Taliban torn over reforms one year after seizing power

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: One year from date The Taliban returns to power In Afghanistan, some rifts are opening in their ranks as the key question is how much reform their leaders can tolerate.
Famous during their first reign for their brutal repressions of rights and freedoms, this time the Muslims vowed to rule differently.
On the surface at least, they seem to have changed in some respects.
Officials in Kabul have adopted the technology, while cricket matches are cheered in full stadiums.
Television has been banned The first incarnation of the Taliban governmentwhile Afghans now have access to the internet and social media.
Girls are allowed to attend primary school and female journalists are interviewing government officials – something unthinkable during the Taliban’s first rule in the 1990s.
The group’s tough core, composed of war veterans, resisted any significant ideological shift that could be seen as a sign of surrender to their enemies in the West.
“You have one camp (Taliban), which is pushing for what they see as reform, and another camp that seems to think even these sketchy reforms are too much,” said Ibraheem Bahiss, an analyst on Afghanistan. of the International Crisis Group, said.
The United States and its allies – which have banked Afghanistan for 20 years – have kept the country out of the global banking system and billions of assets frozen abroad, as they try to reform from the Taliban.
With no significant progress, it was the people of Afghanistan who suffered as the country was engulfed in a major economic crisis that has seen some families choose between selling their organs or their newborn daughters.
As for whether the Taliban is capable of reform, analysts caution that recent policy changes are more than “crypto-ism”.
“There are a number of cases where we can point to an evolution in policy, but let’s be very clear… expert of the Washington-based Wilson Center,” said Afghan Michael Kugelman.
Most all-girls high schools remain closed. Many women have been forced out of government jobs, while many fear going out and being punished by the Taliban.
Simple pleasures like music, shisha and card games are tightly controlled in the most conservative areas, while protests have been quelled and journalists are regularly threatened or detained.
The demands from the West for a comprehensive government were ignored, and the assassination al-QaidaKabul’s leader last week highlighted the Taliban’s ongoing relationship with jihadist groups.
It is the word The Taliban’s Power Base of southern Kandahar whose secret supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada gathers his veteran warriors and powerful inner religious clerics to impose a harsh interpretation of sharia.
And for them, ideological concerns outweigh any political or economic motivation to create change.
Mohammad Omar Khitabi, a member of the clerical council advising Akhundzada in Kandahar, told AFP: “The needs of the Afghan people are the same as they were 20 years ago.
His thoughts were echoed by Kandahar’s Deputy Director and Chief of Ethics, Abdul Rahman Tayabi, another close aide to the supreme leader.
“Our people don’t have too many demands, like people in other countries might have,” he told AFP.
Afghan families were stunned in March when Akhundzada overturned the education ministry’s decision to reopen high schools for girls.
Some analysts believe he is annoyed by what hardliners might see as surrendering to the West over girls’ rights.
Hopes of restoring international money flow were dashed – to the chagrin of many Taliban officials in Kabul, some voiced opposition to the decision.
Relations with Western diplomats – who regularly meet with Taliban ministers but do not have access to Akhundzada – have suffered a major setback.
A series of directives dating back to the early Taliban rule were quickly implemented.
“Decisions that (Akhundzada) have taken so far have been based on the opinions of religious scholars,” said Abdul Hadi Hammad, head of a madrassa and member of the leader’s advisory council. Supreme said.
Akhundzada has emphasized the need for unity in the movement as he carefully seeks to balance several factions – including competing groups claiming recognition for a 2021 victory over US-led forces. religion.
While Akhundzada advisers claim the Taliban can survive without foreign income, unlocking billions of dollars of frozen assets abroad would be a vital lifeline.
“We know the Taliban can be traded, but they can’t,” a Western diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Within the movement, no one dared openly challenge Akhundzada’s authority, but discontent was quietly growing in the lower ranks.
“The Taliban protection forces are receiving their salaries late and their salaries are also low. They are not satisfied,” said a middle-level Taliban official based in northwest Pakistan.
Many have returned to their villages or to Pakistan to get other jobs, another Taliban member added.
The movement’s efforts to increase revenue through lucrative coal mining sparked infighting in the North, exacerbated by ethnic divisions and religious sectarianism.
With just a few months until winter, food security and freezing temperatures will put even more pressure on the leaders of one of the world’s poorest countries.
These rising tensions are likely to exacerbate divisions, though likely not enough to force any drastic change in policy, Kugelman said.
“If the Taliban leadership starts to feel very real threats to their political survival, can they change?” he asks.
“Given that they focus on ideology, that may not be true.”

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