In case you haven’t noticed, Afghanistan has fallen into the hands of the Taliban, and everyone has lost their marbles. Former President Trump is inviting refugees, the #Decolonize academics are now proponents of the Empire of Inclusivity, adherents of America First are suddenly claiming that “we should have never left,” and an Islamist military organization has vowed to protect women.
Yes, last Tuesday, the Taliban promised to respect women’s rights, forgive those who aided the United States, and ensure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist haven. The same Taliban that believes that, in the words of one of their spokesmen, “the face of a woman is a source of corruption” is not only seeking to centralize power; they are materializing a media blitz to alter their image in pursuit of legitimacy.
The Taliban’s skilled spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid emerged from the shadows August 16 in his first face-to-face news conference. The spokesman who has remained a faceless converser for more than a decade shocked the media world with his Ghandi-esque discourse. Remember the bloodthirsty, al-Qaida-supporting ethnic cleansers the United States spent more than $2 trillion and 20 years fighting? Now, their leader is reassuring us that they “don’t want any internal or external enemies.”
It is no secret that for the West, the ideology espoused by the Taliban is contemptible, but it is also true that for many in this side of the world, avoiding international conflict is desirable. Therefore, when longtime enemies masquerade themselves and say pretty words, many are inclined to believe them.
So, it comes as no surprise that CNN reporter Clarissa Ward observed that Taliban fighters are “chanting ‘Death to America’ but they seem friendly at the same time,” and that BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson claimed that “Zabihullah Mujahid is a relatively moderate, pleasant man.”
But the ethos shared outwardly by the Taliban differs from their true intentions.
The same day that Mujahid promised the West that women would be respected, the Taliban reportedly shot and killed a woman in Afghanistan for refusing to wear a burqa.
Additionally, according to Najla Ayoubi, an exiled activist and former Afghan judge, a woman was “put on fire because she was accused of bad cooking for Taliban fighters.” And she also told Sky News that in the last weeks, many young women are “being shipped into neighbouring countries in coffins to be used as sex slaves.”
Other reports include militants going door-to-door kidnapping and “marrying” young girls, women being told that they cannot leave home by themselves, a female student claiming she might have to kill herself if soldiers knock on her door, and the gruesome execution of a 21-year-old who wore “tight clothes.”
The Taliban’s promises have failed to transform into deeds. But what can the United States and the international community do to stop this? Not much without military intervention, and such is reasonably opposed by Americans who want to prioritize national well-being. The paradox of wanting what is best for your country and striving to be the most compassionate country in the world? Talk to me about it.
In a Morning Consult survey conducted the day after the Taliban took Kabul in their Operation Conquest, 49 percent of voters agreed with Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, which is down by 20 percentage points since mid-April.
These polls might bring a smile to a neocon’s face. But if tensions de-escalate and the bases of America’s major parties remain anti-war, running campaigns on invading Afghanistan to protect women’s rights is political suicide. And this is why presidential hopefuls have shied away from critiquing the substance of Biden’s decision while bashing the manner in which it was carried out.
Dolefully, the future of women in Afghanistan seems bleak, and political trends in the West only confirm that major attempts to ease oppression lie in the hands of Afghanistan’s opposition. But with the former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani escaping the country with $170 million and the Taliban seizing potent American military equipment, not much can be done without another war. Realistically, all that is left is hope, and such is rapidly dying.