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Asia

Does the world care about victims of religious fanaticism?

After sulking for three months, the US wants a stable Afghanistan under the Taliban in the interests of international security

Does the world care about victims of religious fanaticism?

A Taliban member stands guard in front of the rubble of a suspected Islamic State hideout following an operation against Islamic State Khorasan, the local chapter of the jihadist group, in Kandahar on Nov. 15. (Photo: AFP)

Sooner rather than later, the US is coming to terms with the inevitable in Afghanistan — recognizing the Taliban.

The Delhi Declaration, authored by India, Russia, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on Nov. 10, was centered on radical Islam, the presence of its global proponent al-Qaeda and an uptick in attacks by Islamic State in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Tom West, the new US special representative for Afghanistan, arrived in Pakistan on Nov. 10 to hold talks with the Taliban. Before the Islamabad meeting, West hinted at normalizing ties with the Taliban. Under the stewardship of Islamabad, the “Troika Plus” comprising Russia, the US, China and Pakistan spelled out their concerns to the Taliban.

After sulking for nearly three months, the US administration wants a stable Afghanistan under the Taliban as it is in the best interests of regional and international security.

There is a long way to go before the international community recognizes the Taliban government in the landlocked country. Apart from the specter of terrorism, protecting women’s rights and issues related to borders and trade routes are serious concerns.

The Taliban have been keeping the international community guessing about the specifics of the new government they wish to establish in Afghanistan. After a staggering number of deaths and injuries in the strategic Central Asian country, one thing is certain: the neo-Taliban are planning to form a “government under God.”

However, the Sharia-swearing Taliban have explicitly rejected democracy, especially Westminster-type representative democracy, as their governing model

The new Talban may address some of the usual issues — the return of terrorism, human rights violations, loss of democracy and freedom of women — when they put in an Inclusive Islamic Governance System (IIGS) in the Muslim-majority country to bridge the gap between religion and the state.

Despite hinting at forming “an inclusive government,” as they call it, a lot remains unknown about the defiant Taliban’s scheme of things.

International recognition, which a nationalist and religious Taliban are desperately seeking, is being resisted by the international community despite the Taliban’s updated views on governance.

In a welcome shift and as part of the IIGS, the Taliban have declared a general amnesty, stating categorically that retribution is not part of their agenda.

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However, the Sharia-swearing Taliban have explicitly rejected democracy, especially Westminster-type representative democracy, as their governing model.

The world is waiting for the new Taliban to spell out the key tenets of the proposed IIGS and their notion of inclusion.  It is not still clear whether their guiding fine points of governance would be compatible with internationally treaties and norms on human rights and women’s rights.

In fact, the Taliban’s dislike for representative democracy also stems from the US/NATO application of the democratic system in Afghanistan during their 20-year occupation which proved a disaster for the country and its 38 million people.

When the US-installed puppet governments were in power, divisions among ethnic groups increased and election fraud became the order of the day. The governments installed in the name of democracy institutionalized corruption and were outright looters.

Besides, elected representative democracy is not working in many parts of the world and many Asian nations have become elected autocracies.

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic nation where majoritarian representative democracy runs the risk of keeping minorities outside legislative and administrative processes. Ties between ethnic minorities in Afghanistan are guided more by rivalry and confrontation than by mutual understanding and trust.

In their earlier avatar as rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban were notorious for their misogynist treatment of women, who were confined within the four walls of their homes, and scuttled any move to give them access to education and employment.

The Aug. 26 bombing at Kabul airport by Islamic State shows that the Taliban are facing rebellion and meddling from all sides

The neo-Taliban claim to have changed their attitude towards women. They have stated that women would be free to study and get jobs but “they would have to conduct themselves within the tenets of Sharia,” spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said.

But the new regime has yet to articulate the rights of women and how they are going to be upheld in the inclusive governing process under the Islamic system the Taliban are planning.

The country’s cash-strapped economy is in meltdown. More than 50 percent of people live in poverty and the international community’s refusal to part with Afghanistan’s dollar reserves has rubbed salt into the wound.

The Aug. 26 bombing at Kabul airport by Islamic State shows that the Taliban are facing rebellion and meddling from all sides.

Worst of all, the Taliban neither have the time nor the experience and resources to implement their inclusive government’s agenda to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a pariah state yet again.

After capturing Kabul on Aug. 15, the Taliban conducted their first face-to-face talks with a US-European Union delegation in Qatar on Oct. 12 and managed to get 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) as aid.

At the Qatar meeting and at the G20 conference in Italy on Oct. 12, the message was loud and clear: the world is ready to work with the Taliban but on the condition that the country should not become a breeding ground for militants and terrorists.

The EU is worried about the prospect of an exodus of refugees trying to enter the 27-member bloc, as happened when Syrian refugees fled their country's war in 2015

At the G20 summit, the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the aid is meant "to avert a major humanitarian and socioeconomic collapse."

The money will be routed through international organizations as direct support for the Afghan people.

The EU is worried about the prospect of an exodus of refugees trying to enter the 27-member bloc, as happened when Syrian refugees fled their country's war in 2015.

But at the virtual summit in Italy, US President Joe Biden disclosed the biggest threat lurking behind the mountainous regions of the landlocked country — Islamic State Khorasan — an offshoot of Islamic State in the region.

Whether the Taliban will be able to rein in the extremist group is not clear. However, what is abundantly clear is the absence of a credible opposition to the Taliban.

The world is now getting ready to live with the Taliban and their long white pajamas and black turbans. Is not religious fanaticism insignificant before political compulsions?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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