Taliban’s actions to be tested in Afghanistan’s new government

The rule of law and human rights protections have taken root internationally as universal values that should be observed no matter what governing systems countries have in place.

Respecting these principles and normalizing the functions of Afghanistan are conditions the country’s new government will likely have to meet for foreign countries to recognize its legitimacy.

The Islamist Taliban have announced Cabinet members for an interim government in Afghanistan. The Taliban hold power in the country for the first time in 20 years. The previous regime collapsed in 2001 after the United States invaded Afghanistan on the grounds that the Taliban had harbored the international terrorist organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The previous Taliban regime was notorious for its oppression of women. Women were not allowed to receive an education, were not permitted to go out alone, and were rarely allowed to engage in social activities. It is believed that the Taliban still maintain ties with terrorist organizations and continue to engage in drug trafficking and other criminal acts.

The Taliban have insisted there are differences compared to the regime of 20 years ago and emphasized their commitment to forming an “inclusive government” that would include a wide range of people, such as women and senior officials of the previous government.

However, many senior Taliban veterans were appointed to Cabinet posts in the interim government and no women were included. It is hard to say this Cabinet represents the changes claimed by the Taliban.

As both the Afghan people and the international community are still haunted by vivid memories of the Taliban’s horrifying rule in the past, it will not be easy for the organization to gain trust. It is important for the Taliban to promote the principles of national reconciliation and respect for women’s human rights to each and every one of its rank-and-file fighters and to actually put the principles into practice.

The Taliban’s principle of “rule based on Islamic law” is very different from the legal systems in place in democratic countries. Even so, the Taliban must recognize that adherence to international norms such as freedom and human rights is essential.

Kabul was hit by deadly terrorist attacks in late August near its airport, which have cast doubt on the Taliban’s ability to maintain security.

It is feared that the Islamic State extremist group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and other organizations will step up their activities aiming to extend their power and weaken the Taliban’s influence. If the new government is serious about eliminating terrorism, it should cooperate with other countries in exchanging intelligence.

The international community is facing difficult decisions over how to provide assistance to Afghanistan.

If foreign aid, which accounts for most of Afghanistan’s national budget, is cut off, the country’s economy will inevitably be paralyzed and its people will face even harsher difficulties. On the other hand, it is difficult for the international community to continue extending assistance to a new regime that has many problems. The systemic corruption that has plagued the country for many years must also be eradicated.

The United States, European countries and Japan must call on China and Russia and formulate a common strategy to encourage the Taliban to make positive changes.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 9, 2021.