Taliban have duty to protect citizens and should accept international help

All governments have a responsibility to protect the lives and livelihoods of their citizens. The Islamist Taliban that govern Afghanistan must cooperate with the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

More than 1,000 people were killed and many more were injured when an earthquake struck a mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan on June 22, burying victims under rubble. Search and rescue operations were halted the following day, before international relief units could enter the afflicted region. This is a tragic situation.

Japan, the United States and other countries have provided relief supplies such as blankets and tents through international organizations. Even if the supplies reach Afghanistan, it is said to be difficult to confirm whether they are being properly distributed to those affected.

One week after the earthquake, food and drinking water shortages continue in the region. There is no indication that the Afghan government will be able to secure the funds and materials necessary for post-disaster reconstruction.

The Taliban sought foreign aid immediately after the earthquake. However, the situation has been slow to improve, probably due to the lack of government organizations that can accept foreign assistance and the shortage of experts who can deal with such issues.

After the collapse of the former regime in August last year, the Taliban came to power on the platform of “governance based on Islamic law.” The top government posts are held by commanders who fought for many years against U.S. and other forces in the name of jihad, or holy war. They have little knowledge or experience in administrative management.

Many officials and experts of the former administration, who had acquired knowledge and skills under programs organized by the United States, Europe and Japan to foster human resources, fled the country to escape the politics of fear.

The Taliban have continued to repress senior officials of the former administration and deprive women of their rights to employment and education, in defiance of criticism from the international community. No country has recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government.

It can be said that the recent earthquake and the worsening humanitarian situation have clearly demonstrated the problems with such a system of governance. Respect for human rights and the rule of law are universal norms. All governments, regardless of religion or culture, must observe them. The Taliban’s closed regime must change.

The eyes of the international community have turned to the crisis in Ukraine and the threats posed by Russia and China. As a result, less attention is being paid to Afghanistan. If the Taliban restrengthen ties with the international terrorist organization Al-Qaida, Afghanistan could become a hotbed of terrorism again.

For the time being, the United States, Europe and Japan need to focus on humanitarian aid to save the lives of Afghans. But, drastic change in the Taliban regime is essential before full-scale assistance can be provided. They must continue to tell the Taliban that the appointment of personnel from the former administration and respect for women’s human rights will be a step toward the realization of full-fledged humanitarian aid.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2022)