The political leader of the Taliban, Abdul Ghani Baradar, has stated that women and religious minorities will be given rights in accordance with the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic Law and attacks will not be carried out abroad. Abdul Ghani Baradar and other key leaders have been negotiating and discussing a future constitution and changes to political settlements within Afghanistan.
While Abdul Ghani Baradar appears to be the current figurehead completing political tasks and communicating with the United States, the Taliban do not currently have an announced leader and Baradar’s position is likely temporary. On the 24th of August, Abdul Ghani Baradar gave an interview and described the withdrawal of the United States and its ally’s soldiers― “in the best interests of the American people… Afghanistan will get rid of the presence of foreign forces.”
The Taliban has been attempting to reverse the extremist imagery it is associated with and adopt a less extreme image. However, these attempts have been met with skepticism, as early reports of growing repression and violence at Kabul airport undermined these efforts. In the past, the group imposed an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam onto the diverse population and barred women from attending school and being employed. Another of the Taliban’s senior figures, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated that while women would be allowed education and careers, it would align with Sharia, the Islamic religious law. He outlined that working women should stay at home until Taliban fighters have been trained on how to approach and speak with them. Female school teachers and employed women have reported harassment by Taliban fighters.
Women in the Takhar province have reported to the VOA news agency, that there are new restrictions concerning how they dress and work, including adorning a chadari (full-body covering). The Taliban have also already ordered that male and female students be separated and the education curriculum be changed―removing cultural and sports-related subjects and added more Islamist teachings.
There are significant indicators that distinguish how the Taliban might rule, the groups’ willingness to power-share in a government, the treatment of women, and their degree of proactive behavior in distributing aid. The Taliban’s history is not the only thing that opposes their promises, searching for individuals to arrest and violent crackdowns on protests do not signify a change in belief or rule. The Taliban may have to work with members of the disposed democratically elected government in order to enforce the amnesty policy they claim to support.
There is the possibility of distribution of power, as there has been some level of outreach to former President Hamid Karzai and former Afghan peace-delegation leader, Abdullah Abdullah to be mediators. Another likely indicator will be how successful the Taliban will be in responding and monitoring the emerging food and water scarcity crisis in Afghanistan. Foreign governments and the NGO (DEFINE) have been removing aid as to not empower the Taliban, which leaves the Taliban to handle the distribution of necessities while navigating a growing economic crisis and a potential severe drought. Even before the drought, estimates from the US Agency for International Development in 2020 found that 8.2 million Afghans need emergency food assistance, and 11 million can be classified as food-insecure. Some level of international legitimacy is needed in order to gain access to the aid that the state depends on.
The Taliban must decide as international aid is diverted if they intend to pursue pragmatism and their commitment to amnesty in governance, aid, and women’s rights will be the indicators of their decisions. The international focus should be placed on accepting Afghan refugees and for remaining U.S. troops to aid in the evacuation of as many as possible while communication channels remain open to allow the Taliban the opportunity to act on their promises while still not expecting their fruition to come.