Taliban 2.0

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    • Recently, it has been a year after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul. 

    Background

    • Civil war
      • The first time the Taliban took Kabul was in 1996.
      • Afghanistan was in ruins and much of its infrastructure was destroyed by a raging civil war.
    • Foreign powers
      • Over the last two decades, foreign powers including India helped rebuild roads, dams, government offices, hospitals, rural infrastructure, the economy, and education.
    • 2021
      • In 2021, the Taliban took over a readymade country. 
      • But administering a nation of 32 million requires capacity and finances which the Taliban are short on both.
      • Many wealthy people, and those of the middle class with means and education, including civil servants, have fled the country, not wishing to be part of the Taliban regime.
    • No recognition 
      • The international community has not yet recognised the regime formally, and sanctions, including travel bans on many Taliban, remain in place. 
      • Their access to international banking and finances are limited.

    Present Scenario of Taliban

    • Economy
      • The Taliban presented an annual budget based entirely on domestic revenue.
      • Afghanistan is the heart of Asia and countries in the region that want to trade with each other have to go through Afghanistan.
      • Most of Afghanistan’s revenues are now being raised through customs duties. 
        • It is also exporting coal to Pakistan.
      • They are also leasing out small mines to local investors.
      • Banks are functioning, except for international transfers. 
      • Schools and hospitals are open.
    • Security
      • They have restored peace apart from the Daesh or ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan province), which has carried out attacks in Kabul.
      • The killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a Kabul neighbourhood by the US has added to the Taliban’s insecurity.
    • Scrapped the constitution
      • The regime has scrapped the constitution promulgated by the previous Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

    Impacts 

    • No change towards civil society
      • There hasn’t been much change in the Taliban’s attitude towards civil society from the time they last ruled in Kabul. 
      • But outright brutalities, including public executions, have not been reported yet. 
      • A dress code has been prescribed for both men and women, but it is not strictly implemented.
    • Ban on the education of girls
      • The most draconian anti-people action by the Taliban so far has been to ban the education of girls beyond class 6 in school, and to make it difficult for women to work.
    • Extrajudicial killings
      • UN has reported 160 extrajudicial killings, 178 arbitrary detentions, 23 instances of incommunicado detentions, and 56 instances of torture and ill-treatment of former government and military officials.
      • Those of the previous regime who remain in the country live in hiding for fear of being tracked down and killed.
    • Hazaras and Tajiks
      • The minority communities that the Taliban have targeted such as the Hazaras and Tajiks feel more vulnerable than the majority Pashtun.
    • Poverty related issues  
      • Millions of Afghans have plunged into poverty as by the end of 2021, half of the nation’s population of nearly 38 million were living under the poverty line, according to a report by the United Nations.

    Role of International Community 

    • The UN’s humanitarian response has helped Afghanistan keep its head above water. 
      • Until the Taliban banned high school education for girls, the UN was paying teachers’ salaries. 
    • It was also ensuring that community doctors and other health workers were paid. The ICRC is financing the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul.  In the absence of international banking facilities, UN planes have flown in $1bn in hard cash, including to fund money transfers to the needy through partner agencies, which has helped to increase the circulation of money in the economy. Some INGOs are even using hawala, euphemistically calling the middlemen “money transfer agents”.

    India’s stand in the current situation

    • Friendship
      • Afghanistan is possibly the only country in South Asia where people spontaneously declare hand on heart that they love India.
    • Visa issue
      • People of Afghanistan are hurt that India shut its doors on them last year when they most needed its help.
    • Indian Embassy
      • The reopening of the Indian Embassy has given that hope legs, even though there is no indication from India yet that it is going to restart consular work, despite repeated declarations that India’s approach to Afghanistan is dictated by the people-to-people links between the countries, and a desire to assist Afghans in a dire humanitarian situation.
    • Food aid and medicines
      • India has been sending food aid and medicines to the country since 2021.
    • Strategic interests
      • India sees Afghanistan as vital for its strategic interests in the region, including access to Central Asia, and ensuring that Pakistan is not able to relocate India-focussed terror groups to Afghanistan.
    • Infrastructure projects
      • Taliban want India to complete the infra projects that it had left unfinished in the country.
        • From 2002 to 2021, India spent $4 billion in development assistance in Afghanistan, building high-visibility projects such as highways, hospitals, the parliament building, rural schools, and electricity transmission lines.
        • One of the projects that was left incomplete was the Shahtoot Dam to provide drinking water to 2 mn residents of Kabul.

    Way forward

    • Regime will not last long
      • Kabul which has witnessed repeated changes of rulers; there is expectation that this regime will not last either.
    • Another cycle of civil war
      • Reports of factionalism and the reported dissonance between the Haqqanis and the Kandahar core of the Taliban have fuelled speculation about the possibility of a breakdown and another cycle of civil war.
    • China factor
      • China’s primary concern is to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a launching pad for Uighur radicals in Xinjiang
      • With the US out and Russia, the other big player that was rooting for the Taliban preoccupied in Ukraine, China has been expanding its engagement with the regime.
      • Two sides are finalising mining operations in Aynak Logar, Afghanistan’s largest copper reserve for which China signed an agreement back in 2008.
      • There is an upcoming 650-acre China-Afghanistan industrial park at Pul-e-Charkhi outside Kabul. 

    Who are Taliban?

    • The Taliban, or “students” in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
    • It is a fundamentalist Islamic force that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until being toppled by U.S. forces in 2001, and is gaining strength as the American military withdraws. 
    • The group that sheltered Osama bin Laden as he planned the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America. 
    • They were removed from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces in 2001, but the group has gradually regained strength since and is seizing territory again.

    Source:IE