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Afghanistan: Are Freedom And Democracy Really Universal Values?

The first anniversary of the completion of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is fast approaching, as the 30th of August marks the end of the 2001-2021 war. International concern over what will happen to those still under Taliban rule in Afghanistan after US departure was not tamed by Taliban commitments to allowing those at risk to travel freely outside of Afghanistan. Amid other promises, they also vowed to respect the rights of women, ‘within Sharia law,’ amnesty for any previous oppositional forces and uphold media freedom – promises that seem widely dissimilar to their foundational ideology.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, most of these promises have not been fulfilled. Most notably, the rights of women and girls were perhaps the first promise to be broken, as in September of 2021, less than a month after the US departure, the Taliban banned girls from going to secondary schools in certain provinces, citing a lack of teachers as the main reason for this. While at the time, they promised all girls should be in school by March 2022, this vow was completely scrapped as girls were eventually barred from attending secondary school and women were forced to wear a face veil when leaving their homes. While some groups within the government may be advocating for the extension of women’s rights, this may be seen as a plea for gaining international monetary aid rather than a pure ‘advocation’ of women’s rights within Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Further, reports of extrajudicial killings plague communications coming in from Afghanistan, among resistance regions such as Andarab and Panjshir. Any violent resistance towards governmental forces within Afghanistan results in execution or arrest, reports suggesting the former is most common. Even going so far as to hunt down and behead interpreters who had worked for Western forces, and further public executions of resistance forces.

Considering this reversion to their previous philosophy, coupled with their unsavoury policies and continued violence, foreign aid has declined, crippling an already unstable and deteriorating Afghan economy. GDP per capita remains one of the lowest in the world at $516; 40% of this coming from said foreign aid, and 70% is used on public spending. The IMF estimated that the GDP growth of Afghanistan contracted by almost 40% in the months after the invasion and has only been worsening.

It seems to longer remain a mystery as to whether or not the Taliban are committed to changing their ideology after US departure, as most promises have not been kept, with predictions for the future of Afghanistan seeming bleak at best.


Sources/Further Reading

US and other countries say they will hold Taliban to promises to let people leave Afghanistan after August 31 - CNNPolitics

Afghanistan: In a quiet valley the Taliban face armed resistance - BBC News

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