Afghanistan has fallen into the hands of Taliban once more. We could argue who is at fault that this has happened. Was it Biden’s poor assessment of the situation, the Afghan government and army’s ineptitude, or was it the pervasive corruption that has allowed the swift and dizzying speed the country fell into the rugged hands of terrorists. Investigating and analyzing the answers to these questions is best considered in the future. Right now, Afghanistan has fallen and Taliban has become its de facto ruler. Speculation will not change the shuddering reality.
Twenty years ago in a crowded news conference President Bush declared that the “Taliban regime is coming to an end,” and in response to the cheering applause he added, “yet our responsibility to the people of Afghanistan have not ended. We work for a new era of human rights and human dignity in that country.”
The previous fall of the Taliban ushered hope for Afghans. Hope for their country, hope for prosperity, hope for a brighter future. The promised human rights and human dignity were the foundations that Afghans would build their future upon. This foundation was to be safeguarded by the Americans by an administration that was not simply interested in eradicating the threat of Taliban as a terrorist organization, but also maintaining the wellbeing of individual Afghans. This was the promise, and a dream.
Unfortunately this dream turned into a nightmare as any whisper there had been for a future utopia was thwarted when Taliban seized Kabul and convened in the presidential palace to declare an Islamic emirate.
The scenes from Afghanistan are horrid and telling, but none as telling as the viral picture of a man painting over a picture of a bride on a beauty salon in Kabul. This act of covering over the image of a woman is a prelude of what’s to come. Women will be concealed from now. Seeing them or hearing will suddenly become taboo.
Taliban issued a statement that it will allow women to work and pursue an education on the condition that they are veiled. It announced this before it entered Kabul, when the gunmen were still on the peripheries of the city.
After cementing its presence as the in situ government, women who wear the veil are now immediately considered tempting, so they will need to cover some more, and steadily until they are completely concealed inside the homes.
The legal age of marriage will be lowered to below 15, which was the existing minimum age. Education will be based on Taliban’s interpretation of “Islamic teachings,” which will inevitably glorify – in Taliban members eyes - militant freedom fighting, but is in fact simply pure terrorism.
This is for the boys.
The girls can expect a life of drudgery. They are inherently tempting to men, so must now stay in the background, covered, silent and most importantly afraid. These are a few examples of Taliban’s philosophy of human rights and human dignity.
How can the departure of American troops after 20 years propel Afghanistan into a state of absolute chaos, and only for a terrorist organization to reemerge triumphant? The answer is knowledge. Taliban knew the country; exploited the corruption of the ruling elite, and has always known that the Americans would depart one day.
As soon as the Americans left it shook down an entire country and has taken it hostage it a matter of a few weeks.
The Americans trained and equipped the Afghan army and police forces to defend their own country, some might say, and this is indeed true, funding Afghanistan to the tune of one trillion dollars.
But, Taliban also knew that when it came to benefitting from American taxpayers, it could retain the military hardware while disposing of the personnel. The Americans threw money at problems in Afghanistan without any true knowledge of the root cause of those problems.
Over ten years ago I met a young teacher from Afghanistan. He expressed his dismay that his country was infamous for only two things: drugs and Taliban. He told me about his hopes for improving education in his country. About how young girls want to go to schools, but they can’t because the roads to the nearest schools are controlled by Taliban. They put much endeavor to create safe paths for them to bypass the terrorists and get to school.
I think about this young man, and about those little girls too and I ask myself: how will they get to school now?