Chaos amid the Taliban's return


By Mike Cohen

New York City - The only spot on the planet where Afghanistan's government is still speaking is in New York City at the United Nations. "Speaking on behalf of millions of people in Afghanistan, whose fate hangs in the balance and are faced with an extremely uncertain future," is the opening statement of its ambassador to the UN Security Council, the last place where Afghanistan's government still exists, albeit in exile.


The remarks were delivered by Ghulam M. Isaczai, who was appointed by President Ashraf Ghani as the ambassador and permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN with the rank of a cabinet member in June 2021.


Isaczai met with the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield and thanked her for the U.S. support and discussed the political, as well, as the security situation in Afghanistan. He highlighted the need for human rights protection, especially of women and girls, as well as urgent humanitarian assistance. There doesn't seem to be a reply or information from the State Department to the likely now first formal applicants for asylum among Afghanistan's government.

Afghan security forces in humvees getting out of Afghanistan near Uzbeckistan border area in western Afghanistan. (TV screenshot)

It has been three months since Guam officials offered the island as a possible asylum zone for the now tens of thousands of refugees, who want to leave what has been described as a rapidly deteriorating yet strangely stable country in the grip of armed gunmen who in the past were seen as one of most brutal governments in modern history, second only the Cambodia's Khmer Rogue in its willingness to use brutality.


The lives of thousands of civil servants, journalists, academics, civil rights workers and former police personnel, judges and prosecutors are at risk for just doing their jobs.


Refugees, or also known as "internally displaced people," are desperately in need of shelter, food and protection in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.


The situation in Kabul, a city of about 6 million people, is extremely worrying, to say the least. The world has witnessed the chaotic scenes at the Kabul international airport as desperate citizens tried to leave the country. Some were seen clinging onto the wings of planes or hiding in wheel wells and falling to their death.


Human rights experts are concerned about the Taliban not honoring their promises and commitments made in their statements at Doha and at other international media. The Taliban have broken their promises and commitments in the past when they ruled Afghanistan.


The gruesome images of Taliban’s mass executions of military personnel and target killings of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities are feared to have returned to Kabul itself.


"We cannot allow this to happen in Kabul, which has been the last refuge for many people escaping violence and Taliban’s revenge attacks," the future past ambassador said at the UN meeting. "Kabul residents are reporting that Taliban have already started house to house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people on their target list. There are already reports of targeted killings and looting in the city. Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now."


Regardless of how the American and international media focus on the U.S. government's handling of the pullout, the last vestiges of a democratic government in Afghanistan said, "There is no time for blame game anymore. We have an opportunity to prevent further violence, prevent Afghanistan from descending into a civil war and becoming a pariah state."


The Taliban have ordered all talks to end internationally. The former government's transition team has had talks on transition. The Taliban, now in full control of all government buildings in Kabul, has said the transition is over. No more need for talks.

The negotiations had been set up by Mullah Badar, the head of the Taliban leadership's political office. Badar announced the end of talks in Doha, Qatar. The Taliban hold all the cards. Their goal is legitimacy. The new regime has largely basic domestic control, but they do face skepticism. The Taliban government has a history of reneging on promises to honor international norms and human rights laws, except where it is not in conflict with Sharia law.


Ghani and Isaczai submitted a list of human rights and civil rights concerns they hope the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries will ask the Taliban to follow.


They urged the UN Security Council and the secretary-general to use every means at their disposal to call for an immediate cessation of violence and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law; call on the Taliban to fully respect the general amnesty offered by them, cease targeted killings and revenge attacks; and abide by International Humanitarian Law.


The Taliban have denied the claims of death squads, saying the attacks may have been the work of rogue government security forces or people with personal grudges. They have promised to shoot everyone engaged in vendetta attacks. Perhaps even shooting those already shot and killed.


Many in and out of Afghanistan hope UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, will urge the preservation of public institutions and infrastructure, including works of arts in museums, books and digital work, as well as music the Taliban had banned in the past.


At the Security Council, a resolution has been drafted to call on the Taliban to respect the human rights of Afghan citizens and uphold international humanitarian law. The Taliban leadership has said that as long as international law does not conflict with the Shariah law, they have no objection to the UN's resolution. The new government has told its fighters and those who will serve in the interim government they will be held accountable.


Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has reported that the EU has called for a way to meet the needs of refugees and establish a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of those in danger of the Taliban's retributions and attacks. In their most recent statement, the Taliban said those who wish to leave Afghanistan may do so now.


Greece, Turkey and Uzbeckistan, the countries near Afghanistan, have warned their borders are not to be illegally crossed. They urged the UN to facilitate quarantine for those exiting Afghanistan.


At this point, the entry of goods for humanitarian relief and operations are being coordinated via Pakistan. They are largely are coming from China and Russia, a former Taliban enemy. They see the Taliban as a more acceptable option than Al Qaeda or ISIS.


The Taliban say a transitional government that will include all ethnic groups will occur so long as representatives are acceptable to the Taliban. Women representatives might be accommodated again within the context of roles defined under Shariah law. Women will be educated, but for how long and what the education will entail is unclear at this time.


The ousted Afghan government calls for a dignified and lasting solution that will bring peace and preserve the gains of the last 20 years, especially for women and girls


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The Taliban has not been inclusive and representative of the diversity of the entire country, it has survived via mining and smuggling, as well as drug trafficking that generated hundreds of millions of dollars a year.


The Taliban would likely not oppose humanitarian assistance for the 18 million people of Afghanistan, particularly those displaced or in need of medical aid from Covid-19's effects or other health issues made worse by the current conflict.

Unfortunately, the former government failed to protect the Afghan citizens from the nightmare of a regime that has now returned to power, weeks from the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Ironically, the Taliban have returned just as the nation was about to commemorate that government's first downfall.


The campaign to free Afghanistan was called "Operation Enduring Freedom." But seemingly, all that endures is Afghanistan, the land of the endless war whose warriors change yet the chaos remains the same.



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