When someone shows you who they are with a beheading video, believe them.
While the Biden Administration attempts to turn the page on Afghanistan via any means necessary, and Republicans refuse to let them by ruthlessly grilling Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Congress, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate apace.
To the surprise of very few, and the disappointment of many, the Taliban’s lofty promises of a kinder, gentler, totalitarian rule than the one they inflicted on Afghanistan two decades ago have proven completely empty.
No: The Taliban has not started publicly executing American citizens on livestream. They even reportedly allowed a State Department evacuation flight to depart this week carrying 200 people.
But Taliban fighters have been carrying out executions of Afghans who cooperated with the U.S. or Afghan government. Other innocent people have been killed as well.
There are credible reports of sex trafficking via the abduction and coercion of young women, widows and girls into forced “marriages” with Taliban fighters. Many Afghan families have been displaced and have fled to nearby nations in an attempt to escape this fate.
Graphic images of journalists detained, beaten, flogged and tortured by Taliban soldiers are making the rounds on social media, and being reported on by affiliate news outlets and human rights watch organizations around the world.
“One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete,” said Nematullah Naqdi, a photographer for Information Daily.“They kicked me in the head … I thought they were going to kill me,”
“The Taliban is quickly proving that earlier promises to allow Afghanistan’s independent media to continue operating freely and safely are worthless,” said Steven Butler, a program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalism Asia.
The journalists were detained while covering a peaceful protest. Many Afghans are disappointed that the Taliban government, in spite of its many promises, does not include any women. The protest, like others of its kind, was brutally suppressed by Taliban soldiers who used whips, clubs, machine guns and other weapons to terrorize the unarmed female protestors.
The U.N. has condemned the violence against protestors, for all the good it has done. The Taliban has a long and well-known history of violating the basic human rights of women.
They are well-known for violating the basic human rights of other groups as well. On August 25, the U.K. LGBTQIA-rights organization Pink News reported the first-hand account of a gay man whose partner was murdered and dismembered and who is now hiding in fear for his life.
U.S. foreign policy experts and human rights groups are growing increasingly concerned about a Taliban which doesn’t seem to have any problem breaking any of the promises it has made to U.N. and U.S. authorities.
“There’s a big difference between the Taliban in the media and the Taliban on the street,” a senior Afghan journalist told The Guardian recently on condition of anonymity.
One high-ranking member of the newly formed Taliban government in Afghanistan is an Al-Qaeda operative already wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of terrorism to the tune of $10 million dollars: Sirajuddin Haqqani.
He, like other high-ranking members of the new Taliban government, is also under U.N. sanctions, among other restrictions.
The New York Times characterized Haqqani as one of the “biggest winners in the return of the Taliban to power,” on a list which includes other infamous luminaries like the new prime minister, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund.
Akhund is well-known as the former deputy prime minister of the Taliban circa 1995, when the group last seized power in Afghanistan, and as the man who organized the destruction of the ancient, priceless Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, which were protected UNSECO world heritage sites.
Sirajuddin Haqqani’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, is also now a high ranking member of the newly formed Taliban government. He is wanted by U.S. authorities willing to pay a sum of $5 million dollars.
The Haqqani network is best known for terrorism, kidnapping, torture and beheading videos. Sirajuddin Haqqani himself is well-known in Afghanistan as the architect of a terrorism and car bombing campaign that shook Kabul and killed scores of innocent people.
He is now the head of law enforcement.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is also known to readers of the New York Times. His op-ed entitled “What We, the Taliban, Want” was published in February of 2020.
“We are committed to working with other parties in a consultative manner of genuine respect to agree on a new, inclusive political system in which the voice of every Afghan is reflected and where no Afghan feels excluded,” wrote Haqqani for the New York Times.
The Times received a not-insignificant amount of criticism for its refusal to publish the op-ed of sitting U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and platforming instead someone who has personally taken American journalists hostage and is wanted on charges of terrorism.
“The appointment Tuesday makes Minister Haqqani the first member of al Qaeda to be elevated to a cabinet position anywhere in the world,” wrote Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst for CNN, on September 9, 2021- barely concealing his amazement.
Haqqani certainly talked a good game in the New York Times.
“I am confident that, liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity.”
In practice, the new Taliban rule, and its rulers, is just like the old Taliban. Beheadings have started up again. The kidnapping, torture and murder of journalists is becoming commonplace. No women are being allowed to serve in government.
The Taliban never conformed with the terms of the deal they negotiated with the Trump Administration. Instead, they carried out assassinations, murders and executions, bombings and other acts of terrorism, while always denying it publicly. On the ground in Afghanistan, everyone knew the Taliban were behind them.
It is the same game they are playing now. Expecting the Taliban to keep its promises to respect human rights ignores 20 years of lessons the U.S. and the world has learned about the Taliban. It also ignores the Taliban’s 20 years of reasons to distrust and lie to U.S. and U.N. powers.
Executions, torture, and the exclusion of women from government- along with an insistence that women be educated in a school system separate from men- are only the beginning.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)