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The impossible truth about Afghanistan Sanctioning the Taliban isn't working

Liza Anvary, an Afghan refugee (Ximena Borrazas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Liza Anvary, an Afghan refugee (Ximena Borrazas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)


July 28, 2023   6 mins

In “The Impossible Fact”, the 20th-century German poet Christian Morgenstern tells the story of an academic who undergoes a traumatising experience. He staggers home, wraps damp cloths around his forehead and collapses into his armchair to process what has happened. In the end, he comforts himself by concluding that he must have imagined the whole thing, because if something “shouldn’t be true, it can’t be true”.

To many in the West, an Afghanistan that flourishes under the Taliban, or even one that survives, cannot possibly be true. Under their rule, the country can only be a place of unremitting failure and misery. The decision of Tobias Ellwood, then, as chair of the UK’s defence select committee, to post a video praising the Taliban for improving safety in Afghanistan was never going to find a warm reception.

In 2021, the UN issued a desperate warning about an impending disastrous famine in Afghanistan. The Taliban takeover and the exodus of international NGOs, they said, had caused a collapse in food supplies. They projected one million children were likely to die in the coming winter. And yet, winter came and passed without a famine and without mass deaths. Did the UN’s experts take that as a prompt to review their metrics? Not at all. Instead, they repeated the prediction for the next winter, and were wrong again. Afghanistan is an agricultural country with centuries-long experience in handling scarcity; accustomed to harsh winters and isolation, they knew what to do.

From the moment the Taliban seized Kabul in August 2021, analysts have been confidently predicting the imminent collapse of the Afghan economy. It’s not an unreasonable expectation. The nation’s financial reserves remain frozen. Sanctions have closed the door on foreign investment and business. The Central Bank is unable to access its funds, which are stuck in American and European banks. Not one country has recognised the Taliban government, and several of its key officials are on terrorist no-fly lists.

Nor do the Taliban have any of the requisite skills for governance. Their leadership consists of eccentric elderly religious figures and regional paramilitary commanders. The bulk of the Taliban are young, uneducated men who have never done anything but fight and have never lived anywhere but in remote rural areas. Anyone with education and professional skills decamped to the West. It could only be a matter of months before the ramshackle edifice collapsed. But to everyone’s incredulous amazement, including my own, Taliban Afghanistan lives on.

Ellwood was obviously naïve in his presentation — it’s never a good look for a Government official to be retweeted by the Taliban — but the crux of his message is largely accurate. Afghanistan’s drug trade has been almost eradicated, as confirmed by international watchdog agencies and satellite surveillance. The borders are mostly secure, and the Taliban have built good cooperation with neighbouring border police such as that of Uzbekistan. Even the International Crisis Group, no fan of the Taliban, has acknowledged that security across the country has improved, with the exception of pockets of anti-Taliban extremists.

Elsewhere, the economy is better than it was under the Western-installed and Western-funded governments, the latter having required near total international subsidy while the Taliban are managing not just on their own, but under sanctions. Improved security also means improved trade routes and revitalised agriculture. As the US Institute of Peace, another critic of the Taliban, notes: “the Taliban have taken some positive steps toward financial stability by publishing a fiscally responsible three-month budget and raising considerable amounts of domestic revenue — especially through customs duties, which have risen with a crackdown on corruption”.

When did any of the previous governments have fiscally responsible budgets? Never. According to Sigar, the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, more than 80% of Afghan government spending on our watch was paid for by the US and its allies. As for corruption, Transparency International, the Europe-based watchdog agency, elevated Taliban-ruled Afghanistan by 24 places from where it had been under Western governments, from 174th to 150th, which the government-funded Voice of America termed “a remarkable status upgrade”.

Today, the biggest problem for the Taliban is Isis, which, despite some progress, remains a menace in the country. Given this is a concern we share, surely some cooperation would be wise — not least because there is no obvious alternative to Taliban rule on the horizon. If security is a priority, we can’t treat them as a pariah forever.

And yet, there is what we might call The Big Obstacle: what the Taliban are doing to half their population, the girls and women. Despite earlier promises to the contrary, they are back to their former ways, with girls banned from education after Grade 6 (below the age of 12), women’s employment strictly limited, female students excluded from universities, and strict rules on women’s dress and presence in public. As the UN made clear earlier this year, “20 years of progress for women and girls’ rights has been erased since Taliban takeover”. Although, for accuracy’s sake, this statement would have to read “for women and girls in middle and upper-class urban neighbourhoods”. The grim truth is that, in two decades, barely a dent has been made on female literacy, maternal and infant mortality, or the eradication of forced marriages and child brides in the poor neighbourhoods and rural areas where the overwhelming majority of Afghan women live.

All of which is a tragedy, and certainly does not make the even more restrictive policies of the Taliban any more palatable to us in the West, as the Taliban know well. So, given that they are seeking recognition and foreign investment, why won’t they budge on this matter?

While on other issues, the Taliban have been capable of change or compromise, on the issue of women they are completely intransigent. In his recent speech to mark Eid, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, Afghanistan’s supreme leader, gave no ground, instead announcing that “necessary steps have been taken for the betterment of women as half of society in order to provide them with a comfortable and prosperous life according to the Islamic Shariah”. This was either an exercise in supreme cynicism or something he and his circle truly believe. In either case, we are dealing with a fundamental and irreconcilable difference in values.

So, can anything be done? Well, what we should be learning from the Afghan case is what not to do. As I have written before, we did the wrong thing, perhaps for the right reason. What we did, and what did not work, was to focus on a small group of middle and upper-class urban women, giving them a Western education, and then training in a series of “workshops” in skills that are helpful to activists only in the West. We wrote them a Constitution that guaranteed them seats in Parliament and funded them extensively. And this did produce a cadre of assertive, confident women, capable of aggressively demanding various rights and benefits — but only in a Western setting benignly overseen by us. Once the Taliban took over, they fled and Afghan women found themselves without an obvious grass-roots protest movement.

In Saudi Arabia, by contrast, without our instigation, women fought for their political and social rights, for the right to be in public, to get identity papers without the permission of a male guardian, to make decisions on matters affecting their children, to drive cars. Activists lost their jobs, some were jailed, but they persisted. And, over time, they succeeded in having all of those initially unthinkable demands met. Saudi Arabia today is a different universe from Saudi Arabia 20 years ago, and much of the credit goes to its courageous women. Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia — they all have indigenous, and influential, women’s movements who have made legal and social gains.

And there are courageous activist women holding their ground at this moment in Afghanistan. Typically, they stem from less privileged personal backgrounds than those who departed, and work through local NGOs with the support of friendships earlier established with women on the outside. They are continuing to offer basic social services to widows, orphans and indigent women. They are using modern technologies for underground education.

Equally encouraging are the deep divisions within Taliban ranks over the issue  of women’s rights and female education. Quite a few Talibs send their own daughters to Pakistan or Qatar for access to education and continue to raise the matter internally. Other Islamic countries send regular delegations of Islamic clerics and scholars to Kandahar in an attempt to convince the hardliners that their stance is un-Islamic and is giving Islam a bad name.

There are many pressure points, then, and these would become more effective with the country’s opening. Ellwood’s suggestion that Western embassies should return was not as ill-judged as some insist. The problem is that the Taliban is the government. There is no alternative in the offing; our sanctions are not working, and we are not going to do what the Diaspora would like, and send our militaries back in. So, again, what should we do?

“Showing up is half the battle,” as Stephen Hawking said. Western presence means Western influence, dialogue, and the demonstration of alternative possibilities. Afghan women activists still in the country, and their civil society groups, are asking for this and we should listen to them; they are on the ground and they know best what will help them.

After Ellwood posted his video, he was tarred, feathered and threatened with expulsion, causing him to ignominiously cave in and agree that, like Mr Morgenstern’s academic, he must have “imagined the whole thing”. This dream, however, has cost us, and them, incalculable harm. This time, let’s focus on the facts rather than wishes.


Cheryl Benard is an academic and an author.

 


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Thor Albro
Thor Albro
9 months ago

Excellent commentary on a difficult geo-political conundrum. The author is correct that the Taliban is the government of Afghanistan, whether we like it or not. We don’t have to embrace or legitimize it, but perhaps some small steps can be taken to civilize the barbarians in charge. That’s the most the West can hope for.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

We have no more right to impose our values on Afghanistan than they do on us

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

What if the majority of Afghans don’t believe in the values of the Taliban? I do not know this to be true, but it seems a distinct possibility.

Luke Piggott
Luke Piggott
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Then we can aid them, but cannot fight their battle for them. As we have tried and failed to do previously.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Luke Piggott

Sure, we – by which I mean the American powers that be, and their British assistants – were overly optimistic to the point of foolishness. Remember though, the original reasons to go in.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Because they were harbouring terrorists who took out the twin towers
the problem is the west’s belief we could then do nation building, we failed in Afghanistan and we failed in Iraq!

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

No argument there. American exceptionalism/naivety, coupled with British Poodleism.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Does the A stand for arsehole?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Nice, Jerry, real classy.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Nice, Jerry, real classy.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Does the A stand for arsehole?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

On the basis of ‘cui bono’ it must have been Mossad.

After all who REALLY benefited?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

No argument there. American exceptionalism/naivety, coupled with British Poodleism.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

On the basis of ‘cui bono’ it must have been Mossad.

After all who REALLY benefited?

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

In the end an Englishwoman wittering away in a posh accent lectured an audience of women in burkas about the charms of post modern art, which included a real life toilet used as a symbol of something or other. The expressions as the Muslim women whispered to one another showed serious doubt they had anything to learn from the West.

owen lee
owen lee
9 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

How could one see the women’s expressions if they were wearing burkas?

Last edited 9 months ago by owen lee
owen lee
owen lee
9 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

How could one see the women’s expressions if they were wearing burkas?

Last edited 9 months ago by owen lee
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Because they were harbouring terrorists who took out the twin towers
the problem is the west’s belief we could then do nation building, we failed in Afghanistan and we failed in Iraq!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

In the end an Englishwoman wittering away in a posh accent lectured an audience of women in burkas about the charms of post modern art, which included a real life toilet used as a symbol of something or other. The expressions as the Muslim women whispered to one another showed serious doubt they had anything to learn from the West.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Luke Piggott

Sure, we – by which I mean the American powers that be, and their British assistants – were overly optimistic to the point of foolishness. Remember though, the original reasons to go in.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

How come they kicked our collective arse?
And supposing they were in the ascendency?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

Sorry, maybe I’m being dense, but I don’t see how your post relates to anything I wrote. The Taliban ≠ The Afghans. By your logic the Americans had no business intervening in the World Wars, no? The Taliban won for more or less the same reasons they won against the British and the Russians – and this is why I never had any confidence in the nation building project, worthy cause though it may have been.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

You are being dense. America did not intervene in WW2 (the Japanese and the Germans declare war on them. America became in WW1 partly because the Germans attempted to get Mexico to start a war but largely to protect its financial investment.
You may think you have the moral high ground but so do the Taliban.
From the UK perspective, in the not too distant future we can expect to see de facto imposition of some aspects of sharia law being impose on the streets of some or towns and cities where Islamic rape gangs have already been allowed to run riot

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

Ah well, there are worse hings than being dense.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

That is how I console myself

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

That is how I console myself

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

The arrival of US troops and armaments in Europe and elsewhere on a large scale beginning in early 1942 certainly constituted a de facto intervention in WWII, and a pivotal one too, even if you prefer to dismiss that reality by pointing to Japan’s forcing of the Americans’ hand and slightly earlier declaration of war, or whatever other technicality.
You don’t have to be an American Exceptionalist (I’m not) to believe that, on balance, strong US power is better than the rise of any plausible alternative beneficiary, like Russia, China, India (I do).
“Nation building” on behalf of nations that cannot or will not do most of it themselves, however, has proven to be a net-disaster in every major way. And our asserted American “moral authority”, always presumptuous, will remain farcically arrogant while our own national house is in such disorder and bad repair.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

Ah well, there are worse hings than being dense.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

The arrival of US troops and armaments in Europe and elsewhere on a large scale beginning in early 1942 certainly constituted a de facto intervention in WWII, and a pivotal one too, even if you prefer to dismiss that reality by pointing to Japan’s forcing of the Americans’ hand and slightly earlier declaration of war, or whatever other technicality.
You don’t have to be an American Exceptionalist (I’m not) to believe that, on balance, strong US power is better than the rise of any plausible alternative beneficiary, like Russia, China, India (I do).
“Nation building” on behalf of nations that cannot or will not do most of it themselves, however, has proven to be a net-disaster in every major way. And our asserted American “moral authority”, always presumptuous, will remain farcically arrogant while our own national house is in such disorder and bad repair.

Last edited 9 months ago by AJ Mac
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

You are being dense. America did not intervene in WW2 (the Japanese and the Germans declare war on them. America became in WW1 partly because the Germans attempted to get Mexico to start a war but largely to protect its financial investment.
You may think you have the moral high ground but so do the Taliban.
From the UK perspective, in the not too distant future we can expect to see de facto imposition of some aspects of sharia law being impose on the streets of some or towns and cities where Islamic rape gangs have already been allowed to run riot

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

Sorry, maybe I’m being dense, but I don’t see how your post relates to anything I wrote. The Taliban ≠ The Afghans. By your logic the Americans had no business intervening in the World Wars, no? The Taliban won for more or less the same reasons they won against the British and the Russians – and this is why I never had any confidence in the nation building project, worthy cause though it may have been.

Luke Piggott
Luke Piggott
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Then we can aid them, but cannot fight their battle for them. As we have tried and failed to do previously.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

How come they kicked our collective arse?
And supposing they were in the ascendency?

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago

What if the majority of Afghans don’t believe in the values of the Taliban? I do not know this to be true, but it seems a distinct possibility.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

We have no more right to impose our values on Afghanistan than they do on us

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
9 months ago

Excellent commentary on a difficult geo-political conundrum. The author is correct that the Taliban is the government of Afghanistan, whether we like it or not. We don’t have to embrace or legitimize it, but perhaps some small steps can be taken to civilize the barbarians in charge. That’s the most the West can hope for.

John Walsh
John Walsh
9 months ago

After listening to the ever increasing whining and bleating from the army of pampered feminists in the West,I am starting to think that the Taliban have some good ideas.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

I wonder what they would do with Alison Rose?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

I am inclined to agree with you. Feminists don’t particularly represent women. They are really a political party as demonstrated by Julie Bindel debating whether TERFs should collaborate with the right. Women who call themselves feminists seem to believe they speak for women in general but many many women do not agree with much of their agenda. Feminists do have a lot in common with trans activists, their tendency to believe they represent a certain section of the population and the use of slogans which must not be questioned or debated: my body, my choice; trans women are women. Apparently, the western NGOs spent time and money in Afghanistan preaching wokism.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
9 months ago

The trannies knifed feminism. It’s all good – it lost its raisin d’etre.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Right, raisins belong in cereal and on buns.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Right, raisins belong in cereal and on buns.

Ddwieland
Ddwieland
9 months ago

I don’t know what feminism means to you, but when it stands for better recognition of women’s rights and not strident calls for a single perspective it seems positive to me (a 77-year-old male). It certainly has nothing to do with transactivism, which reeks of misogyny.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Ddwieland

I am not sure you have read my comment properly. Feminism, trans activism, anti racism, particularly Black Lives Matter, all have in common that a small vocal minority who are not to be questioned speak for every member of a group. They are political and it is blasphemy to question their precepts. Black Lives Matter call those who disagree with their precepts coconuts, white on the inside. Julie Bindel’s debate on whether TERFs should collaborate with the right referred to a certain extent to Posie Parker (I believe) who was physically attacked in New Zealand while the police watched and did nothing. She was on her ‘Let Women Talk’ tour. There is no doubt she is working really hard for women’s rights and yet Julie Bindel believes she herself is a feminist but Posie Parker isn’t because to be a ‘real’ feminist, a woman has to fit the definition of being on the left that Julie Bindel and her cohorts define. To be a feminist one should vote Labour, hence the angst when Labour adopted trans ideology. (Real feminists vote Labour, real blacks vote Democrat.) The idea that women think for themselves and reach their own conclusions seems anathema to them. Gender studies is a (politically) bad joke. Feminism has been like that since I was young. In the eighties, the message was to be a real feminist, a woman should be a lesbian. Julie Bindel claims to have chosen to be a lesbian. I have always found men who claim to be feminists very dubious. I listened to a Jordan Peter – Gad Saad discussion on YouTube which fully supported my views that men who claim to be feminists tend to use it as a mating tactic. Similarly men who claim to be lesbians are just hoping to up their chances of mating with an actual lesbian.
Self appointed representatives of all the groups claim moral superiority and use this to bash others into submission. All are more like religions. I am beginning to understand why religion and politics should be kept separate. Traditionally it was recognised that some issues were moral rather than political and MPs were not required/expected to follow the party line. Theses were votes of conscience. Abortion used to be a vote of conscious but the success of the feminist slogan: my body, my choice, has re-presented abortion in such a way that any objection is considered as evil, a violation of women’s rights. Rather than objectivity being admired, those who have no personal experience are denied a voice. In my view, Julie Bindel is making money out other people’s suffering. I posted my view in a comment under an article she had written for Unherd. Last time I looked, I had received 43 downvotes. I was criticised on the basis if I had experienced what JB has experienced I would have thought differently and consequently was not entitled to my point of view. I strongly object to this argument as I believe as far as possible, all points of view should be taken into account. My experience of abuse is at least as much as JB’s but I strongly object to the suggestion I should be obliged to reveal my own experience or even had it, though I do think JB would be less of a misandrist if the abuse she had experienced was more varied.
One of the precepts of feminism was that biology makes no difference when clearly it does. How much of a difference is beginning to become clearer but rather than debate the differences, a new scapegoat has been identified: the patriarchy.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Ddwieland

I am not sure you have read my comment properly. Feminism, trans activism, anti racism, particularly Black Lives Matter, all have in common that a small vocal minority who are not to be questioned speak for every member of a group. They are political and it is blasphemy to question their precepts. Black Lives Matter call those who disagree with their precepts coconuts, white on the inside. Julie Bindel’s debate on whether TERFs should collaborate with the right referred to a certain extent to Posie Parker (I believe) who was physically attacked in New Zealand while the police watched and did nothing. She was on her ‘Let Women Talk’ tour. There is no doubt she is working really hard for women’s rights and yet Julie Bindel believes she herself is a feminist but Posie Parker isn’t because to be a ‘real’ feminist, a woman has to fit the definition of being on the left that Julie Bindel and her cohorts define. To be a feminist one should vote Labour, hence the angst when Labour adopted trans ideology. (Real feminists vote Labour, real blacks vote Democrat.) The idea that women think for themselves and reach their own conclusions seems anathema to them. Gender studies is a (politically) bad joke. Feminism has been like that since I was young. In the eighties, the message was to be a real feminist, a woman should be a lesbian. Julie Bindel claims to have chosen to be a lesbian. I have always found men who claim to be feminists very dubious. I listened to a Jordan Peter – Gad Saad discussion on YouTube which fully supported my views that men who claim to be feminists tend to use it as a mating tactic. Similarly men who claim to be lesbians are just hoping to up their chances of mating with an actual lesbian.
Self appointed representatives of all the groups claim moral superiority and use this to bash others into submission. All are more like religions. I am beginning to understand why religion and politics should be kept separate. Traditionally it was recognised that some issues were moral rather than political and MPs were not required/expected to follow the party line. Theses were votes of conscience. Abortion used to be a vote of conscious but the success of the feminist slogan: my body, my choice, has re-presented abortion in such a way that any objection is considered as evil, a violation of women’s rights. Rather than objectivity being admired, those who have no personal experience are denied a voice. In my view, Julie Bindel is making money out other people’s suffering. I posted my view in a comment under an article she had written for Unherd. Last time I looked, I had received 43 downvotes. I was criticised on the basis if I had experienced what JB has experienced I would have thought differently and consequently was not entitled to my point of view. I strongly object to this argument as I believe as far as possible, all points of view should be taken into account. My experience of abuse is at least as much as JB’s but I strongly object to the suggestion I should be obliged to reveal my own experience or even had it, though I do think JB would be less of a misandrist if the abuse she had experienced was more varied.
One of the precepts of feminism was that biology makes no difference when clearly it does. How much of a difference is beginning to become clearer but rather than debate the differences, a new scapegoat has been identified: the patriarchy.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
9 months ago

The trannies knifed feminism. It’s all good – it lost its raisin d’etre.

Ddwieland
Ddwieland
9 months ago

I don’t know what feminism means to you, but when it stands for better recognition of women’s rights and not strident calls for a single perspective it seems positive to me (a 77-year-old male). It certainly has nothing to do with transactivism, which reeks of misogyny.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

No problem with making jokes, but for the avoidance of doubt, the taliban are poison.

Arthur G
Arthur G
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

Not really, no. Any ideology that starts with the supposition that 50% of the population is unequal and undeserving of any rights of citizenship is evil.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Yabut when we attack their values it’s seen as attacking Islam and so they double down. Quiet, even silent persuasion — simply being there and engaging with them might work quiet miracles.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Care to risk your head on the outcome?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Christianity used to operate like that, setting up hospitals. Trying to set an example of the Christian lifestyle.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Care to risk your head on the outcome?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Christianity used to operate like that, setting up hospitals. Trying to set an example of the Christian lifestyle.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
9 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Yabut when we attack their values it’s seen as attacking Islam and so they double down. Quiet, even silent persuasion — simply being there and engaging with them might work quiet miracles.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

I wonder what they would do with Alison Rose?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

I am inclined to agree with you. Feminists don’t particularly represent women. They are really a political party as demonstrated by Julie Bindel debating whether TERFs should collaborate with the right. Women who call themselves feminists seem to believe they speak for women in general but many many women do not agree with much of their agenda. Feminists do have a lot in common with trans activists, their tendency to believe they represent a certain section of the population and the use of slogans which must not be questioned or debated: my body, my choice; trans women are women. Apparently, the western NGOs spent time and money in Afghanistan preaching wokism.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

No problem with making jokes, but for the avoidance of doubt, the taliban are poison.

Arthur G
Arthur G
9 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

Not really, no. Any ideology that starts with the supposition that 50% of the population is unequal and undeserving of any rights of citizenship is evil.

John Walsh
John Walsh
9 months ago

After listening to the ever increasing whining and bleating from the army of pampered feminists in the West,I am starting to think that the Taliban have some good ideas.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

Let me point out the circularity implicit in tracts of this article – and I will do it in the voice of your friendly neighbourhood Mafiosi. “Look at the improvement since we took over this neighborhood” says the hood. “There was crime, there was killing and shooting on the streets every day, everyone was scared, nobody could do any business, even the cops didn’t dare stay. It’s great now, look the streets are prospering”. And one of shopkeepers, paying a fortune in ‘protection’ and dummer then the rest, resentfully pipes up, “Yeah things are a lot better, but weren’t you the ones doing the shooting and the killing and the crime when things were bad? And you still keeping the cops away”. Our friendly neighborhood Mafiosi stares at the guy for a while, and then says “Listen sonny, repeat that lie once more, and a horses head is on its way to your bedroom”.

The author is looking at the seeming resilience of the Afghans the wrong way. The stoneage cavemen knew how to survive in the harshest conditions but that doesn’t mean average mortality ever crept above 25. Tell me the rate of infant mortality and the number of women dying in childbirth and then we know if in fact things are any better under the taliban. The woman and girls of Afghanistan are suffering daily, but if you give any sort of legitimacy to the taliban, you will simply entrench that suffering into perpetuity.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

Let me point out the circularity implicit in tracts of this article – and I will do it in the voice of your friendly neighbourhood Mafiosi. “Look at the improvement since we took over this neighborhood” says the hood. “There was crime, there was killing and shooting on the streets every day, everyone was scared, nobody could do any business, even the cops didn’t dare stay. It’s great now, look the streets are prospering”. And one of shopkeepers, paying a fortune in ‘protection’ and dummer then the rest, resentfully pipes up, “Yeah things are a lot better, but weren’t you the ones doing the shooting and the killing and the crime when things were bad? And you still keeping the cops away”. Our friendly neighborhood Mafiosi stares at the guy for a while, and then says “Listen sonny, repeat that lie once more, and a horses head is on its way to your bedroom”.

The author is looking at the seeming resilience of the Afghans the wrong way. The stoneage cavemen knew how to survive in the harshest conditions but that doesn’t mean average mortality ever crept above 25. Tell me the rate of infant mortality and the number of women dying in childbirth and then we know if in fact things are any better under the taliban. The woman and girls of Afghanistan are suffering daily, but if you give any sort of legitimacy to the taliban, you will simply entrench that suffering into perpetuity.

Last edited 9 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago

Why don’t we let Afghanistan stew in its own juices for the next century? Do-gooding NGOs in a position to twist the arms of governments in the West to cough up “humanitarian aid” that the warlords use to live high on the hog have profited from that sorry country long enough.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago

Why don’t we let Afghanistan stew in its own juices for the next century? Do-gooding NGOs in a position to twist the arms of governments in the West to cough up “humanitarian aid” that the warlords use to live high on the hog have profited from that sorry country long enough.

John Murray
John Murray
9 months ago

It sounds like our sanctions are working splendidly. Leave these countries alone to figure this stuff out for themselves and don’t spend a penny, you say? Your proposal is acceptable.

John Murray
John Murray
9 months ago

It sounds like our sanctions are working splendidly. Leave these countries alone to figure this stuff out for themselves and don’t spend a penny, you say? Your proposal is acceptable.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

The Empire of Genghis Khan was peaceful, once he killed all those who opposed him( some say 40M). Conflict occurs between groups. Once one group is all powerful there is little conflict.
Another person who imposed peace on warring groups was Shaka Zulu.
The Afghans have been growing food in their country and surviving winters for thousands of years.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Pretty sure Shaka Zulu’s reign set into motion the Mfecane, the worst cycle of violence in southern African history. He made a wasteland and called it peace.

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Pretty sure Shaka Zulu’s reign set into motion the Mfecane, the worst cycle of violence in southern African history. He made a wasteland and called it peace.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

The Empire of Genghis Khan was peaceful, once he killed all those who opposed him( some say 40M). Conflict occurs between groups. Once one group is all powerful there is little conflict.
Another person who imposed peace on warring groups was Shaka Zulu.
The Afghans have been growing food in their country and surviving winters for thousands of years.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
9 months ago

Seems like sanctions are proving the adage that ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity’.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
9 months ago

Seems like sanctions are proving the adage that ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity’.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
9 months ago

Milton Friedman once said, “Programs should be judged, not on their intentions but on their results.”
That sounds right, and probably is. As long as it is applied at the right time. When a program is first entered into, their are only intentions, and no results. Which is why it’s so important to assess any program continually as it it unfolds, and if it is deviating too greatly from the fundamental intentions, be prepared to modify it until it does, or end it before it becomes a sinkhole.
This the American government failed to do in Afghanistan, and the result was a disgraceful pullout, a betrayal and an abandonment of urban Afghans and of all Afghan women and girls.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
9 months ago

Milton Friedman once said, “Programs should be judged, not on their intentions but on their results.”
That sounds right, and probably is. As long as it is applied at the right time. When a program is first entered into, their are only intentions, and no results. Which is why it’s so important to assess any program continually as it it unfolds, and if it is deviating too greatly from the fundamental intentions, be prepared to modify it until it does, or end it before it becomes a sinkhole.
This the American government failed to do in Afghanistan, and the result was a disgraceful pullout, a betrayal and an abandonment of urban Afghans and of all Afghan women and girls.

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
9 months ago

I don’t think it’s true that the twenty years of non-Taliban rule had no effect on e.g. maternal and infant mortality rates….In fact I saw stats that suggests they were halved. And while figures are hard to come by currently, health workers are reporting rise in the rates again. I think it’s a bit of a cliche – this idea that the only Afghan women to experience any liberating benefits from the twenty years were a handful of rich ones. In the flood of stories of fleeing or unable-to-flee Afghans at the time of the new Taliban takeover, there were many of women who may not have been the poorest of the poor in the most remote areas, but were hardly gilded youth…they included small business owners, clerks in local administration, of course the healthworkers including midwives and nurses, and many women who were sole earners for families.

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
9 months ago

I don’t think it’s true that the twenty years of non-Taliban rule had no effect on e.g. maternal and infant mortality rates….In fact I saw stats that suggests they were halved. And while figures are hard to come by currently, health workers are reporting rise in the rates again. I think it’s a bit of a cliche – this idea that the only Afghan women to experience any liberating benefits from the twenty years were a handful of rich ones. In the flood of stories of fleeing or unable-to-flee Afghans at the time of the new Taliban takeover, there were many of women who may not have been the poorest of the poor in the most remote areas, but were hardly gilded youth…they included small business owners, clerks in local administration, of course the healthworkers including midwives and nurses, and many women who were sole earners for families.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
9 months ago

Should we talk to the Taliban? That’s the question and much of the debate comment below is only marginal to that.

My personal view is, with reluctance, yes, we should engage with the Taliban and we have enough experience, in this wicked old world, to do so without formally recognising the regime. We should be guided by the women of Afghanistan and do recommend that we are essentially single-issue, by single-issue, and pragmatic; as soon as we elevate this to the level of ‘principles’, all will quickly be lost.

So, yes to partial release of Afghan national funds, if hypothecated to humanitarian purposes: release of more funds for teaching of women to be nurses or doctors, say (disgracefully stereotyping by western standards) but a wedge in the door; a similar regimen for teacher training; all shamefully backward by Western standards but progress of a sort.

What else can we do to help?

‱ Put pressure on their main external backer, Pakistan, and cut-off the latter’s (generous) aid monies, unless they control their Taliban auxiliaries (and don’t believe any B/s that they have no control; ISI were all over Aug 21. )

‱ Dislocate the Taliban’s intransigence by providing a comprehensive package of distance learning up to degree standard for women, so that they (eventually) recognise that trying to stop women’s education is a waste of time.

‱ Expose ruthlessly their hypocrites, who, whilst proscribing education for women at home, have send their daughters overseas to learn.

‱ Fast-track and be generous with scholarships for Afghan women to attend university in the West and India; it is possible to get out and providing thousands of scholarship opportunities would again render as nought the Taliban’s efforts.

So lots that can be done; let’s not make this into a first-world, ‘luxury-belief’ debate about Terfs etc or even whether we were right to intervene in 2001. The problem is now and very real for millions of Afghan women.

With best wishes

Simon Diggins

UK Defence Attaché, Kabul 2008-10

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

How will the women leave Afghanistan? Distance learning how? Will men allow women to use computers and radios ? So funds will go actually for teaching women? We have had little influence on Pakistan since Zia al Haq took over.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

I disagree with you Simon with respect to the TERFs discussion:. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” I watched Putin being interviewed on YouTube not long before the invasion of Ukraine. He was criticising the West and I pretty much agreed with everything he said. I don’t think the West is short on hypocrisy: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. I believe change has to come from within otherwise there is too much of a disconnect.
To me, the invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11 seemed like an act of revenge. Some group had to pay.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

Amen.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
9 months ago

Amen.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

How will the women leave Afghanistan? Distance learning how? Will men allow women to use computers and radios ? So funds will go actually for teaching women? We have had little influence on Pakistan since Zia al Haq took over.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 months ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

I disagree with you Simon with respect to the TERFs discussion:. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” I watched Putin being interviewed on YouTube not long before the invasion of Ukraine. He was criticising the West and I pretty much agreed with everything he said. I don’t think the West is short on hypocrisy: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. I believe change has to come from within otherwise there is too much of a disconnect.
To me, the invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11 seemed like an act of revenge. Some group had to pay.

Last edited 9 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
9 months ago

Should we talk to the Taliban? That’s the question and much of the debate comment below is only marginal to that.

My personal view is, with reluctance, yes, we should engage with the Taliban and we have enough experience, in this wicked old world, to do so without formally recognising the regime. We should be guided by the women of Afghanistan and do recommend that we are essentially single-issue, by single-issue, and pragmatic; as soon as we elevate this to the level of ‘principles’, all will quickly be lost.

So, yes to partial release of Afghan national funds, if hypothecated to humanitarian purposes: release of more funds for teaching of women to be nurses or doctors, say (disgracefully stereotyping by western standards) but a wedge in the door; a similar regimen for teacher training; all shamefully backward by Western standards but progress of a sort.

What else can we do to help?

‱ Put pressure on their main external backer, Pakistan, and cut-off the latter’s (generous) aid monies, unless they control their Taliban auxiliaries (and don’t believe any B/s that they have no control; ISI were all over Aug 21. )

‱ Dislocate the Taliban’s intransigence by providing a comprehensive package of distance learning up to degree standard for women, so that they (eventually) recognise that trying to stop women’s education is a waste of time.

‱ Expose ruthlessly their hypocrites, who, whilst proscribing education for women at home, have send their daughters overseas to learn.

‱ Fast-track and be generous with scholarships for Afghan women to attend university in the West and India; it is possible to get out and providing thousands of scholarship opportunities would again render as nought the Taliban’s efforts.

So lots that can be done; let’s not make this into a first-world, ‘luxury-belief’ debate about Terfs etc or even whether we were right to intervene in 2001. The problem is now and very real for millions of Afghan women.

With best wishes

Simon Diggins

UK Defence Attaché, Kabul 2008-10

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
9 months ago

The crucial point about Islam is that it developed in backward rural areas with intensely conservative social attitudes, populated to the limit of what local resources will support.

It flourishes in such places to this day, because it remains relevant. Its ferocious, intolerant legal codes take the place of a sense of community. Its sequestration of women derives from the focus on paternity and blood relationship which is the main social driver in such societies. Its ruthlessness provides it with a grip on the moral high ground which is otherwise very difficult to define.

It may not be the “government” in the Western sense. It IS, however a means of governing their affairs which the population finds workable.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Islam rapidly absorbed the knowledge of the Greek, Persian and Hindu worlds. What we see in much of the Islamic World is regression due to the rise of groups such as Muslim Betheren and Abul Maududi being funded by the Saudis. The Sufi influenced Islam of Afghanistan has been replaced by Saudi Salaafism and in Pakistan the Deobandi ( connected to Wahabism ) version of Islam has grown in strength. The Sunni Islam of Lebanon of the 1960s to early 1970s was very cosmopolitan in outlook.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Indeed – 500 years ago the situation was the exact opposite, the Islamic world was a bastion of learning, tolerance, the arts, whilst much of Europe was a viciously sectarian theocracy, killing torturing and persecuting each other and the wrong sort of Christians.

Dominic A
Dominic A
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Indeed – 500 years ago the situation was the exact opposite, the Islamic world was a bastion of learning, tolerance, the arts, whilst much of Europe was a viciously sectarian theocracy, killing torturing and persecuting each other and the wrong sort of Christians.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Islam rapidly absorbed the knowledge of the Greek, Persian and Hindu worlds. What we see in much of the Islamic World is regression due to the rise of groups such as Muslim Betheren and Abul Maududi being funded by the Saudis. The Sufi influenced Islam of Afghanistan has been replaced by Saudi Salaafism and in Pakistan the Deobandi ( connected to Wahabism ) version of Islam has grown in strength. The Sunni Islam of Lebanon of the 1960s to early 1970s was very cosmopolitan in outlook.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
9 months ago

The crucial point about Islam is that it developed in backward rural areas with intensely conservative social attitudes, populated to the limit of what local resources will support.

It flourishes in such places to this day, because it remains relevant. Its ferocious, intolerant legal codes take the place of a sense of community. Its sequestration of women derives from the focus on paternity and blood relationship which is the main social driver in such societies. Its ruthlessness provides it with a grip on the moral high ground which is otherwise very difficult to define.

It may not be the “government” in the Western sense. It IS, however a means of governing their affairs which the population finds workable.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

Do these medieval thugs live mostly on foreign aid?

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
9 months ago

Do these medieval thugs live mostly on foreign aid?

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 months ago

Peter Van Buren wrote a great book called We Meant Well about his time as an FSO in Iraq. The same lessons apply to Afghanistan.
According to Van Buren, the State Dept always viewed women as the key. Their job was to convince Muslim women to “want to wear miniskirts and own businesses” (Van Buren’s phrase if I remember correctly.) In Tehran (and Kabul) they succeeded (a little); elsewhere not so much. It turns out conservative Muslim women don’t want miniskirts and businesses. What they do want is to raise their families in a mostly peaceful society structured along Islamic social norms. Contra the US State Dept, every burka does not hide a Wellesley feminist studies major just yearning to break free.
As a side note, we didn’t make it any easier on ourselves by also trying to sell them on stupid Western obsessions like pride parades — https://twitter.com/USEmbassyKabul/status/1400060130243362816 — and postmodernist art — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdrvpSfJM1w In that last video, watch the eyes at about 25 seconds in. How did Allah’s hillbillies kick our butts in Afghanistan? In part because we told the Afghans they had to be like us and pretend that urinals were art.