Hello…Taliban…can you hear us?

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during a meeting in Kabul with the Taliban leadership

This article is the second part of the previous editorial “The Afghanistan of the Taliban and Us“. The latter highlighted some of the reasons for Western failure in that country, sanctioned by the Taliban’s victory.

This editorial also invited us to anticipate the challenges common to the Afghanistan of the Taliban as well as to the community of Nation States at the UN: humanitarian and economic challenges, human rights and representativeness challenges, terrorism challenges, drug challenges and geopolitical challenges.

Today, it is a question of challenging the Taliban. What do you really want? Your representative in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, recently said “Nobody has an interest in weakening Afghanistan”. But would it be in the Taliban’s interest to isolate themselves, both in the Afghan diversity and on the international scene?

Until recently, three-quarters of the previous Afghan government’s resources came from international aid. This aid has abruptly stopped with the freezing of assets and the interruption of all development aid in a poor country affected by drought and the consequences of a conflict lasting more than 40 years! How do the Taliban intend to deal with this major crisis and assume politically the responsibilities they have taken up by arms?

Afghanistan on the slope of economic collapse and humanitarian catastrophe.

Afghanistan is engaged on the slope of an announced economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe which threatens to the point that it seems indecent to speak about this country while forgetting this drama which affects all the population and particularly, according to the United Nations, 18 million men, women and children, families, who do not eat enough and who are threatened with famine whereas the always rigorous winter approaches.

A family eats a meal at their home in Mazar, Afghanistan, September 15, 2021. The World Food Program is helping displaced people and vulnerable families with food and cash. @WFP/Arete

The health system is on the verge of collapse. Already 2,000 health facilities have closed due to lack of salaries for 23,000 health workers, including 7,000 women, according to Alexander Matheou of the IFRC.

According to Richard Trenchaut of the FAO, the drought threatens the livelihoods of 7 million farmers and herders who are the backbone of the country’s economy. Seed distribution is urgently needed in October to enable the harvest of winter wheat.

According to the WFP and UNICEF, the situation of children is especially critical for half of the under-five children, that is to say 3.2 million girls and boys who are at risk of becoming rapidly victims of severe malnutrition.

Thus, during the recent meeting in Doha between the Taliban, the United States, the European Union and several member states including France, Great Britain and Germany, Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced an aid of 1 billion euros to “avoid a humanitarian disaster” and “a collapse of basic services”. France, through the voice of Jean-Yves Le Drian, had already announced an aid of 100 million euros on September 13. This is good because humanitarian aid is never negotiable in the name of humanity.

However, the Taliban in power must allow and facilitate access to this aid over the long term throughout the country, without restriction, and must ensure its security while respecting humanitarian principles, including the impartiality of aid and the freedom to assess, provide assistance and report on it.

All humanitarian aid involves assessments with populations to help the most vulnerable first. @Solidarités International

The Taliban should make clear official commitments on this issue and make them known. The humanitarian and economic crisis could result in the forced exile of countless Afghans.

Development assistance will certainly be subject to political considerations and the existence of competent public services. In the meantime, I would suggest an immediate and large-scale expansion of humanitarian programs such as the Emergency Development Nexus, which would provide massive support for agriculture, livestock, and basic services in all areas throughout the country.

The cornerstone of human rights and representation.

To counter the women’s demonstrations in Kabul, the Taliban had the idea of organizing a parody of a counter-demonstration of Taliban women in an amphitheater where they were all dressed in the same sinister gray burqa as a uniform. As an Afghan friend told me, this type of women’s clothing had never been seen before in Afghanistan. It was a sinister and disturbing comedy.

Here’s a question for the Taliban. In your country, aren’t the women Afghan, Muslim, mothers of your children. Haven’t women also suffered the devastating effects of war for more than 40 years, multiple deprivations while feeding numerous children. Many of them have lost their husbands in the war and have had to face adversity.

They are entitled to respect and consideration. And Afghanistan has a great need for women to care for women especially. Afghanistan has a great need for them to educate girls in order to participate actively in the indispensable development of a country among the poorest in the world.

The Taliban have made many declarations and promises that must now be kept in order to be credible. Let us also be realistic. In a predominantly rural country, the work of women, as well as men, is primarily in the fields to produce the daily bread.

Finally, despite the deep divisions inherent in the war, the Taliban want to seek national unity and therefore ensure that diversity, especially ethnic diversity, is represented. Is this not the condition for a lasting civil peace?

The war against terrorism and against drugs.

The attacks of Daech or Islamic State in Khorassan on August 30 at Kabul airport, then on October 8 in Kunduz and on October 15 in Kandahar against Shiite mosques at prayer time call into question the ability of the Taliban to keep their main promise, that of security. Other attacks could still take place.

Afghanistan, Suicide bombers attack claimed by Daech against the Shiite Fatemieh mosque in Kandahar at prayer time on October 15 killing more than 40 people and injuring 70. @UPI / Alamy Image Bank

While the Taliban are fighting Daech in Afghanistan, there does not seem to be a strong and unequivocal condemnation of this terrorism that has already killed 600 Afghans. If the experts consider that the Taliban never had an international terrorist agenda, this asserted position would have a strong impact, so why wait? Similarly, the neutralization of Al-Qaeda, which caused Afghanistan’s misfortune after the destruction of the World Trade Center, is a matter of simple political realism and the country’s interest.

In 2020, opium production was 6300 tons in Afghanistan. @Davrik

A declaration of the decision to eradicate poppy, opium and heroin production through a broad program of international support for alternative crops would have a real impact. It could reflect the intention, despite the difficulties, to establish a virtuous, representative, accountable and credible state.

Preliminary conclusion.

What do the Taliban want? What can the Taliban do? It certainly takes time in this country, but it is from the beginning that a direction is given and decides for many the future.

The 6 challenges are there to illustrate the responsibilities of the Taliban:

  • Facilitate access and security for humanitarian relief wherever it is urgently needed in the country and support agriculture and livestock and essential public services.
  • Re-establish an administration capable of dealing with the economic crisis with competent and honest managers and experts.
  • Mobilize women, especially for health, education, the humanitarian and economic crisis and implement a policy of national reconciliation.
  • Unequivocally condemn and fight against terrorism.
  • Engage in poppy eradication and mobilize alternative production with international assistance.
  • Not to isolate itself geopolitically and, why not, to become once again a “free, neutral and non-aligned” country, an independent and stable buffer state for its neighbors.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN.

Let us conclude by quoting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “The world will pay a heavy price if it does not help Afghans overcome this crisis. Without food, without jobs, without protection of their rights, we will see more and more Afghans fleeing their homes in search of a better life. The flow of illegal drugs, criminal and terrorist networks will also likely increase. This will not only seriously affect Afghanistan, but also the region and the rest of the world.


Alain Boinet.

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