Afghanistan | 15 February 2022

Afghanistan: Consolidating power

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The Taliban are making progress with their religious policing, according to a report by Gandhara published on 6 January 2022. World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller sums up the report"s main points: "In line with Taliban"s rules, local enforcers are beheading mannequins in shops; women are not allowed to travel further than 72km without a male chaperone; music in taxis is not allowed and men must follow certain hairstyles. Further, imams are being required to hold roll-calls for prayer meeting attendance; men who fail to attend are first warned, then fined and finally more harshly punished. The closing of all public bathhouses for women in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif showed that such religiously motivated decisions can have devastating consequences for women: Many homes are without their own bathroom, so women depend on public bathhouses for their personal hygiene." Thomas Muller adds: "While the Taliban are still in the process of consolidating power, according to a statement from the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, as of mid-November 2021 new challenges have already appeared on the horizon with rival Islamist group ISK now active in all provinces (Reuters, 17 November 2021). Also, the recent arrest of an Uzbek commander and the resulting massive demonstrations in his home province may show first rifts in the Taliban"s unity (Gandhara, 29 January 2022). It also highlights the challenge of Pashtun dominance and its mistrust by the country"s ethnic minorities. At the very least, it points to a prolonged volatile situation, leaving all ethnic and religious minorities vulnerable." Thomas Muller concludes: "Finally, there is the big question of how Afghanistan"s humanitarian crisis can be tackled without legitimizing or recognizing the Taliban government. Recent meetings between Western diplomats and the Taliban"s foreign minister in Norway point to this dilemma. As Channel News Asia reported on 3 February 2022, the meetings in January 2022 did not make much progress in the actual delivery of much needed humanitarian aid, but did lead the foreign minister to conclude that such meetings can be used to bring the Taliban government closer to international recognition. He also stressed that any potential concessions would be made on the Taliban"s terms only, narrowing the room and appetite for possible compromise. Another important matter to watch is what the March 2022 mandate for the UN mission to Afghanistan, UNAMA, will look like. As the International Crisis Group reported on 28 January 2022, while all permanent members of the UN Security Council agree in principle on the need for UNAMA, they have differing views concerning its scope."


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