In the five months since seizing Kabul, the Taliban have struggled to transition into a functioning government, retaining many of the traits that have defined their armed insurgency over the past 20 years. While the Taliban’s public relations machine blames foreign powers and the previous regime for the country’s current ills, their leadership has yet to publicly lay out proposals to tackle Afghanistan’s critical financial and humanitarian challenges. In the face of numerous capacity gaps, the Taliban have reverted to what they know best: the application or threat of violence to enforce order.
The Taliban have assumed many of the offices of the former government, but much remains unclear on the structure of the new state and how they will approach Afghanistan’s monumental challenges in 2022.
In newly seized urban areas, the Taliban have applied strict interpretations of Islamic law to public life and harshly enforced order — including the suppression of speech and dissent. They have enacted serious reversals for the rights of women and girls, with the vast majority prohibited from returning to work and school since August. And throughout the country, the Taliban have continued to hunt down local branches of the Islamic State and elements of former security forces and have engaged in extrajudicial killings. Their approach seems to be driven by the desire to consolidate control and maintain internal cohesion rather than building a more inclusive government. This tendency has complicated the world’s reception and approach to their government and further limits feasible options for reviving the collapsing Afghan economy.
On January 12, USIP held a discussion with leading experts on the Taliban’s approach to governing Afghanistan so far — as well as how the United States and international community can assist the Afghan people despite the challenges the Taliban pose as the country’s sole authority.
Join the conversation on Twitter with #AfghanistanUSIP.
Scott Worden, moderator
Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia, U.S Institute of Peace
Independent Researcher and Author
Interim Director, Religion and Inclusive Societies, U.S. Institute of Peace
Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.
Senior Expert, Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace
Senior Expert, Afghanistan, U.S. Institute of Peace