the devastating earthquake that yesterday devastated the East of Afghanistan has killed at least a thousand people. This earthquake, the worst in the last two decades, is a real challenge for the Taliban, who seized power by force ten months ago.
In full international isolation, we asked the expert on Afghanistan Robert Crews about this terrible earthquake and the management of the taliban. Crews, professor of history at Stanford University, recalls that fundamentalists “can monitor and repress. But they have little experience or real interest in humanitarian aid or in rebuilding the affected areas.”
-Ten months later, what have been the main challenges for the Taliban authorities?
The Taliban’s first priority has been monopolize political power. For them, this means, above all, stifling all alternative political actors and crushing dissent. His next major commitment has been to establish a political order based on their interpretation of Islam. To date, this means dismantling what was until recently a vibrant and pluralistic media landscape. It also supposes put women back, as the Taliban wants, “in their place”, excluding them from education and most forms of employment. Teenage girls can no longer go to school. In recent weeks, the Taliban have also imposed a most restrictive veil and have taken measures to limit the mobility of women.
Another priority has been gaining international recognition, which the Taliban hope will bolster their power. The results have been mixed. No foreign country has offered formal recognition. However, in practice, almost all of Afghanistan’s neighbors – as well as the Gulf countries and Russia – have started meeting with the Taliban to pursue their own interests. The country is bankruptwhich is why the Taliban are desperate to find international sponsors to offer them financial support for their political project.
-With more than 1,000 Afghans dead, will this rescue operation be a big test for the Taliban regime?
The Taliban are a clerical and military movement. They have no capacity for this type of crisis. This tragedy illustrates the movement’s inability to act as a state. They can certainly monitor and suppress. But they have little experience or real interest in humanitarian aid or in rebuilding the affected areas.
-After the capture of the country in August, much of the international humanitarian aid was interrupted due to Western sanctions. How can the Taliban authorities try to win back some international allies or at least some international aid?
The Taliban defend the apartheid of genre. They have also attacked communities, specifically the Hazaras and the Tajiks, because of their ethnic and religious differences. His intransigence in these aspects of his political program has hindered international cooperation. That said, many NGOs will try to work around the Taliban to help people affected by the earthquake. As many Afghan observers have pointed out, it is noteworthy that Paktika province (where most of the casualties occurred) has been neglected for a long time by the governments in Kabul and by international donors. Therefore, this tragedy is also a reflection of the failures of the international community in Afghanistan since 2001.
-Who are now the main allies of the Taliban?
Definitely, Pakistan has been the ally whose support has been essential for the return of the Taliban to power. But now other regional powers seem resigned to having the Taliban on their side. They were mostly glad the Americans left. Now they are content to reach some agreement with the Taliban on a range of regional issues, from refugees and opium to mining and water. Human rights are not going to be an impediment, unfortunately.