Failure to govern Afghanistan deepens humanitarian crisis

If Afghanistan’s Taliban administration isolates itself from the international community and continues to rule the country in a self-righteous manner, the humanitarian crisis will only deepen. The first thing it must do is establish a system to manage the nation.

It has been about a year since the Islamist Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and formed an interim government. No other country has recognized it as a legitimate government yet.

This is because the Taliban’s governance, based on their own interpretation of Islamic law, is far removed from international norms such as the rule of law and respect for basic human rights. Members of the previous administration, which had close ties to the United States, have suffered retaliatory attacks and some people have even been murdered. Girls and women have been kept away from schools and workplaces.

Promises made at the start of the current administration to hire people from the previous government and to respect women’s rights have been broken. People with practical experience in administrative management and specialists in medical and other fields were cast out, and military commanders who were heavily involved in combat dominate key positions instead. It is impossible to implement policies appropriately under such a system.

The interim government is under the control of the supreme council comprising senior Taliban members. It is extremely unclear who on the council is making decisions and how.

A person believed to be the Taliban’s supreme leader continues to conduct backroom politics without coming to the fore; such a system cannot gain the understanding of the international community.

The danger remains that Afghanistan will again become a hotbed of terrorism. The leader of the international terrorist organization al-Qaida was killed in a U.S. drone missile attack at the end of July in Kabul, where he was hiding.

The Taliban promised in a 2020 peace deal with the United States that they would not allow Afghanistan to become a base for terrorist groups. They claim they did not know the al-Qaida leader was hiding in the capital, but it is difficult to eliminate suspicion over their continuing ties to terrorist groups.

The biggest victims of distorted governance are the people of Afghanistan. About 24.4 million people, or 60% of the population, were living in poverty, according to a tally conducted by a U.N. agency in July, an increase of about 6 million from the beginning of last year when the country was governed by the previous administration. Many people are said to even try to sell their children or kidneys due to poverty.

Now that international aid, which accounted for most of the country’s revenue, has been cut off, there is no prospect of rebuilding the economy. The international community’s attention tends to be focused on the crisis in Ukraine, but it should also pay more attention to the devastation in Afghanistan.

The United Nations needs to take full responsibility for assistance in the country and establish a system to deliver food and medicine to the people.

It is hoped that Japan will draw on the achievements and experience it gained from providing assistance to Afghanistan in the past and play a leading role in supporting the country, pressing all the nations concerned, including China and Russia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2022)