Listen to article
The Taliban quest for international legitimacy failed when the special envoys of the European Union and the United States, in a joint statement on January 27, 2022, declared that the Oslo summit did not in any way imply recognition or legitimisation of the Taliban regime. The statement emphasised that the source of legitimacy of any government in Afghanistan would be its people.
The delegation, led by Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, reportedly discussed humanitarian aid for the bankrupt nation and urged the release of nearly US$ 10 billion of assets frozen by the United States. The negotiation team included Anas Haqqani, who has been charged with war crimes. Norway Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, who was present at Kabul’s Serena Hotel during an attack by the Haqqani group in January 2008 that took the life of a Norwegian journalist, said he didn’t know that Anas was attending the Oslo meeting (January 23-25, 2022).
The National Resistance Front leader Ahmad Massoud and Salahuddin Rabbani, leader of Jamiat-e Islami of Afghanistan, travelled to Moscow to meet with Taliban leaders, Mullah Baradar and Mullah Yaqoob (January 23), according to journalist Tajuden Soroush (Iran International). Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh went separately; little is known about these deliberations.
On December 23, 2021, the Uzbek warlord, General Dostum, currently in exile in Turkey, told a gathering of his supporters that he would return to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. However, Dostum has not made any move so far, and is possibly awaiting a signal from Moscow and the Central Asian nations that are disturbed by the rise of the Taliban.
In Oslo, Ms. Hoda Khamosh, an activist invited by the Norwegian government, said she had come to speak against the “repression and terror that the world is responsible for. I made it alive here from the shadow of whips and bullets” (January 23, 2022). Women in Afghanistan, she said, are “being subjected to gender apartheid by the Taliban”. In just five months, the Taliban have confined women inside the home and denied them education; killed and tortured opponents, especially former members of the Afghan National Security Forces, and discriminated against other ethnic groups. The Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice perpetuates this terror.
Hoda Khamosh highlighted some of the crimes and assassinations: photojournalist Morteza Samadi (September 7, 2021) in Herat; Ms. Alia Azizi, former head of Herat Women’s Prison, missing for more than five months; reporters Taqi Daryabi and Nematullah Naqdi of daily Etilaatroz arrested and severely tortured while covering the September 7, 2021 protests in Kabul; dozens of youths, including 40 girls, arrested while protesting in Balkh on September 7-8, 2021, and taken to an unknown location. They were tortured; some were raped; the bodies of eight were found on the streets of Mazar city a week later, but nine girls are still missing, even as many of the detained women were assassinated after release from prison.
Five women (Tamana Zaryab Paryani, her three sisters Zarmina, Shafiqa, and Karima, and civil activist Parwana Ibrahimkhel) were arrested at night, after the Taliban broke down the door of their home. Their fate is unknown. Hoda Khamosh questioned the rationale for Norway inviting Taliban members who are on an international sanctions list, and demanded the release of all male and female activists detained by Taliban, reopening of schools, and equal rights for women.
Sources said that even while the delegation was in Oslo, the Taliban on January 25, 2022, captured nearly 40 citizens, mainly women and judges who were trying to leave the country from Mazar airport in the north.
Afghan sources say the Taliban leadership is unperturbed at the lack of international recognition and is determined to restore the regime of the 1990s, when girls were confined to the home. On December 23, 2021, it shut down the offices of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). Some former officials were arrested.
On December 27, 2021, people were told not to play music; the instruments of traditional bards were broken; barbers were ordered not to shave men’s beards and men were ordered to wear turbans. Moreover, taxis were told not to take women passengers without a male relative (mahram). Concerned citizens pointed out that as millions of women are widows and hence the sole breadwinners for their children, this endangers the survival of millions of families. Women are forced to wear burqas and public bathhouses for women were closed in Mazar-e Sharif.
The beheading of mannequins on grounds that they are un-Islamic is part of this drive, though Islamic scholar Mohammad Mohiq stated that dolls are not “related to the idea or concept of an idol.” However, in some regions, the Taliban has made it mandatory for men to attend congregational prayers at mosques; those who failed to come were fined; some were beaten.
On January 23, the Taliban launched operations against the Tajik (90 per cent) and Hazara (10 per cent) in Khost Wa Fereng district of Baghlan province, bombing civilian houses and killing dozens, including women and children. Two days later, on January 25, Habib-ur-Rehman Malikzada, former police chief of Tiora district of Ghor province, was killed at his home, by “unknown gunmen”.
In northern Afghanistan, the Taliban reportedly clashed with its Tajik and Uzbek commanders over control of resources; Uzbek commander Makhdoom Alem was arrested. In Faryab, former Governor Naqibullah Fayeq claimed that the Taliban governor, security chief and police commander have run away from Maimana city which has been captured by the Uzbek militia and where the emirate flag has been lowered. In Badghis, many non-Pashtun Taliban commanders said they would not take orders from the Pashtun Taliban, and the districts of Ab Kamari and Qadis are no longer controlled by the Taliban.
Fighting continues in Panjshir, with casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, Mullah Yaqoob urged Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to return Afghanistan helicopters that were taken to those countries by pilots fleeing the Taliban regime.
Journalist Daud Khattak reported that Pakistan sent a secret delegation to Afghanistan (January 9-11, 2022), to hold talks with the Pashtun-dominated Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in an attempt to revive peace efforts with the militant group. The delegation met TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud and members of the group’s leadership council in Paktika province.
The talks aimed to revive the expired truce and end the TTP’s 14-year insurgency in Pakistan, where thousands have been killed in militant attacks and clashes between the TTP and the military. The Afghan Taliban mediated the talks. The Pakistani delegation also visited Kabul and met senior members of the Haqqani network, though Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani did not meet the delegation.
The Afghan Taliban had mediated a cease-fire between Pakistan and the TTP in November 2021, but it collapsed on December 9 and TTP launched as many as 45 attacks in Pakistan the same month. The group demanded the release of around 100 fighters in Pakistani prisons; Islamabad released a dozen. It also demanded the implementation of Shar’ia in Pakistan’s tribal belt, which Islamabad is unlikely to accept.