A Changed Taliban?

SINCE the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, the Islamic group has tried to send across the right signals to the world. The group was quick to make  promises about women’s rights and security. It also granted amnesty to enemies and promised that the people would be allowed to leave Afghanistan safely if they wanted to. The government staff has been asked to return to work. What is more, the Taliban even held a press conference. The spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group won’t allow Afghan soil to be used against any other country.

Initially, Taliban control of Afghanistan made tens of thousands of people try to flee Afghanistan to escape the Taliban rule expected. Many of these people who supported the US and the previous regime in Kabul feared retribution from the Taliban.

However, the situation is still unfolding in the war-scarred country and it is too early to predict what will happen in the days and weeks to come. Taliban is yet to give a formal shape to its government. And then it remains to be seen which country or countries will be the first to recognize it. Meanwhile China has said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran have also made diplomatic overtures.

Pakistan, which is regarded as the benefactor of Taliban, is also approaching the issue with some caution. Pakistan’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid has said that Pakistan’s cabinet will take a decision on recognition of the Taliban. On the other hand, the governments in the west, including the United States, are likely to take more time. The US has already frozen about $9.5 billion of the Afghan government’s reserves in US banks on Sunday after the Taliban seized Kabul. The Biden administration is allegedly contemplating other actions as well to pressure the Taliban. Washington has also stopped shipments of cash to Kabul as part of an effort to prevent a Taliban-led government from accessing money. The US wants the Taliban to behave responsibly and follow through on its promise not to allow Al Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan before it gives recognition to a Taliban-led government.

Be that as it may, the situation will certainly change for the good if the Taliban translate their promises on running an inclusive government into reality. And if it convinces the world that it has changed. But until that happens, the geopolitical shift that the Taliban victory has occasioned is likely to change the regional situation in unpredictable ways.

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