Afghanistan: Taliban Update

By Nupur Kudapkar and Adam Sarsfield 

Last year, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021; soon after their withdrawal, the Taliban took over. After fighting a twenty-year insurgency, the Taliban, a mostly Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist party, regained control of Afghanistan. Less than 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the previous government in 2001, the Taliban regrouped in Pakistan and began retaking territory. In spite of their promises to protect the rights of women and minority populations and grant amnesty to anyone who helped the United States in its efforts, the Taliban have enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Taliban have refused to give Afghan women security/economic opportunity, the people enough food, access to free speech and so much more as they have evolved from an insurgent force to a functioning administration.

The Taliban deprive women of everything, from their livelihoods to their identities. The future looks dark for the women and girls of Afghanistan, “‘I had many dreams, wanted to continue studying and working. I was thinking of doing my master’s. At the moment, they [the Taliban] don’t even allow girls to finish high school,’” said one woman who had worked in the government (Humans Rights Watch). Many women had been the family’s only or main source of income, but the majority lost their jobs as a result of Taliban regulations that limited women’s access to work. Only those employed in elementary education or healthcare could still find work, and most were not paid because of the economic downturn. The Taliban changed the curriculum to place a greater emphasis on Islamic subjects and prohibited women and girls from secondary and higher education. They imposed restrictions on what women must wear, how they could travel, sex-based employment discrimination, and even the type of cell phones they owned. They used inspections and intimidation to enforce these laws.

Amongst women losing their basic human rights, the entire country is facing famine. The UN World Food Program has repeatedly warned of escalating food shortages and the possibility of widespread hunger-related fatalities in Afghanistan in the upcoming months. Families are reportedly selling their goods and attempting an overland escape since they are short on food and money, according to the media. Afghans who are starving to death have spoken of their frantic attempts to buy or scrounge for food as well as the deaths of those who were unable to flee. Millions of dollars in lost revenue, rising prices, a liquidity crisis, and cash shortages have made it difficult for a large portion of the population to access food, water, shelter, and medical care since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Women have been the most negatively impacted by these factors.

Wide-ranging limits on free speech and the media have been enforced by the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which is already crushing dissent and criticism. The regulations are stifling media freedom in the nation despite the Taliban’s assurances that they would permit media outlets that “followed Islamic principles” to operate. Additionally, the security forces of the Taliban have unjustly imprisoned and assaulted many journalists. Numerous Afghan news reporters have left the country or gone into hiding, and many media institutions, particularly journalists outside of big towns, have completely shut down. Taliban leaders and militants have a history of using violence, threats, and intimidation against reporters. They are also accountable for several targeted murders of journalists. The Taliban’s obvious negligence towards their promises of equal rights under their control has led to many forms of resistance emerging.

The National Resistance Front (NRF), led by Ahmad Massoud, has been steadily creating a number of conflicts across the Northern and Western sides of Afghanistan. These attacks have caused the acting Defense Minister for the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, to relocate closer to the fights to take control of the Taliban’s reactionary force against the resistance forces. The NRF has become a real threat to the Taliban’s barbaric rule over Afghanistan. However, when asked for evidence of breaking through the Taliban ranks NRF leaders did not comment. The NRF is creating some form of resistance for the people to believe in however after almost 40 years of war there may be no hope left to give to the resistance fighters.

Afghanistan faces a huge humanitarian crisis; according to the U.N., 9 million people in the country are at risk of famine as of December 2021 and approximately 23 million people are suffering from severe hunger. Here are links to websites for some of the organizations that are operating in Afghanistan and trying to help the people there.