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Afghanistan Reboot- Part 2

In the first part of this two-part, detailed report on the withdrawal of the U.S and NATO troops from Afghanistan I talked about what did it cost US and its allies, more importantly what did it cost the Afghan people, the present scenario, the deteriorating situation of Afghan women and girls, and the rise of radical jihadist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the worst of all- the return of Taliban.

Ever since the troops have started returning the Taliban stronghold has only increased and now with almost all troops leaving Afghanistan the country is on the brink of civil war. Taliban claims to control over 60% of Afghanistan.

Recent plots after the announcement of withdrawal:

May 8th bombing-

The bombing of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school in Dasht-e-Barchi in West Kabul was deliberate, coordinated and planned for maximum impact. It targeted young Hazara girls in a neighbourhood where the majority of households live below the poverty line. Although no group claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban denied involvement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani laid blame on the militant group, saying it demonstrated they did not earnestly seek a political settlement to Afghanistan’s conflict.

In recent years, ISIS has claimed responsibility for these types of attacks on Hazaras.

The attack on girl students demonstrates the vulnerability of religious and ethnic minorities as Afghan security forces are spread thin in the fight against the Taliban while foreign troops withdraw. The increased violence in the country affects all Afghans’ lives, but especially women and children. Attacks on civilians demonstrate that the Taliban and other terrorist groups will continue to use violence to achieve their aims.

The attack has also led to increased fears of vulnerability among Hazaras as international forces withdraw. Hazaras — a Shia, Dari-speaking minority ethnic group in Afghanistan — have long been persecuted by the Taliban. Like other minority groups, Hazaras saw international troops as a buffer against militant attacks. But many now feel abandoned.

Forced recruitment of child soldiers-

Human Rights Watch research shows that the Taliban have been training and deploying children for various military operations including the production and planting of improvised explosive devices (IED). In Kunduz province, the Taliban have increasingly used madrasas, or Islamic religious schools, to provide military training to children between the ages of 13 and 17, many of whom have been deployed in combat.

The Taliban have sent letters to mosques instructing families with two or more male children — including boys as young as 10 — to send one of them to join them in the battlefield. People are fleeing their homes and villages, to prevent their sons from being recruited by Taliban.

Revenge killings-

Taliban forces in Afghanistan are targeting known critics for attack despite claiming that they have ordered their fighters to act with restraint.

Among recent cases, the Taliban executed a popular Kandahari comedian, Nazar Mohammad, known as Khasha Zwan, who posted routines that included songs and jokes on TikTok. He had reportedly also worked with the local police. On July 22, 2021, Taliban fighters abducted Khasha Zwan from his home in southern Kandahar, beat him, and then shot him multiple times. After a video of two men slapping and abusing Khasha Zwan appeared on social media, the Taliban admitted that two of their fighters had killed him.

Activists in Kandahar said that in villages surrounding the provincial capital, Taliban commanders have detained scores of people associated with the government or police.

In one case, on July 16, Taliban fighters abducted two men whose brothers had worked with NDS 03, a CIA-backed strike force that has been responsible for summary executions and other abuses, from their homes in the Qasam Pol area, Dand district. Their relatives say that they have not heard from the two men since.

Arrest of Afghan Journalists-

Even the government is trying to cover up their failures in every possible way. On July 26, four journalists – Mohib Obaidi, Sanaullah Siyam, Qudrat Sultani, and Bismillah Watandost – were arrested by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, after they returned from Spin Boldak district where they had been investigating reports that the Taliban had killed civilians. The Ministry of Interior has accused the journalists of spreading enemy propaganda.

The arrests follow growing pressure from Afghan officials to suppress critical reporting. On July 6, the government announced it was unlawful to broadcast news “against the national interest.” Government officials have also ordered the arrests of journalists reporting on civilian casualties from government operations.

How can the situation be improved on ground?

It is very important to understand that democracy and the inclusion of women in decision making is the only option Afghan people and government has.

To ensure women involvement in decision making and law bodies: The primary way that women and girls’ rights can be guaranteed is through a peace process that upholds the current constitution and the system of government that holds these rights to be central. Even if women are at the table in Istanbul and Doha, that presence will not have a lasting effect if the ultimate peace deal does not include women in the ratification process and guarantee participation in future governance.

- Any peace deal is ratified by a democratic process with women equally represented.

- Future elections are held according to principles of universal suffrage and equal rights for women to cast ballots and be elected.

- Constitutional rights are equal for all citizens without caveats for social norms.

The need of regional cooperation and support: Afghan government needs active support from its neighbouring countries- India, China, Russia and Iran. For a peace process to lead to sustainable peace, inclusivity must be taken seriously. Despite the United States withdrawing troops, it still has leverage it can exert to help ensure the hard-won gains it helped achieve are not lost. Applying that smartly in alignment with input from the greater Afghan society, including women, will help to preserve democratic rights in the peace process.

It is time for Afghan leaders and the Taliban to focus on a political settlement to their conflict. Moreover, their joint statement “reaffirm[ed] that any peace agreement must include protections for the rights of all Afghans, including women” and rejected any suggestion that an Islamic emirate return as the form of government for Afghanistan. If the United States, NATO allies and regional neighbours make it clear that future support to the Afghan state, which is essential for Afghanistan’s prosperity, is contingent on maintaining minimum standards of human, civil and political rights, it will significantly increase pressure on the Taliban to provide assurances that they do not seek a return to the disastrous policies of the 1990s.

"There are a lot of children in Afganistan, but little childhood." The international community has to come forward and lend a helping hand.


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