August 17, 2021
-New York Post
Two days after sweeping into Kabul, the Taliban — known for barbaric acts across Afghanistan — on Tuesday declared an “amnesty” and urged women to join their government in an attempt by the insurgents to lure women into politics while posing as more moderate than that of their brutal predecessors.
But many Afghans remain skeptical, with older generations recalling the Taliban’s Islamist rule, which included severe restrictions on women as well as amputations and public executions before they were ousted by the US-led invasion after 9/11.
Many residents have stayed home since the Taliban seized Kabul and remain fearful after the takeover saw prisons emptied and armories looted.
Many women have expressed dread that the Western experiment to expand their rights and remake their nation would not survive the resurgent — and likely repressive — Taliban regime.
The promises of “amnesty” from Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, were the first comments on how the group might govern on a national level.
On Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price also urged the Taliban to form an “inclusive” government that had women in it — adding that the US would recognize the government if it followed reforms.
He cited a UN declaration calling for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities and the establishment, through inclusive negotiations, of a new government that is united, inclusive and representative — including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”
Price said Washington would recognize a new government as long as it “upholds rights, doesn’t harbor terrorists, and protects the rights of women and girls.”
The spokesman did not say how the Taliban could convince the US that they have reformed themselves in this manner.
Samangani’s remarks remained vague as the Taliban are still negotiating with political leaders of the country’s fallen government — and no formal handover deal has been announced.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims. They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law,” Samangani said, using the militants’ new name for Afghanistan.
Samangani, who added that “all sides should join” a government, didn’t describe exactly what he meant by Shariah — implying that people already knew the rules the Taliban expected them to follow.
It also was unclear what he meant by an “amnesty,” although other Taliban leaders have claimed they won’t seek revenge on those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign countries — despite some in Kabul alleging that the militants have compiled lists of people who cooperated with the government and are seeking them out door to door.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, cited both the Taliban’s vows and the fear of those under their new rule.
“Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being — again understandably, given past history — these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,” he said in a statement. “There have been many hard-won advances in human rights over the past two decades. The rights of all Afghans must be defended.”
Women in hijabs demonstrated briefly in Kabul, holding signs demanding the Taliban not “eliminate women” from public life.
Meanwhile, Kabul’s international airport reopened Tuesday to military evacuation flights under the watch of US troops.
All flights were suspended Monday when thousands of people rushed the airport, desperate to leave the country. In shocking scenes captured on video, some clung to a military plane as it took off and then fell to their deaths.
At least seven people died in the chaos, American officials said.
Flight-tracking data overnight showed a US military plane taking off for Qatar, home to the Central Command’s forward headquarters. A British military cargo plane also was flying to Kabul after taking off from Dubai. Other military aircraft remained in the air in the region.
The US Embassy in Kabul, now operating from the airport, is urging American citizens to register online for evacuations but not head to the airport before being contacted.
An embattled yet resolute President Biden on Monday said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw US troops — and acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” images unfolding in Kabul, but stopped short of addressing the botched withdrawal strategy that led to the chaos.
The commander-in-chief claimed he faced a choice between honoring a previously negotiated withdrawal agreement and sending thousands more troops back to begin a third decade of war.
“After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” Biden said from the White House after returning from Camp David.
US Ambassador Ross Wilson said he is still in the country with his staff to help US citizens and vulnerable Afghans, according to CNN.
“Our commitment to the Afghan people endures,” said Wilson, the current US charge d’affaires in Kabul.