The Platform

Afghan women waiting in food lines in 2012. (Eric Kanalstein)

Afghanistan’s future depends largely on the Taliban and all indications suggest they have no interest in governing responsibly.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Despite the radical shifts in Afghanistan’s social, economic, and political terrains, no country or international organization has yet acknowledged the Taliban government. This analysis provides a look at the Afghan government’s gains, disappointments, and what the future may hold.

On the second anniversary of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, one can observe a nation teetering on the brink. While the current situation shows some improvement, the people of Afghanistan largely remain disillusioned with the Taliban regime.

Many Western nations, including the United States, closed their diplomatic missions in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. They have steadfastly refused to recognize the Taliban government, now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The Taliban’s resolve to host organizations committed to global terrorism remains undeterred. Despite an official ban, the current government is expected to continue tolerating the production and trafficking of heroin, a major global supply. These very policies are at the core of international criticism, leading to sanctions and the denial of political recognition.

China’s role in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal has been guided by its own interests. From pledging $31 million in emergency aid to significant investments in mining, China has also actively sought international support for Afghanistan’s rebuilding, often in collaboration with Pakistan. Its strong reaction to the crisis, blaming the U.S. for leaving Afghanistan in turmoil, resonates throughout its diplomatic efforts.

India’s interests in Afghanistan have been notably impacted by the security, economic, and humanitarian vacuum left by the American withdrawal. The nation’s aspirations for a stable Afghanistan free from terrorist threats seem increasingly unattainable as the Taliban seek India’s assistance in rebuilding.

Tensions are also on the rise along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, a historic supporter of the Taliban. The renewed empowerment of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has resulted in increased violence, while skirmishes along the disputed border have become more frequent. Pakistan’s own policy of supporting jihadist forces now stirs up internal religious fervor.

Iran’s relationship with the Taliban, dating back to the 1990s, is multifaceted and complex. From concerns over border clashes and the management of the Helmand River to strategic interests in Afghanistan’s geography, Iran’s dealings with Afghanistan are fraught with both challenge and opportunity.

In contrast, ISIS-K, though a Sunni Islamist extremist group like the Taliban, remains in direct conflict with them. Their ongoing battle across Afghanistan underscores the complexities of regional extremist movements and the persistent threat to global security.

Two years after their return, the Taliban’s reign reflects echoes of their brutal rule in the late 1990s. Economic despair and food insecurity impact over 90% of the population. However, some strides have been made, such as increased primary school attendance and a boost to the mining sector.

For women, the strict imposition of Sharia law has meant a drastic curtailing of their fundamental rights. The Taliban’s prohibitions extend to education, work, and public spaces, igniting public dissatisfaction and concern for the future of women and minorities.

As the world watches, fears linger that Afghanistan could revert to an era of lawlessness under Taliban rule. The involvement of major powers has only intensified the conflict, leading some to argue that their interference has had long-lasting negative impacts on Afghanistan.

As the Taliban celebrate two years back in power, international hopes for a just rule and respect for human rights seem optimistic at best. Only the Taliban’s future actions will determine Afghanistan’s fate, but the expectations may be set far too high. The people of Afghanistan, and indeed the world, watch with bated breath, knowing that the road ahead remains uncertain and fraught with peril.

Tamanna Islam is currently studying International Relations at the University of Dhaka. Tamanna's professional goal is to be a political analyst. She has written many articles for various international and domestic news websites.