The path to stability in Afghanistan
WITH the fall of Kabul on 15th August, the Taliban are now the defacto rulers of Afghanistan.
Their military gains amid little or no resistance from the Afghan force has come as a surprise to the world including the USA. The Taliban might have seized power militarily but the way ahead is far stiffer.
Afghanistan, despite getting billions of dollars from the US and its allies, remains dependent on international aid. According to the World Bank, more than 40% of its GDP is international aid.
The state of people remains dismal due to extreme poverty, illiteracy and inadequate health care facilities.
For example, 47.3 per cent live below the national poverty line while around 90 per cent of people find it difficult to live on current income.
Similarly, the healthcare system is also underdeveloped. According to the statistics shared by Statista, the infant mortality rate in Afghanistan in 2021 is 106.75 making it the country with the worst mortality rate.
As a countermeasure to the Taliban offensives, the US has frozen the $9.5 billion Afghan Reserves in the US to make sure they do not get access to currency easily. Similarly, the IMF has also halted its $450 million aid because of the current situation.
Given the current circumstances, the Taliban cannot survive without international recognition.
Taking stock of the looming crisis, their brutal rule in the past, and to make their image better internationally the Taliban are posing as a changed entity.
In their bid to get international recognition, they have pledged general amnesty to all and promised better treatment of women including their participation in the government.
After twenty years of war, the ones who are at loss are the people of Afghanistan. For 20 years, Afghanistan lacked nation-building efforts.
As pointed out by Joe Biden, nation-building was never a US goal in Afghanistan. But now, the world must listen to the plight of the people of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic state where no single entity can rule and create peace.
An inclusive setup with due representation for all ethnic groups is the only solution. And, the formation of an inclusive government will be a litmus test of their claims. There should be an international consensus on the recognition of the Taliban.
And the decision should be mutual to make sure the world looks at Afghanistan from the same lens rather than being divided into two blocks.
International media, human rights organisations and world powers should monitor the new regime and its rule for a specific period before taking any decision.
The question of international recognition should only be considered if the Taliban regime remains committed to their claims of protection of human rights, better treatment of women and security of other states.
An inclusive government is indispensable not only for political stability but also for the stability of the state.
Because, if that does not happen there is a possibility of continuity of a proxy war. The underrepresented groups might be backed and strengthened by some states ultimately resulting in destabilisation.
The Taliban should realise that they no longer can rule the way they did in the past. The world has changed now. It is more connected through the internet and social media.
According to the data provided by Datareportal, there are 4.40 million social media and 8.64 million internet users in Afghanistan, therefore, their actions will be watched and judged all over the world.
The Taliban might have announced control on Panjshir but its resistance has proved that a civil war can erupt at any time if ethnic groups are not given due representation and treated with kindness.
Currently, the world is divided on the Afghanistan issue. Some states are ready to cooperate with the Taliban regime while some are sceptical about their promises. It is now on the Taliban to act wisely and show responsible behaviour in dealing with their apprehensions.
The last couple of weeks have revealed India’s discontent and uneasiness about the situation in Afghanistan.
India, which has exploited the Afghan soil for the last 20 years to destabilise Pakistan, would never want a stable government in Afghanistan.
And, if the Taliban leadership is unable to shape an inclusive government and deal with the resentments of all ethnic and religious groups, it will allow India to play its dual game in Afghanistan.
Having said that, the repatriation of refugees will also be a concern for the new government.
Their settlement and economic integration will be a tough task. But, for lasting peace and stability it is imperative to repatriate them.
To sum it up, the ultimate aim should be stability in Afghanistan as the path to stability in Afghanistan also leads to the stability of the entire region.
—The writer is a contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.