A Lack of Strategy for US Foreign Policy in Afghanistan Means an Uncertain Future for Both Countries

Since its withdrawal from the country in August 2021 and the return of the Taliban, the US has lacked a comprehensive foreign policy strategy for Afghanistan. This sentiment has been made especially clear in the meeting that State Department representatives attended in Doha to negotiate with Taliban representatives. This was the first known meeting between the US and Taliban officials following the Taliban military takeover of the government in Afghanistan. 

The official statement of the State Department indicated that the goal was to address key issues with senior Taliban representatives and technocratic professionals such as the humanitarian crisis, economic challenges, and the treatment of women. Additionally, the statement praised the Taliban for its work on issues such as terrorism, reduced inflation or prospering economy, and poppy production. 

Clearly, the statement does not fully represent the suffering of the Afghan people under the Taliban’s brutal leadership. It makes little mention of the repression of women’s rights, economic crises, and humanitarian challenges that the Taliban have been directly responsible for. Additionally, it misrepresents the growing terrorist threats in the region that has been caused, not helped, by the Taliban’s control. 

Not only does the statement fail to accurately represent the situation in Afghanistan and mark a concerning shift toward normalizing certain behavior and leadership of the Taliban, it also demonstrates a lack of US strategy for Afghanistan. 

Although the US does not recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, this meeting signals a growing desire to cooperate with them. Furthermore, it is unclear what tangible effects will result from these discussions in any of the various areas covered. These inconsistencies further threaten the stability of Afghanistan as women and girls struggle in their resistance against the Taliban oppression and terrorist groups thrive. 

Afghanistan is in need of global support for its humanitarian crisis, the preservation of its democracy, the upholding of basic human rights, and the ability to stand up to the Taliban and other terrorist and oppressive groups that treat women as less than second class citizens. When countries like the US, who still maintain an obligation to a country it abandoned, lack a clear strategy, it is the people in need who suffer the most. 

Going forward, it remains to be seen what the US’s priorities in Afghanistan will be. What is apparent, however, is that the US must not continue collaborating with the Taliban as it works toward developing a strategy for Afghanistan. Trusting the Taliban with any of the issues concerning our domestic and foreign interests, would amount to undermining our credibility and endangering our interests. Doing so will also further legitimize the Taliban regime and the horrors it has inflicted in Afghanistan.


State Department July/31/2023

Amnesty Denied for Prosecutors Marks a Growing Threat to Afghanistan’s Judicial System

In response to a recent claim by Taliban officials that there are no threats against prosecutors or judges in Afghanistan, the International Organization for Transitional Justice and Peace (ITJP) has released a statement outlining the very real threat that members of the justice system face. 

In the statement, ITJP disputes the claim made by the Taliban that the organization and its “Prosecutors for Prosecutors” campaign are “trying to facilitate the exit of personnel from Afghanistan and engaging in human trafficking.” It further cites credible reports and evidence indicating prosecutors being killed by the Taliban. In fact, according to ITJP’s data, 26 prosecutors have already been killed. 

The targeting of prosecutors, however, is not the only way that the Taliban has threatened the justice system in Afghanistan. In the two years since its rise to power, they have prevented women lawyers from practicing, abolished the Attorney General’s Office, denied many access to legal recourse and justice. The Taliban has also abolished the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association. 

Most significantly, the Taliban has gone back on its promise to provide amnesty for former government workers. As part of its attempt to rebrand from its initial regime and appear more lenient, the group promised not to target its former adversaries and those opposed to its leadership. However, it is clear today that these promises were empty. 

The Taliban’s control poses a threat to the stability of Afghan society. Not only is the Taliban dismantling the justice system, putting the Afghan people at risk, but they are also demonstrating their unwillingness to commit to a free and fair Afghanistan. The world must not stand by as the Taliban endanger Afghanistan and its future.  

Amu Tv August 07/31/2023; IJTP 07/31/2023; FMF 06/22/2023; FMF 07/26/2023; NYT

US officials and Taliban leaders engage in talks in Qatar amid mounting concerns over normalization of the Taliban 

Amidst a backdrop of heightened tensions and uncertainties, US officials and Taliban leaders met in Qatar for two days. In an announcement made by the head of its political office in Doha, the Taliban revealed that talks commenced between a Taliban delegation and US representatives on July 30. 

While engagement is deemed necessary, especially to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the timing of the meeting is pivotal, as the Taliban approaches the date of celebrating their victory and two years in power. The prospect of recognizing the Taliban has raised questions and concerns among Afghan women as well, who feel excluded from the decision making process regarding their future and the future of their country. For Afghan women, these discussions carry significant weight as it may shape their future and the future of their country. 

The talks between US officials and the Taliban covered a wide range of issues between the two countries, according to a statement of the Statement Department. For the Taliban, this would include the release of Afghanistan’s frozen funds, the lifting of sanctions, and the alleged violation of Afghanistan’s airspace by the US. For the US, the talks include discussion of humanitarian aid, methods of supporting economic stability, the release of detained US citizens currently held by the Taliban, and the dignified treatment of all Afghan nationals—including women. Included in these talks are technocrat experts, who could be relevant to the continued provision of aid. 

Experts have been considering the potential effects that this meeting and similar can have. Many are unsure if the discussions in Doha will yield fruitful results as it is unclear whether the Taliban delegation has the authority to act independently. Reports also indicate that the leadership in Kabul is obliged to consult and get approval from the Taliban leadership in Kandahar, which often holds stronger and more conservative views from those in Kabul. Furthermore, the lack of common ground between the two groups raises questions regarding what kind of agreement the two parties can reach.

Currently, the Taliban is not recognized by any country as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. In the two years since its rise to power, the Taliban has eliminated the human rights of women and girls, persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, plunged the country into an intense humanitarian crisis, enabled the resurgence of terrorist groups in the region, and inflicted harsh punishments for violations of its repressive rules.

These steps towards normalizing the regime, however, may signal a gradual acceptance of the Taliban—despite its illegitimate rise to power and the current violence the Taliban regime has inflicted throughout the country. By engaging in talks like these with the Taliban and negotiating on specific issues, the US and the international community are indicating an acceptance of the Taliban in power and disregarding the damage they have caused. 

With the future of the country and the Afghan people at stake, the US must not risk legitimizing the Taliban through its engagement. 

US State Dep. 07/31/2023; Amu TV 07/30/2023

The Taliban has reportedly agreed to relocate the TTP within its borders. Many fear a rise in ethnic tension and terrorism as a result.  

The Pakistani government has come to an agreement with the Taliban for the approximately 4,000 Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members along the border of the two countries to be relocated to northern Afghanistan. 

These militants form a distinct extremist group commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, created in 2007, that is considered an offshoot and ally of the Afghan Taliban. The two groups are ideologically similar, with the TTP providing support to the Taliban during its 2021 take-over, as well as ethnically similar, both of them being Pashtun. Their goal is to create an Islamic Emirate in Pakistan, which has prompted hundreds of attacks against the Pakistani government and security forces. 

The Pakistani government has long sought an agreement with the TTP through mediation. These attempts have historically been unsuccessful, however, until recently when a Taliban spokesman declared that residents of the historically porous border region would be relocated north. Some speculate that this agreement is the result of Pakistan directly approaching the Taliban with money in exchange for a reduction in the number of attacks.  

While this agreement may be a positive step for the Pakistani government, it has also ignited fears of greater instability due to a rise in ethnic tensions. In fact, a spokesman for the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan party stated that “tensions will increase especially between different ethnic groups if this continues.” Given ethnic singularity of both groups, many fear that ethnic minorities will suffer from this relocation.  

In addition to ethnic tension, there are concerns that this move will foster a growth in terrorism. Since the Taliban’s rise to power, the TTP has enjoyed a newfound access to sophisticated weaponry and strategic positioning. The relocation of its members within Afghanistan will only strengthen their strategic advantage, and previous concerns of TTP terrorist activities will be magnified. 

Ultimately, this agreement will create a growth in instability in an already volatile region. In a country affected by decades of war, famine, and other challenges, a rise in ethnic conflict and terrorism will put the Afghan population at even greater risk. 


Asia news 07/04/2023; VoA 07/08/2023; Combatting Terrorism Center 05/2023

Afghanistan’s Judicial System Takes Another Hit as the Taliban Abolishes the Attorney General’s Office

In a recent attack on Afghanistan’s judicial system, the Taliban has abolished the Attorney General’s Office. Instead, they have replaced it with the “Directorate of Supervision and Prosecution of Decrees and Orders” which is designed to ensure the implementation of the Taliban’s orders in public and private life. 

The provided explanation for this change was to avoid bureaucratic delays and streamline the judicial process. 

Under the new system, some of the previous duties of the Attorney General’s Office have been turned over to courts and intelligence services. Intelligence agencies can ensure the implementation of orders, and disputed court cases “will proceed through [their] own channels in whatever way things can be done best.” Key duties such as the supervision of discovery and investigation, however, have been removed. 

Many fear that this move will hinder the effectiveness of the justice system. Without a body like the Attorney General’s Office, there is little room for key oversight measures. 

The Taliban has already been known to persecute lawyers and judges from the previous Republic government and restrict the practice of female lawyers. Furthermore, their processes to ensure compliance with edicts and orders often include repression and violence. This decision therefore represents a continuation of their attempts to limit the rule of law through a restructuring of Afghanistan’s government. 


Tolonews 7/18/2023

Amid the health and economic crisis in Afghanistan, the Taliban refuses to help. Instead, blames the US and others.

Eid al-Adha is usually a time of celebration for Muslims around the world. In Afghanistan, however, people are struggling to afford basic necessities due to the intense economic crisis. After decades of conflict, natural disasters, and other economic challenges, poverty runs rampant throughout the country. As a result, many Afghans are struggling to find jobs to support themselves and their families. 

Without stable incomes, people cannot buy key items such as food and are experiencing intense famine. On average, 90% of household income in Afghanistan is spent on food. Furthermore, an estimate by the UN found that around half of the country’s population is “acutely food insecure” with six million on the brink of starvation. In particular, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and daily wage workers have been highly affected. 

In addition to the immediate challenges presented by such hunger, there are also long-term consequences. When people cannot buy items such as food, vendors whose income relies on selling to people cannot make money and thus face similar conditions. This cycle only further entrenches the country and its citizens in poverty. 

Afghans, especially women and girls struggle to access health services

Not only does this extreme poverty affect people’s ability to buy food, but it also affects their access to health services. With dwindling support from foreign donors, hospitals in Afghanistan are being overloaded. In particular, there has been a surge of patients who can no longer afford private doctors due to rising costs and reduced financial resources. Furthermore, restrictions on interactions between men and women have created practical concerns for the administration of health services and fears of potential backlash by Taliban leadership. 

The Taliban, however, deny the weakness of the health system and blame any of its shortcomings on the previous US presence. Therefore, the country’s conditions are worsened by the Taliban’s disregard for the everyday struggles that Afghans face. Despite seeing the suffering that Afghans experience, they refuse to provide support or acknowledge the hardship they have caused. 

Without substantive support, Afghanistan will remain in an economic crisis causing famine and health concerns. By continuing its current policies, the Taliban will only put the country at greater risk of such challenges. In the meantime, the Afghan people will continue to feel the consequences of such policies. 


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 06/28/2023; The Washington Post 06/28/2023

The Taliban Claims that Women Have a “Comfortable and Prosperous Life” in Afghanistan. Its Actions Say Otherwise. 

A recent message from the Supreme Leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, claimed that women in Afghanistan are leading “comfortable and prosperous” lives as a result of Taliban policies. Made public just prior to the upcoming Eid Al-Adha, one of the major Muslim holidays, the message states that necessary steps have been taken “for the betterment of women as half of society.”

Arguing that their policies protect women from “traditional oppressions,” such as forced marriages, and maintain their “Shariah rights,” the Taliban indicate their belief that their impact on the rights of women has been positive. The message also states that the “negative aspects” of the previous 20-year occupation related to women’s wearing the hijab and “misguidance” will end soon. 

Although Akhundzada claims that the policies of the Taliban have helped women in Afghanistan, the circumstances of women’s everyday lives indicate otherwise. Since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, they have issued over 100 edicts and nearly 60 of them specifically curtailing the rights and freedoms of women in all areas of life. 

In terms of education, women and girls have been banned from secondary education as well as from attending public and private universities. Women were also banned from appearing in movies and TV shows while women journalists were ordered to cover their faces on TV. Even their freedom of movement has been restricted as women are not allowed to leave their houses without a close male relative and many public spaces have become segregated by gender. These harsh edicts are enforced by inducing fear into the population through public displays of violence against those who violate them. 

This message also follows a report released by the UN stating that the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan amounts to gender persecution, a crime against humanity, and possibly gender apartheid. All evidence indicates, therefore, that Afghan women are suffering under the Taliban. 

Within the message, Akhundzada called for other countries to avoid interfering with Afghanistan’s domestic affairs. This message thus merely represents an attempt by the Taliban to evade criticism of their policies and minimize international attention towards their conduct. Framing their governance as having a positive impact on women would allow the international community to recognize their government, granting it legitimacy. 

For the sake of Afghan women, we cannot fall for this attempt. It has become increasingly necessary to recognize the mistreatment of women by the Taliban and call for non-recognition of their regime. The more that their actions are accepted, the more danger Afghan women face. Not recognizing the Taliban and remaining steadfast against their treatment of women will be critical to ensuring that such discrimination does not continue. 


AP 06/26/2023; UN 06/19/2023; FMF (Taliban Edicts) 

Afghan lawyers and judges are being persecuted by the Taliban. It threatens Afghan women, the justice system, and the rule of law.

The dangers facing Afghanistan’s judicial system began immediately after the Taliban takeover of the government in Afghanistan and has only been intensifying in the past nearly two years. 

In recent days, the threats and the persecution of the former judicial system employees have intensified even further, raising alarm among human rights organizations.

The Taliban’s blatant disregard for basic judicial rights and practices has also sparked concerns about the long-term implications on the country’s justice system now and post-Taliban. Because of the Taliban’s growing control, the basic functions of the justice system have collapsed, and a once improving and modern justice system does not exist anymore.  

The scope of these threats are widespread. For judges and prosecutors, particularly those who once prosecuted members of the Taliban, members of other criminal groups, and perpetrators of domestic violence, the threat to their safety is real. They are the Taliban’s first target, with instances of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and killing. A former military prosecutor, for example, was just arrested without explanation. According to UN estimates, “more than a dozen prosecutors, the majority men” have been killed by “unknown individuals in Kabul and other provinces. 

Similarly, many defense lawyers are unable to open their practices for fear of abuse from the government and Taliban judges. Many remain in hiding. 

Women lawyers in particular are feeling these effects as the Taliban has severely limited their involvement in the legal system and the practice of law. Early this year, the UN called Afghan women lawyers exclusion from the justice system “an act of brazen discrimination.” 

In response to the increasing restrictions, the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA), which has supported an increase in women lawyers, was relaunched in exile. Part of its efforts includes a Women’s Committee that seeks to support women lawyers through capacity-building workshops, programs, and evacuations of at-risk lawyers. 

Still, many women lawyers are unable to practice law safely. Soon after the Taliban took over, on November 22, 2021, the Taliban stripped AIBA of its independence and authority, closed the office, and the office is now under the Taliban Justice Ministry. AIBA is no longer an independent entity. 

This trend of continued persecution and harassment represents a growing barrier for the Afghan people to access justice, specifically for women, to achieve justice for the discrimination and violence they face. Not only does it eliminate the hard work and progress of women who became lawyers, but it also inhibits their financial independence by taking away opportunities for women to have their own source of income. Furthermore, it prevents women in the country from accessing lawyers who can provide support for their cases seeking justice for the mistreatment they face. 

More broadly, it represents a concerning growth in Taliban control over Afghan society and the power they have to make such fundamental changes. For women in particular, this growing control represents ongoing challenges to their most fundamental rights. 


Kabul Luftbrücke 06/19/2023; Hasht e Subh 06/21/2023; UN 01/20/2023; Jurist 06/19/2023; The Voice of European Lawyers 01/2023

UN Report Highlights Gender Apartheid against Afghan Women

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently released a report describing the challenges facing women and girls in Afghanistan as “gender apartheid” and that it should be called a “crime.” Co-authored by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, the report outlines the systemic discrimination that Afghan women face as well as their unwavering resilience in the face of adversity at the hands of the Taliban regime. 

The report is based on interviews with 79 Afghans, of whom 63 were inside Afghanistan, with a variety of backgrounds including journalists, lawyers, teachers, students, and businesswomen. The authors also relied on a survey from March 2023 of over 2000 Afghan women across 18 provinces as well as a focus group in 11 provinces. The report includes information gathered during a visit to Afghanistan by the Special Rapporteur and the Chair of the Working Group where they met with representatives of civil society, women’s groups, religious leaders, etc. 

Based on this widespread survey of the country, the findings of this report revealed that Afghan women are systematically denied basic human rights in crucial areas such as education, health services, free movement, and representation in public and political life. These restrictions have led to a surge in feelings of depression and isolation, and various forms of violence including domestic abuse. 

It is important to note that these deprivations predominantly stem from the Taliban’s policies and edicts issued daily. However, these edicts go beyond just regulating women, as many edicts are directed at punishing men for the behavior of women as well. Women’s rights advocates and policy experts have often expressed deep concern over the normalization of discrimination and violence against women within Afghan society and the undermining of their freedom and agency through such edicts.   

Gender Persecution – Crime Against Humanity

Together, the reports highlights, the various forms of discrimination that Afghan women face amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute. The report also maintains that gender apartheid is an accurate description of the situation facing Afghan women due to the institutionalized nature of this discrimination. This apartheid framing serves as a call to action for the international community to respond to this practice. 

Ultimately, the report concludes with a series of recommendations for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan and take concrete steps toward accountability. Some of these recommendations include creating a report on gender apartheid in Afghanistan, supporting funding for women-led organizations, and supporting those seeking justice in international courts. 

This report serves as a reminder of the importance of the imperative to stand in solidarity with Afghan women in the face of the egregious human rights violations. The threat to women’s liberties posed by the Taliban leadership represents one of the worst cases of gender discrimination in the world. It is incumbent upon the global community to heed the guidance outlined in this report and to commit to listening and supporting Afghan women.

UN – OHCHR 06/15/2023

Norway Invites Taliban Officials to the Oslo Forum – A Growing Normalization of the Taliban Means Growing Danger for Afghan Women

At the invitation of the Norwegian government, a delegation of three officials from the civil service of the Taliban government are currently in Norway, attending the Oslo Forum. The goal of the meeting, set to take place over three days, is to discuss the major challenges facing Afghanistan with “representatives from other countries and Afghan civil society.” 

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, the conference provides “a huge opportunity” to participate in dialogue that can resolve the country’s humanitarian crisis. 

While the intention may be to help the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, women’s rights activists argue that such a meeting will not help the precarious position of Afghan women. In particular, there has been growing scrutiny towards the decision to invite members of the government for fear of legitimizing Taliban control. Since this meeting comes at a time when the Taliban is seeking international recognition, the invitation to engage with other powerful players in negotiations would only solidify their influence.  

Normalizing the Taliban 

Despite Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt stating that the Taliban representatives from Afghanistan “are not from the political leadership of the Taliban,” others argue that these representatives are “second-level” Taliban leaders, holding significant positions within the Taliban heirarchy. In either case, the invitation extended to these representatives contributes to normalize the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and on the global stage. 

As explained by women’s rights activist Laila Bssim, meetings like the Oslo Forum “have not had and will not have a benefit for the people of Afghanistan, particularly for the women in Afghanistan who are deprived of all types of rights.” Instead, the greater international recognition of the Taliban that results from such meetings would reduce the leverage that the international community and Afghan women have to advocate for their rights. Losing such leverage risks increased restrictions on women’s rights and less support in their fight against such control. Furthermore, it would prevent greater criticism of the abuses they face to check back on such restrictions. 

A Grim Future for Afghan Women

Ultimately, the attendance of these representatives from Afghanistan to the Oslo Forum indicates a grim future for the rights of Afghan women. As many activists and Afghan women have indicated, it will be more important than ever to avoid normalizing relations with the Taliban in order to support the rights of Afghan women. 

While no country has officially recognized the Taliban government, over a dozen countries, including Qatar, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, Turkey, and the UAE  have welcomed the Taliban diplomats and handed over control of the Afghanistan embassies in their respective nations.


ToloNews 06/14/2023; Khaama 06/14/2023; UN

The Taliban Enforces Strict Ban on Music in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s religious police have issued an order to wedding hall owners in Kabul to refrain from playing music or engaging in activities that contradict their interpretation of Islamic teachings. Although this rule was announced verbally last year, it was not enforced strictly across the country. 

During their first regime from 1996-2001, the Taliban imposed a strict ban on music as well, going as far as regularly raiding weddings halls, events, and homes where music could be heard. With the announcement of the rule again, the Taliban religious police will once again scour events and homes to enforce a complete music ban in Afghanistan. 

The newly issued edict signals a greater commitment by the Taliban to the repressive policies in governing the country. Many artists and musicians have already fled Afghanistan for fear of their own safety, and this ruling indicates that such fears will persist, and the persecution of artists will continue. 

Before the music ban, the Taliban banned soap operas, Afghan production shows and movies, foreign produced shows and movies, and even demanded that women cover their faces while appearing on TV. 

The Taliban’s religious police have a history of curtailing the rights of women in Afghanistan. In 2022, for example, they displayed posters around Kabul mandating that women wear their preferred version of covering, including being fully covered from head to toe, alongside the image of a woman wearing a burqa. 

Many saw this move as a way to instill fear and maintain control by depriving women of their choices. This fear is compounded by the threat of beatings, arrests, and other forms of violence. 

The ban on music reflects a similar strategy to exert control over the Afghan people, indicating that the Taliban will continue to restrict and take away any freedom from the people of Afghanistan. Given that women have already been the target of such strict regulation, the threat to their rights will only grow under such circumstances.

UN experts argue that the experiences of Afghan women can be considered gender persecution, a crime against humanity. As the Taliban attempts to gain international legitimacy, it will become increasingly important to call out such flagrant violations of basic freedoms and human rights. Standing against such violations will be particularly important to support Afghan women who will continue to be targets of growing Taliban control. While it may be restrictions on music today, such policies by the Taliban can grow into an even greater threat to the human rights of Afghan women.


RFERL June 11, 2023; VoA January 7, 2022; UN-OHCHR 11, 25, 2022


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