The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

Global Powers, Israel, must reject recognizing Taliban regime.

World powers and Israel should refuse to recognize the Taliban regime. This would give hope to Middle Eastern terrorist groups like Hamas that they could also gain recognition under the right conditions.

Upon returning to government, the Taliban have been implementing a system of civilian administration based on their Islamist ideological background. The consequences for women and minorities have been horrifying. The same can be said about Afghanistan’s economy, which can no longer provide for its starving population.

The Taliban began house searches around Kabul recently, drawing criticism from Western diplomats about rights abuses.

The Taliban claim that the operations are to find “kidnappers, professional thieves and crime groups,” however, seven residents told Reuters that the searches were spreading fear and appeared indiscriminate.

In terms of security, the Afghan-Pakistani border and the Afghan-Iranian border have traditionally been porous, with illicit goods, illegal immigrants, and terrorists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State-Khorasan Province moving undetected from one country to another.

Similarly, the borders shared by Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan remain characterized by volatility, which exposes those countries to the risk of exportation of terrorism from Afghanistan. Though Afghanistan’s neighbors have engaged in efforts to increase border security by erecting fences, conducting anti-terrorism exercises in the border areas, and relocating troops to border areas, the potential security threats originating from Afghanistan remain a source of great concern for the region and beyond.

Nevertheless, for Islamists across the border in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world, the Taliban’s victory – and ability to hold onto power in Afghanistan – serves as a model they seek to follow.

This should cause worry for Israel due to the encouragement this provides to radical Islamist armed groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that a return to the armed struggle is the only path to defeat Israel.

History of Taliban Rule

The Taliban is an armed movement founded in 1994, whose ideology is a unique mixture of radical Islamism of the Wahhabi type, the Deobandi school of strict application of the shariah (Islamic law) created in India in the late 19th century, and Pashtunwali – the cultural code of the Pashtun people, who constitute most Afghanis.

At its origin, the group was mainly composed of Afghan Pashtun religious students studying in Pakistani madrassasand by so-called “mujahideen” fighterswho had fought against the Soviets, with American support, in the1980s.

In November 1994 – under the leadership of the movement’s founder, Mullah Omar, and backed by Pakistani intelligence, the ISI – the Taliban conquered Afghan’s second-largest city, Kandahar, located in the country’s south. From there, the group advanced northwards. Finally, in September 1996, it conquered Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States planned in Afghanistan by al-Qaida led to the Taliban’s defeat by the US and NATO forces that same year. As a result, the Taliban retreated to Pakistan.

By 2005, however, the group managed to recover considerable strength and launch a new insurgency. Moreover, as it progressively gained large swaths of territory, the Taliban asserted itself as a shadow government – a phenomenon that has been observed with many insurgent groups worldwide, from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

In February 2020, the US and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, that started the process of ending the American war in Afghanistan. But unfortunately, the Taliban took advantage of the conditions it presented and conquered one district after another.

Finally, in mid-August 2021, the group occupied the capital and announced the restoration of the IEA.

The Return of the Taliban’s Emirate

The Taliban restored sharia as the only legal system allowed. Interestingly, the Taliban’s deputy leader recently recognized that at the time of the first IEA, most of the people’s complaints centered on the group’s court system and that greater caution should be exercised by Taliban judges.

However, it should be noted that the new government has already applied brutal punishments for infringements of sharia – a dramatic reminder of what life was like during the 1990s. For instance, in late September in Herat, the dead bodies of four alleged kidnappers were hung in a public square. The Taliban’s current justice minister was adamant that the group would apply Islamic law as strictly as before.

Due to the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia, women have been prohibited from working in public. For instance, women employees in banks were escorted home by Taliban fighters and banned from returning. Private businesses owned by women and staffed with women have also been forced to close or leave their female workers at home.

Worryingly, this discrimination against women is observed from the youngest age, as secondary schools for girls have been forced to close by the new rulers. While the closure was initially said to be a temporary measure, schools remain closed to this day – a practice reminiscent of Mullah Omar’s false promises in this regard in the 1990s.

At the same time, women have been deprived of their liberty. For example, a recent Taliban decree issued by the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice informed women that they could not travel long distances unless accompanied by a “mahram,”a close male relative.

Other “public morality” regulations imposed by the ministry include prohibiting television channels from showing entertainment programs featuring female actors. It has also pressured women to cover themselves with posters around the capital showing “good Muslim” women covered from head to toe in a burqa. It has also publicized the prohibition for drivers to play music in their vehicles. In addition, morality police, shaped along the lines of its infamous predecessor in the 1990s, ensures compliance.

Discrimination is also observed against religious minorities. For example, the Shia Hazara community has no representation in the Taliban’s Pashtun-dominated administration, while Tajiks and Uzbeks were allowed only two seats and one seat, respectively.

Following these first steps, peaceful protests were observed throughout Afghanistan. At some of those protests, placards and billboards carried by protesters read: “We are not the women of the 1990s.” Faced with people taking to the street to voice their opposition to the new regulations, the Taliban adopted a heavy-handed response, even killing and injuring some protesters.

Regarding international relations, the Taliban have been working over the past years to expand their ties and obtain international recognition and reduce their historical dependency on Pakistan. The Taliban have been trying to avoid repeating the situation in the 1990s when the IEA was isolated internationally and was recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

However, countries have been slow to recognize the Taliban administration. Nonetheless, the group has engaged in dialogue with Qatar, Turkey, the US, Russia, China, and Iran. In addition, a Taliban delegation recently held talks with American and European government officials and Afghan civil society representatives in Norway.

JISS Policy Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

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