KABUL (BLOOMBERG) – The Taleban vowed to build an inclusive government, protect the rights of women “within the bounds of syariah law,” and prevent Afghan territory from being used to target any other country after sweeping aside the Western-backed government to end two decades of war.
“We assure the international community and especially the US and neighbouring countries that Afghanistan won’t be used against them,” Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in Kabul on Tuesday (Aug 17), making his first public appearance after 20 years spreading the group’s message from secret locations as it fought Nato and Afghan forces.
His comments reflect deep fears in the international community that the Taleban’s return to power will in particular roll back advances in the freedoms enjoyed by Afghan women, and allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to rebuild their presence in the country.
Taleban say women can work, shifting from pre-9/11 stance
“After consultations, we will witness the formation of a strong inclusive Islamic government,” Mujahed said, adding that a Taleban-run Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wouldn’t seek retribution on those that fought against it.
The Sunni fundamentalist movement, which took power as the US-trained Afghan army melted away and President Ashraf Ghani fled his palace, has previously suggested it won’t revert to some of the harsh practices it followed when in power before the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.
But many are deeply sceptical that the Taleban charm offensive represents a shift in its fundamentalist rule. Already reports have emerged of forced marriages, discrimination against female employees and orders for men to grow beards. Thousands of residents have fled to neighbouring countries in an attempt to escape life under the insurgents.
Convincing the international community that it intends to be true to its word will be key if the group’s leadership hope to gain at least tacit recognition from the US and its allies as the new rulers of Afghanistan.