One year ago, the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan. At the time, people were unsure what the future held for central Asian country – would the Taliban reintroduce their strict and severe policies? What would happen to the Afghan economy? How about women’s rights? Let’s discuss what has happened during the Taliban’s first year in control of Afghanistan!
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To fall (v) – if a place falls in a war or an election, an enemy army or a different political party gets control of it
Rome fell in the year 455 AD
Repercussion (n) – the effect that an action, event, or decision has on something, especially a bad effect
He never thinks about the repercussions of his actions
Reliant (adj) – needing a particular thing or person in order to continue, to work correctly, or to succeed
The project is heavily reliant on volunteers
To freeze (v) – to officially and legally prevent money or property from being used or moved
The government froze the criminals’ assets
Violation (n) – an action that breaks or acts against something, especially a law, agreement, principle, or something that should be treated with respect
The invasion is a clear violation of international law
To diminish (v) -to reduce or be reduced in size of importance
Our house has diminished in value over the last six months
Malnutrition (n) -physical weakness and bad health caused by having too little food, or too little of the types of food necessary for good health
Many refugees are suffering from severe malnutrition
Insurgency (n) – an occasion when a group of people attempt to take control of their country by force
The government is reported to be concerned about the growing insurgency in the South
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One year ago, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. The US military withdrew from the country entirely, the Taliban advanced rapidly through Afghanistan’s cities, and without western support the Afghan army collapsed. On August 15th, the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul, and 20 years of US-led efforts in the country disappeared overnight.
Thousands of Afghan citizens attempted to flee the country – especially those who had worked for western governments, organisation, and companies. They feared repercussions for helping the enemies of the Taliban. More than 123,000 civilians were evacuated from Afghanistan before the airports were shut and the final US soldiers left.
And all of this happened in such a short time. While it was predicted that the Taliban would attempt to regain control of Afghanistan once the US decided to leave to country, there was an expectation that the Afghan army and government could resist this – at least for a few months. Afterall, the Afghan army had spent 20 years being trained and equipped by the Americans, British, and other powerful militaries.
But this is not what happened. Let me illustrate the speed of Afghanistan’s collapse using the Thinking in English podcast. On the 11th of August 2021, with the title – “What is happening in Afghanistan?” In this episode, I talked about how no one knew what was going to happen next. The US and Afghan governments were insisting the Taliban didn’t have enough supporters to take control of the whole country.
One week later on the 18th of August I released a second episode – “What is happening in Afghanistan? Part 2.” In just one week, the Afghan government had collapsed, the Taliban had taken control of Kabul, and the President fled the country. It took just one week for the Taliban to take over.
One year ago, newspaper articles were full of speculation about what would happen to Afghanistan. The Taliban first appeared during the Afghanistan civil war in the 1990s. While they promised to fight corruption and guarantee peace in the region, they also followed a strict and austere form of Islam.
They first came to power in Afghanistan in 1996 and imposed a strict version of Islamic law: Men were forced to grow beards and women forced to cover their entire bodies, TV and music were banned, historical sited destroyed. Afghanistan also became a safe haven for terrorist groups and militants fighting in neighbouring countries – leading to the US invasion in 2001.
Would this happen again? It has now been a year since the Taliban retook control of the country, so I thought we could look at some of the major developments in the country over the past year. What has happened since the Taliban took control? And what have been the consequences and effects of Taliban rule?
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What Has Happened in Afghanistan Over the Past Year?
The first consequence of Taliban rule is economic collapse. This is no surprise – the Taliban have no idea how to manage or run an economy.
Afghanistan had been reliant on foreign aid since 2001. Money from western governments and international organisations was used to rebuild the country, start businesses and organisations, run hospitals and the government, and improve education.
Since the Taliban took over, virtually all this foreign aid has disappeared. The Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law and support for terrorist organsiations makes countries reluctant to support them or provide resources. They are also still under international sanctions – making it illegal to deal with them in some instances. Any potential investors or donors have been scared off.
At the same time, much of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves have been frozen. Afghanistan stored a lot of its savings, money, and investments in foreign bank accounts – now many of these bank accounts have been frozen and the Taliban unable to access these resources.
The country’s banking sector has completely collapsed, and so far, the Taliban have rejected assistance or help from international organisations. Women have also been prevented from working in a lot of places – losing the Afghan economy around $1 billion. Combine all these factors: lost foreign aid, frozen bank accounts, collapsed banking sector, and the reduction of working people… and the result can only be an economic collapse!
Thousands of Afghan families who lived comfortable, or relatively comfortable, lives before the Taliban are now struggling to exist. Current estimates suggest that 97% of Afghanistan will be living below the poverty line by the end of the 2022. Moreover, estimates also suggest Afghanistan needs $4.5 billion in aid right now – something they stand little chance in receiving while the Taliban is in power.
Connected to economic collapse is a major hunger crisis: families are going hungry in Afghanistan. On average, Afghan families now need to spend around 90% of their entire income on food. Prices have increased rapidly over the past year, as has unemployment, making it difficult for families to buy enough food.
Around 50% of Afghan citizens can only afford one meal a day. And people are being forced to make sacrifices so that they can eat – there are reports of Afghan families taking out loans, withdrawing their children from education to save money, selling daughters into marriage, or even selling organs for food.
Overall, around 20 million Afghans are at risk of serious health complications, malnutrition, and even death, due to extreme hunger. In addition, Covid-19 and an earthquake earlier this year have made the situation even more challenging for ordinary Afghans.
The human rights situation in Afghanistan in abysmal. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan has released reports detailing the various violations of international human rights. There are reports of torture and killings. People suspected of working for western companies or government in the past have been targeted and arbitrarily detained.
Journalists and writers attempting to report the true situation in Afghanistan have also been subject to human rights violations. The Taliban does not want people reporting human rights violations or spreading dissent, so they have cracked down on independent media. One Australian journalist, Lynnne O’Donnel, has reported that she was “detained, abused, and threatened” by the Taliban.
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The Taliban have an incredibly conservative and restrictive attitude towards women’s rights. Initially, the Taliban promised women and girls would be allowed to continue education and work, at least in some form. In the year since the Taliban took over Kabul, women’s role in society has greatly diminished and women are basically excluded from public life. The Taliban have limited women’s rights to work, freedom of movement, appearance, and education.
As I mentioned earlier, the loss of female employment has cost Afghanistan’s economy $1 billion so far. But the impact for families is even more severe. Without additional income from women’s jobs, families are struggling to deal with the economic collapse. And virtually all women-led families (for example a family where the father has passed away) have lost their entire incomes. During hunger crises and famines, women and girls tend to eat last and thus suffer higher levels of malnutrition and starvation than men.
There are no women in Taliban government of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been abolished, and women have no right to political participation. In May, the Taliban began forcing women to cover their entire faces in public and remain home unless they have an urgent need. Women are not allowed to travel without a man, and woman are regularly denied access to services and places if they are not accompanied by a male relative.
In the words of the UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, “Decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights have been wiped out in mere months.”
Girls are now prevented from attending school after the sixth grade. Without a more advanced education, it will be difficult for women and girls to participate in the economy in the future. While Afghanistan is desperate for doctors, teachers, and other professionals, excluding half of the country from education only makes the shortages worse.
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The Taliban’s Afghanistan has not been peaceful or stable. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), in other words the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, has launched attacks, bombings, and assassinations across Afghanistan. The minority Shia Hazara ethnic group has been a common target of ISK’s militants. The Taliban has been powerless to prevent this insurgency.
While terrorist groups like ISK and al Qaeda are not completely established in Afghanistan, they are building support and training camps already. Only a few weeks ago, the US killed al Qaeda’s leader Zawahri in Kabul – a sign that such terrorist groups are comfortable traveling freely in the country.
One year on from the collapse of Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban’s take over, the situation in Afghanistan is bleak. The economy has collapsed, and hunger is widespread. Human rights are regularly ignored, especially the rights of women and girls. And conflict continues to rage within the country’s borders as terrorist groups increase their influence.
What can we do? What can the world do to help? The people of the country are desperate for more humanitarian help – with unemployment and food prices high, millions of people are reliant charity to survive.
However, humanitarian help can only treat the symptoms of a broken economy. To fix the causes, the world would need to work with the Taliban to resolve the issues. At the moment, this seems unlikely – but as the Taliban seem likely to continue controlling Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, the only way to fix their economy is to work together.
What do you think? How can the world help the people of Afghanistan? Should the world give more assistance to Afghanistan?
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