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Afghanistan under the Taliban: Situation 2 years since the coup

August 15, 2021, marks a tragic day for many Afghans. As the world marks the second anniversary since the Taliban took control of the country, this article explores the various changes that have come to characterise Afghan lives.

The Taliban, who previously held power from 1996 to 2001, appears to have returned to their previous Pashtun-centric governance and a strict interpretation of Sharia (Muslim personal law) since regaining control in 2021.

Restrictions on women, ethnic minorities, the media, rights organisations, and others have reportedly reappeared as authoritarian practices.

The international community considers the numerous changes that have occurred within Afghanistan on the second anniversary of the Taliban's coup. Though the exact scope of these changes is still being determined, one thing is certain: the events of the previous two years have irrevocably altered Afghan society, politics, and its place in the international community.

During this time, Afghanistan's society has seen a substantial transformation in several areas, including governance, the economy, and international relations.

To commemorate the second anniversary of their power over the nation, the Afghan Taliban leadership plans to hold a military parade in the city where the movement first emerged on Tuesday.

At security checkpoints around the capital, which fell on August 15, 2021, when the US-backed government crumbled and its officials fled into exile, flags of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the nation's new rulers, fluttered.

Since then, the Taliban regime has imposed its stringent version of Islam on the nation, with women bearing the brunt of what the UN has dubbed "gender apartheid" regulations.

Following a lengthy battle that lasted several weeks, foreign forces left behind a large number of military vehicles and weapons now geared up for the parade. The parade, which featured numerous military vehicles and weapons that had been abandoned by foreign forces after a disorganized, weeks-long pullout, was scheduled to take place in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and the seat of their reclusive Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Convoys of Taliban members are expected to travel through the streets of Herat in the west, while in Kabul, the Ministry of Education will host a celebration at a school in an area of the city where diplomats were once plentiful but are now scarce.

As the world overlooks these spectacles, the slow deterioration of Afghan lives mandates a closer look. The Taliban has attempted to revive its image on the global stage, by softening its demeanour and dishonest consolations.

However, the situation under this new guise calls for attention and contemplation. Initially, Taliban 2.0 positioned themselves as more moderate than they were under their prior regime.

The future of Afghanistan is unclear as a result of their unprecedented acts and choices, which have generated controversy and difficulties on both the internal and international levels.

The Taliban had a reputation for carrying out public executions, floggings, and stonings as punishments for anyone convicted of crimes in Taliban tribunals during their prior reign in the late 1990s.

The Taliban's exclusion of Afghan girls and women from various facets of public life has been one of its most notable and controversial attributes. Women are barred from higher education, jobs, beauty parlors, and parks due to several restrictions. The Taliban's dedication to their interpretation of Sharia law serves as a rationale for these prohibitions.

These limitations have drawn considerable criticism from the international world, making it difficult for the Taliban to acquire acceptance abroad and gain access to foreign aid. The Taliban imposed a ban on women entering campuses in December of last year, which sparked a significant international outcry.

Before that, a decree immediately after the Taliban regained power in August 2021 forbade girls from continuing their education past the sixth grade.

Additionally, the economic downfall of the country has stifled an already weary population. When the Taliban took control, they were confronted with severe macroeconomic issues. The sudden cessation of almost all aid, amounting to about $8 billion annually (about 40% of GDP), caused a massive economic shock that no country in the world could have handled without negative repercussions.

The suspension of international financial operations, the growing collapse of the banking sector, the imposition of U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Taliban commanders, and the freezing of Afghanistan's approximately $9 billion in foreign exchange reserves all served to intensify the shock.

An economic downturn resulted from the suspension of aid after the Taliban took control of the country that had previously received the majority of its funding from foreign donors. To obtain investments and the release of blocked cash, the Taliban have negotiated with neighbors including China and Kazakhstan.

However, the international world has made the improvement of women's rights and other human rights issues a condition of economic cooperation, which proposes challenges for the Taliban leadership. In addition, fresh challenges pose a risk of triggering further economic deterioration and a recurrence of the economic collapse that followed the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Afghanistan's GDP is hard to evaluate, although it is expected to have decreased by about 20 percent in the years following August 2021, worsening the country's already dire food shortages and privations. With an estimated 85% of the population living below the poverty line, Afghanistan is one of the nations with the lowest per capita incomes in the world.

More than half of Afghan households still, however, "struggle to maintain their livelihoods and consumption," according to the World Bank.

Despite a slight improvement in economic conditions, the significant economic deterioration is yet to be mended. The Afghan economy appears to be in a low-level equilibrium, leaving the majority of Afghans in need of humanitarian aid and living in poverty and hunger.

The decay of Afghanistan's population's living conditions is steadily rising. The Taliban’s authoritarian regime has brought in many missteps, including prioritizing regime resurgence and strengthening the welfare of the Afghan people. This is understandable given that they did not win the backing of the Afghan people to come to power; rather, they did it via their persistence as an insurgency and their military victory over the previous administration.

The provision of social services and the creation of a social safety net for the poor have received little attention; instead, the majority of this governance has been entrusted to international humanitarian aid.

The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Wednesday that since the Taliban took control, more than 500,000 people had lost their jobs or been forced out of them in Afghanistan.Unemployment has been spanning at a faster speed, threatening any advancements put together previously.

The Taliban's decision to restrict women's access to education and employment is a major contributor to the nation's economic difficulties.

In Afghanistan, where scarcely 40% of children between the ages of five and 17 attend school, the lack of employment also raises concerns about the prevalence of child labor as children bear the brunt of the plight.

Despite its efforts at diplomatic missions across the countries, the Taliban government is yet not formally recognized by any other nation. The international community is still hesitant to recognize the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" governed by the Taliban.

Considering the Taliban's success in taking over Afghanistan, resistance to their rule has persisted. The internal atmosphere has been fairly tough to tackle. There have been pockets of resistance in the Panjshir Valley, a region that has historically resisted foreign influence.

But the Taliban's domination over the political and armed opposition has generally averted any serious challenges to their authority. Despite being debilitated, the Islamic State has attacked the Taliban, illustrating the continued security concerns.

With limits on women's rights, including their exclusion from public venues and lack of access to education, the international world is still debating whether and how to interact with the Taliban authorities.

The second year of the Taliban's administration has been characterized by a variety of initiatives to strengthen their hold on power, manage economic difficulties, and interact with the international world.

The Taliban face a difficult road ahead as they attempt to negotiate their position in the international arena while simultaneously keeping power at home. The difficulties of leading a nation with a frail economy, security concerns, and external pressure offer a complex road ahead for the Taliban.

Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe

Read Part 2 to learn more about the women’s condition under the Taliban.

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