The Platform

A fruit seller in the Afghan capital.

All signs point to the Taliban wanting to succeed in running Afghanistan. But for that to happen, the group needs to reconsider its core philosophies.

Afghanistan, the renowned “graveyard of empires,” was once beautiful, and safe. Decades of instability and corruption allowed the Taliban to govern the country until 2001 when they were driven from power by the United States. Given their intent to rule, the Taliban stormed back to power following the collapse of the corrupt Western-backed Afghan government.

But ruling for more than a year now, they have failed to meet any of the promises they pledged. Any hopes of change have quickly evaporated as the Taliban seek to govern through sheer brutality.

After their first infamous reign, the Taliban made various public commitments to protect and promote human rights. Whether unable or unwilling to keep that commitment, the human rights environment in the country is untenable. The Taliban have broken multiple pledges to respect human rights and women’s rights since assuming power.

The Taliban have barred women from attending school and working. Afghan women continue to be subjected to multiple forms of gender-based violence. A recent suicide bombing targeting a girl’s school killed and wounded dozens. Most importantly, the Taliban have failed to ensure the safety of women. Without significant progress, the Afghan people continue to suffer.

In the Doha Agreement, the Taliban pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists who could threaten the West. A core point of the troop withdrawal deal was that the Taliban would not allow militant groups to operate out of Afghanistan. But the presence of Ayman al-Zawahiri indicates that the Taliban continue to prioritize their relationship with al-Qaida. The Taliban are also unwilling to reverse their alliance with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Another promise by the Taliban was a general amnesty for Afghans who fought alongside the United States and other Western forces. However, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has recorded at least 160 extrajudicial killings, 178 arbitrary arrests, 23 incommunicado arrests, and 56 cases of torture of former government and security officials between August 15, 2021, and June 15, 2022. No one dares openly challenge the Taliban, but discontent is quietly growing among Afghans.

After the Taliban assumed power, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We are assuring our countrymen and women and the international community that we will end the narcotics industry” as Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer and exporter of heroin and opium. And despite their claims to the contrary, the United Nations says the illicit drugs industry has been one of the biggest sources of revenue for the Taliban, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Taliban have tried to reassure foreign governments that their embassies, offices, and personnel are safe, but this promise was shattered by a suicide bombing in front of the Russian embassy that killed two personnel. This attack broke the trust of foreign countries as safety is still not ensured by the Taliban.

The failure of the Taliban to meet its commitments to an inclusive government, the rights of women and girls, and its relationship with militant groups and terrorist networks, has meant that no country has awarded its de facto government full diplomatic recognition. These mounting stresses will worsen divisions and the Taliban are ill-equipped to manage these overlapping crises.

Since assuming power, the Taliban exaggerated that they are a changed beast. Soon after taking over, they returned to decade-old laws. They have prioritized their religious and ideological agenda over the economy and the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan ranks first on the list of unhappiest countries in terms of physical pain, mental stress, and mental disorders triggered by poverty and unemployment. As for now, the Taliban need to change to fulfill the promises they made to create a better Afghanistan.

Broken promises and false assurances are causing massive despair in Afghanistan. But it is too early to predict the future of the country. Countries that are concerned simply cannot expect the Taliban to achieve what others failed to do in the country for over two decades. A stable and viable Afghanistan is in the best interest of all Afghans, the region, and the world. Most Afghans would prefer stability and good governance and could give the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan a second chance.

Akib Rahman Shanto is an independent security studies analyst. Akib holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and a Master's degree in Global Security Studies from the University of Dhaka.