On September 7, the Taliban announced an interim government for Afghanistan. All 21 members are Taliban political and military leaders, 90% of them from the Pashtun ethnic group, none of them women or urban or rural workers.

 

By Fabio Bosco, September 15, 2021

 

Taliban representatives had already announced that the new regime would not be neither a liberal nor a workers’ democracy, but a theocratic dictatorship. But there was a sign that other political forces would be included, which did not happen.

The reason is not clear. There are analysts who attribute this all-Taliban formation to accommodate internal disputes. Others believe that is the totalitarian perspective under which the Taliban had ruled the country for five years, from 1996 to 2001.

Imperialist countries criticized this formation as they hoped it to include leaders linked to them such as the former president Hamid Karzai, national reconciliation council representative Abdullah Abdullah or Ahmad Massoud himself, the warlord of the Panjshir Valley (taken over by the Taliban on September 6). The criticism was directed at the absence of women in government as well. (I)

The Iranian regime also criticized the absence of the Hazara Afghans, who are Shiite Muslims, who were persecuted during the first Taliban rule.

De facto international recognition

None of this criticism prevented the imperialist countries, the UN, Russia, all neighboring countries (Pakistan, Iran, China and three former Soviet republics) besides India, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, from diplomatically engaging with the Taliban, which implies de facto recognition of the new regime even if there is still no formal, de jure recognition.

The same ones who stood for democratic freedoms and seemed to be concerned about the oppression of women now, as good capitalists, have no problem in leaving these issues aside to privilege their geopolitical interests.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken summed up the issue well when he said he was in direct contact with the Taliban to guarantee three objectives: freedom of travel for both foreigners and Afghans, preventing terrorist groups from setting up in Afghanistan, and humanitarian aid in the face of the food and health crisis that tends to become a social catastrophe in the short term.

President Joe Biden amended by saying: “We don’t take them by their word alone but by their actions, and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met.” The mentioned leverage certainly includes the freezing of Afghan Central Bank funds (about US$10 billion) in addition to US$440 million of emergency reserves with the IMF. (II)

Afghanistan’s new foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, complained about the American stand: ““(We) helped the U.S. until evacuation of their last person, but unfortunately the US, instead of thanking us, froze our assets. The U.S. is a great country so it should have great patience, we should help each other.” (III)

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, called on all countries to donate humanitarian aid and to have a direct relationship with the Taliban. The EU followed suit. (IV) 

The French regime not only committed to donating US$118 million but also met with the Taliban in Doha, where a Taliban political office is based.

China had already sent US$31 million worth in food and medicine, in addition to a first batch of 3 million doses of vaccine against COVID-19. The Chinese regime is counting on the Taliban to prevent groups for the rights of the Uighurs, a Turkic and Muslim nationality undergoing an ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang Province, from operating from Afghanistan. In addition, China is interested in integrating Afghanistan into the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and in exploring mineral reserves, particularly of lithium. A Taliban representative stated that “the Taliban welcomes foreign investment that will benefit the country”. (V)

The Russian regime promotes on September 16, 2021 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, two important diplomatic meetings:

The first is from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (CSO) that unites Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, India and Pakistan, in addition to Afghanistan itself, which has observer status.

The second is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which will bring together the presidents of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Russia and the Prime Minister of Armenia.

The objective of both meetings is diplomatic recognition, bilateral relations and cooperation with the Taliban regime. They want the Taliban to commit not to host or assist opposition groups from neighboring countries (one of the new ministers, Fazel Mazloom had relations with the oppositionist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan). In return, the Tajikistan regime would cease its support for ethnic Tajik groups that oppose the Taliban. (VI)

These meetings were preceded by joint military exercises in Kyrgyzstan the week before. The Russian foreign minister explained that Russia still has the objective of preventing the United States from establishing agreements with the former Soviet republics for the establishment of military bases.

Indian Ambassador Deepak Mittal met with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar on 31 August. A strong ally of the former Afghan puppet regime, the Indian regime is very concerned that the Taliban could serve as a fulcrum for groups fighting for Kashmir’s independence. In addition, the Indian regime and the country’s companies invested $3 billion during the 20-year occupation. The Taliban signaled positively to the issues raised. Previously, the Taliban had asked the Indian regime not to close its embassy in the country. (VII)

On September 8, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan met virtually. The main issue was regional security and the effort to prevent “terrorist” groups from setting up on Afghan soil to intervene in neighboring countries. The issue of refugees was addressed as well. (VIII)

Finally, Qatar and the UAE are in permanent contact with the Taliban. Qatar Airways has already made several flights to Kabul and works together with the Turks to make the Kabul airport operational. There have already been flights from Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Peace with capitalist world order and war against working people

While flirting with the world order, the Taliban, and now its interim government, signals that it will not accept any dissent in the country.

On September 10, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani denounced that the Taliban’s response to peaceful protests, mostly by women, had become increasingly violent with the use of gunfire, clubs and whips and that four protesters were killed. Ravina added that protesters were searched house-to-house and journalists were beaten. (IX)

Subsequently, the interim government banned protests without prior authorization from the regime.

Women have good reasons to protest. The interim government announced that women are not allowed to play sports but will be able to study as long as they are separated from male students, with mandatory veiling and a new curriculum. The same goes for work. In practice, this decision will already prevent most women from working and studying. As for barbaric practices held by Taliban previous rule such as stoning or hanging women accused of adultery, public flogging or the much older practice of  bride-price payments given by a groom’s family for the bride’s hand, the interim government has yet to take a stand.

Another sector that took to the streets were the three thousand residents evicted in Herat on September 14. They were given eviction orders to complete within three days. Most are military and police family members. (X)

The Afghan working class and the peasants have great challenges ahead.

On the one hand the humanitarian crisis with lack of food and medical supplies due to drought and economic collapse, in addition to thousands of refugees in cities without adequate housing conditions. Today a third of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and that figure could explode this month if the $1.1 billion UN humanitarian aid does not arrive or is not distributed.

On the other hand, there are issues relating to women’s rights and democratic freedoms that are opposed by the interim government.

Another strategic issue is land tenure. The Taliban never advocated land reform although it is the only way to end rural poverty and provide food for the cities.

The appointment of Taliban leaders to the interim government who have associated themselves with the production, processing and export of opium and heroin points to maintaining the country as the world’s main producer. In its first government, the Taliban banned the planting of poppies, which should not be repeated at this time.

 

Notes 

(I) https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87 

(II) https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/08/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-end-of-the-war-in-afghanistan/ 

(III) https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghan-acting-foreign-minister-urges-international-donors-restart-aid-2021-09-14/  

(IV) https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-says-it-has-no-option-talk-taliban-2021-09-14/ 

(V) https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/west-ponders-aid-afghanistan-china-pakistan-quick-provide-relief-2021-09-12/ 

(VI)

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/analysis/analysis-tajikistan-to-host-summits-of-regional-powers-to-discuss-afghanistan/2363309 

(VII) https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-holds-talks-with-senior-taliban-official-first-since-fall-kabul-2021-08-31/ 

(VIII) https://en.irna.ir/news/84464663/Consensus-of-neighbors-inevitable-to-help-restore-peace-in-Afghanistan 

(IX) https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/taliban-response-afghan-protests-increasingly-violent-un-says-2021-09-10/ 

(X) 

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/thousands-protest-against-taliban-kandahar-over-evictions-2021-09-14/