It is one year exactly on August 15, when the Taliban in 2021 literally walked into Kabul without much resistance and reinstated the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. A shocked world watched helplessly, as the feared militant group assumed power, even as US troops left the country without a backward glance.
A year later, as the Taliban government marks August 15, 2022 with a national holiday, the economy of the country is in tatters, there’s food insecurity, with half of the nation’s population of 38 million people living below the poverty line.
The position of women remains tenuous, as girls cannot complete their schooling with most secondary schools shut on orders of the Taliban’s top ultra-conservative clerics. Education is denied to girls in the age group, 13 to 18 years old. Women have been forced out of some government jobs and barred from travelling alone, without any guardian, said media reports.
Moreover, the Taliban is being accused by the US and Russia for harbouring terrorists, with the US accusing the country for violating the terms of their peace agreement, which forbids the use of Afghanistan soil for terror activities. For on July 31, the US managed to find and kill Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike, while he was hiding in a senior Taliban leader’s house in Kabul.
To make matters worse for the country’s people, Taliban as a group is not a unified entity and an emboldened terrorist group, ISIS’ attacks have increased in frequency as well.
Also watch: Afghan women continue to resist Taliban a year after takeover
Potential collapse of economy
The nation’s economy, which has been suffering over the past few decades due to a permanent war, has only worsened. The sanctions by the international community which has blocked Taliban government’s finances have led to a potential collapse of the economy.
Cutting off foreign aid to Afghanistan, which previously amounted to 45 per cent of the nation’s GDP, led to a sharp fiscal decline and collapse of demand, said World Bank. The total public spending is expected to have declined by almost 60 per cent.
Millions of Afghans have plunged into poverty, with famine conditions detected in two districts. According to media reports, there is a hunger crisis in the country, the people suffer from lack of access to hospitals and schools are not operating properly.
Experts pointed out that without western aid and assistance it will be impossible to put the Afghan economy back on track. Even if the Taliban agrees to the conditions laid down by western powers to unfreeze the Afghan funds, this will only help the country temporarily. As the funds will be mismanaged and siphoned off in no time, said media reports.
A UNDP report recently stated that Afghanistan’s annual per capita income has declined from $650 in 2012 to $500 in 2020 and is expected to drop further to $350 next year.
Also read: Al-Zawahiri killed in US drone strike; 10 things about al-Qaida leader
The plight of Afghan women
The Taliban has not changed their colours when it comes to the status of women, it seems. Though Taliban 2.0 had promised to be more lenient, which was not the case during their first rule from 1996 until October 2001, this time too, they have clamped down on women’s freedom and rights. While teenage girls have been shut out from secondary schools, women have been forced out of some government jobs and barred from travelling alone, without any guardian, said media reports.
Afghan women, however, have bravely staged protests against Taliban’s restrictions on them. Women recently took to the streets to mark the first year of the Taliban’s rule by demanding their freedoms. They demanded bread, work, freedom, political participation. The Taliban however dispersed the protest by firing in the air.
Many former women senior civil servants were ordered to go home and they were asked to send their brothers instead, said one media report. However, Taliban officials have denied these reports saying that women are still working in Afghanistan. But, the truth is that women work mainly as medical staff, educators and security workers and as airport staff, said on-the-ground reports from Aghanistan.
An unchanged Taliban
Many political observers said Taliban 2.0 that took power in 2021 is a politically known entity but no different in terms of ideology from Mullah Omar’s Taliban 1.0 of the 1990s. The western nations merely deluded themselves to justify their exit from the country, felt political observers.
Taliban 2.0 has not demonstrated any real inclination to change its behaviour. Though, it tried to portray a different image to get international recognition and funding. But, their harsh and regressive policies towards girls, women and minorities belied this impression. Moreover, their recent declaration that they will implement the shariah, only underscored this point.
A splintered Taliban and ISIS
To make matters worse, Taliban is clearly still not a unified entity and differences among themselves are bound to crop up soon. Experts said that the situation may deteriorate into “warlordism” that will then spawn pockets of opposition.
Many anti-Taliban groups are also emerging in different parts of Afghanistan making mockery of the claim by Taliban that it controls the entire country. A large number of anti-Taliban groups have been organising activities across the country.
International terrorist groups operating in the country are muddying the waters further. Russia said last month that the number of Islamic State terrorist organisation members in Afghanistan had increased three times to 6,000 since the Taliban came to power last year.
India back in Afghanistan
A year after it was shut down and its personnel evacuated in a hurry, India recently reopened its embassy in Kabul. The mission is currently manned by a director-rank IFS officer, who is the officiating deputy chief of mission. There are four other officials in the mission which is protected.
After the embassy reopened, the current spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs, Abdul Qahar Balkhi issued a statement saying the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) “welcomes India’s step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul”. He said the regime would ensure security and provide “all cooperation”.
Meanwhile, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, recently said in Bengaluru that India’s decision to restart the mission was to ensure they will able to address a lot of issues such as humanitarian and medical assistance, development projects and vaccine development in Afghanistan.