Updated: September 15, 2021 10:39:57 pm
A month after seizing Kabul, the Taliban face daunting problems as they seek to convert their lightning military victory into a durable peacetime government.
After four decades of war and the deaths of tens of thousands of people, security has largely improved, but Afghanistan’s economy is in ruins despite hundreds of billions of dollars in development spending over the past 20 years. While much attention in the West has focused on whether the new Taliban government will keep its promises to protect women’s rights or offer shelter to militant groups like al Qaeda, for many Afghans the main priority is simple survival.
Here are some of the key stories to follow:
Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin tried to dissuade Joe Biden from ‘complete’ Afghanistan withdrawal, claims book
US President Joe Biden’s top cabinet members unsuccessfully tried to dissuade him from pulling all US troops from Afghanistan, hoping he would leverage the withdrawal to seek a political settlement, a new book says.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pushed for a slower drawdown to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government, according to “Peril,” a forthcoming book by famed investigative journalist Bob Woodward co-authored with his Washington Post colleague Robert Costa.
Blinken, a longtime aide to Biden who had previously staunchly backed his plan to end the 20-year war, called the president from Brussels after hearing concerns from NATO ministers in a March meeting, the book says, as reported by Agence France Presse.
“His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations,” it says, according to a passage published by CNN ahead of the book’s release next week.
Month since escaping Taliban, refugee Afghan Sikhs uncertain about future
Baldeep Singh, an Afghan Sikh, who fled to India after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, knows three languages, including Hindi and French, but has been having a hard time finding a job to feed his family.
This is the case not only with Sikhs who arrived in the midst of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15, but also those who left the country before, said the 24-year-old, who is at present living in New Mahavir Nagar.
Around 73 Afghan Sikhs came to India since Taliban’s takeover of the country. A few families have left for Punjab where they have relatives. The ones in Delhi depend on the help from Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in New Mahavir Nagar, PTI reported. At least six such families have been living in the gurdwara since they completed their mandatory quarantine period at the ITBP facility in Chhawla area.
Amarjit Singh, 45, was among the 49 Afghani Sikhs who flew into Delhi from Kabul via Dushanbe on an Air India flight last month. He has been putting up at the gurdwara along with his wife and five children, one of them aged three months. “The Taliban doesn’t care for its own people, forget about Sikhs. You have no idea what these people are going through,” he said.
Iran resumes commercial flights to Afghanistan
Iran Wednesday resumed commercial flights to Afghanistan that had been halted after the Taliban assumed power, news agencies reported. The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that a charter return flight transported passengers from Tehran to Kabul. It said a second flight from northeastern city of Mashhad left for Kabul, too.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s civil aviation ministry has approached Pakistan with a request to let its two airlines resume commercial flight operations between the two countries.
The Ministry of Aviation and Transport of Afghanistan, in a letter to Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), requested it to permit operations of Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air on the basis of a bilateral memorandum of understanding, reported Dawn newspaper, which claimed to have a copy of the letter dated September 13.
The letter claimed that the Kabul Airport was damaged by American troops before their withdrawal, however, “by technical assistance of our Qatar Brother, the Airport became operational once again”.
‘This is how we dress’: Afghan women overseas pose in colourful attire
Afghan youth rights activist Wazhma Sayle says she was shocked to see a photograph online, apparently of women dressed in black all-enveloping niqabs and gowns, staging a demonstration in support of the country’s new Taliban rulers at Kabul University.
The 36-year-old, who is based in Sweden, later posted a photograph of herself on Twitter dressed in a bright green and silver dress captioned: “This is Afghan culture & how we dress! Anything less then this does not represent Afghan women!”
This is Afghan culture & how we dress! Anything less then this does not represent Afghan women!
And it is described as fundamental pillar of #Afghan Identity ! #AfghanistanCulture @RoxanaBahar1 pic.twitter.com/R6IifSrDQ8
— W.Sayel (@Sayel_D) September 12, 2021
Other Afghan women overseas have posted similar pictures, striking a chord in Kabul. “It is good our women (overseas) were able to protest about it,” said Khatima, a young woman in Kabul.
When the Taliban was in power two decades ago, women had to cover themselves from head to toe. Those who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police. While the new Taliban regime has promised to allow women more freedoms, there have been reports of women being barred from going to work, and some being beaten in recent weeks for protesting Taliban rule.
Running out of dollars, Afghan banks ask Taliban for more cash
Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the Taliban government releases funds soon, three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The cash squeeze threatens to upend the country’s already battered economy, largely dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars shipped by the United States to the central bank in Kabul that make their way to Afghans through banks.
One month since the Taliban captured the capital of Kabul, bankers fear fewer dollars could inflate the cost of food or electricity and make it harder to afford imports, spelling further misery for Afghans.
Although the cash crunch has lasted weeks, the country’s banks have in recent days repeatedly underlined their concerns to the new government and central bank, two of the people said.
China backs Taliban’s demand to US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets
China on Wednesday supported the Taliban’s demand that the US should unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets and said that America has no legitimate reasons to do so as the Chinese envoy to Kabul called on acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and congratulated the interim government.
According to reports from Washington, the US has frozen about USD 9.5 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank and stopped shipments of cash to Kabul, in a bid to keep the Taliban government from accessing the money.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing that the US has no legitimate reasons to freeze Afghanistan’s assets. Asked about the Taliban’s demand that the US should unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets stating that they belong to the people of Afghanistan and the interim government will take a legal action possible to get the funds released, Zhao said: “I think that the (Taliban’s) spokesperson is right.” “These assets belong to the Afghan people. They (the US) should respond to the legitimate requests of the Afghan people and stop the wrong practice of sanctions and stop making obstacles for Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction,” he said. (AP)
Anti-laundering unit goes off-grid, fraying Afghan ties to global finance
A unit in Afghanistan’s central bank leading a 15-year effort to counter illicit funding flows has halted operations, four staff members said, threatening to hasten the country’s slide out of the global financial system.
Since 2006, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan has gathered intelligence on thousands of suspicious transactions and helped convict smugglers and terrorist financiers, according to its website. UN officials have said the Taliban made hundreds of millions of dollars from the drugs trade and other illicit sources when they were fighting government troops. The group has vowed there would be no drug cultivation in Afghanistan from now.
736 Afghans recorded for new registration in India from Aug. 1 to Sept. 11: UNHCR
A total of 736 Afghans were recorded for new registration from Aug. 1 to Sept. 11, the UNHCR said here, adding that it is scaling up its capacity to meet increasing requests for registration and assistance of Afghans in India.
The UN refugee agency said it is in constant dialogue with the government on matters pertaining to Afghan nationals, including issuance and extensions of visa, assistance, and solutions.
Thirty-two women football players from Afghanistan, who were facing threats from the Taliban, have reached Pakistan along with their families after the government issued emergency humanitarian visas to evacuate them, according to a media report on Wednesday.
Afghan national football team and their families greeted on their arrival in Lahore. They crossed into Pakistan last night pic.twitter.com/DCb0wgvlTc
— Mubashir Zaidi (@Xadeejournalist) September 15, 2021
The footballers belonging to the national junior girls’ team had been originally due to travel to Qatar, where Afghan refugees have been housed at a facility for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but were left stranded after the Kabul bomb blast. These women were facing threats from the Taliban due to their involvement in the sport, Dawn newspaper reported.
In Kabul, first aid flights have started to arrive as the airport reopens and international donors have pledged over $1 billion to prevent what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned could be “the collapse of an entire country.” Many countries that were willing to provide aid have increasingly expressed hesitation due to concerns about how funds will be spent with the Taliban in power.
Pakistan’s role in enabling Taliban is victory for hardliners, says top US senator
The role of Pakistan in enabling the Taliban is a victory for the hardliners in the country’s government, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan on Thursday.
Rubio said multiple US administrations were guilty of ignoring Pakistan’s role in helping the Taliban to regroup, as other US senators expressed concern over the “double dealing” of Islamabad.
Ever since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the plight of women in the country has been the focus of discussion across the world. During its previous government (1996-2001), the Taliban had banned girls from schools and educational institutes.
Earlier this week, the group’s newly formed all-male interim government allowed female students to attend private universities but with harsh restrictions. Several private universities resumed classes in the country as photographs of students sitting in classrooms partitioned with curtains made rounds on social media, shortly after the Taliban’s announcement.
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