak segments of the society.
The Taliban needs technical and financial assistance to cope with the situation. The world should draw a line between politics and humanitarian support. There is an urgent need for the world to extend their financial support to avoid another tragedy in the offing.