World Taliban promise to uphold rights for women and US allies, but White House is skeptical
Kabul: Defiant Afghan women are protesting the Taliban's all-male interim government
Groups of Afghan women, rights organizations and senior international figures have reacted with outrage and dismay to the Taliban's announcement of a hardline, male-only interim government in Afghanistan and a harsh crackdown on dissent. © AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a news conference in Kabul on September 7, 2021. A small band of defiant women marched against the Taliban in western Kabul on Wednesday holding signs declaring "No government can deny the presence of women" and "I will sing freedom over and over.
WASHINGTON – After taking over Afghanistan, the Taliban declared "amnesty" for government officials Tuesday and vowed to uphold women's rights under Islamic law – promises met with skepticism in Washington.
Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, women virtually had no rights under the fundamentalist Taliban's oppressive rule. Most were forced to quit their jobs and stay at home, denied access to education and health care, enduring high rates of illiteracy and maternal mortality.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said Tuesday at a news conference that they were working to form a government and that "nobody will be harmed." Mujahid said the Taliban's aim is to make sure "Afghanistan is no longer a battlefield of conflict."
As world marks 9/11, Taliban flag raised over seat of power
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban raised their iconic white flag over the Afghan presidential palace Saturday, a spokesman said, as the U.S. and the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission. © Provided by Associated Press A man walks down the stairs at dusk in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
"We have pardoned all those who have fought against us. Animosities have come to an end," he said. "We do not want to have any problems with the international community."
Hours after the Taliban news conference, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States won't take the group at its word but will watch its actions when it comes to human rights.
“This is not about trust. This is about verify," Sullivan said at the White House. “And we'll see what the Taliban end up doing in the days and weeks ahead.”
and NATO forces fear the Taliban will "slaughter" them, viewing them as traitors.
Many Afghans remain so fearful of Taliban rule that they rushed departing planes after the militant group gained control of Kabul. Chaos unfolded a day earlier at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where thousands desperate to flee the country forced the United States and other countries to halt the evacuation of diplomats and Afghan civilians who assisted American troops.
How the Taliban uses social media to seek legitimacy in the West
Social media is seen by some as another weapon employed by the militant group. The development is alarming and dismaying, despite (widely dismissed) assurances from the group -- decried by the U.S. State Department as having "had one of the worst human rights records in the world" and giving safe harbor to al Qaeda -- that they have changed.
Mujahid said the militant group is "committed to the rights of women under the system of sharia (Islamic) law," but he emphasized they would work and study "within our frameworks."
"They are going to be working shoulder to shoulder with us. We would like to assure the international community that there will be no discrimination," he said.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan doesn’t want the women to be the victims anymore,” said Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission.
The Taliban regime was known for particularly violent enforcement of draconian codes. For instance, women seen in public without a male relative could be raped, abducted and forced into marriage. Women who were raped could be executed.
In May,, many of them students ages 11 to 15. Though the Taliban denied responsibility, the Afghan government blamed them.
Who are the Taliban: The history — and present — of the group taking over Afghanistan
"When it comes to experience, maturity, vision, there is a huge difference between us in comparison to 20 years ago," a Taliban spokesman said.“Our nation is a Muslim nation, whether 20 years ago or now," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in his first news conference after the militants took control of the country on Tuesday, according to a translation by Al Jazeera. "But when it comes to experience, maturity, vision, there is a huge difference between us in comparison to 20 years ago.
Sullivan said the United States has tools – including sanctions, international condemnation and isolation – it can deploy if women in Afghanistan are mistreated.
Though Sullivan said his heart goes out to Afghan women and girls, he argued the choice was not between saving or abandoning them. Deciding to keep a U.S. military force in the country would have come with human costs for American soldiers.
“These are the choices a president has to make," he said.
The United States is working with the Taliban, who said they will provide safe passage to Kabul's airport for Americans and others trying to leave.
"I come at this with no expectations," Sullivan said about whether the Taliban are different from the way they were in 2001. “It’s going to be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed. The track record has not been good.”
Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement that air traffic controllers and ground handlers at Kabul's airport are "rapidly scaling up operations to ensure the smooth flow of military reinforcements to the airport and the evacuation of U.S. and partner civilians."
Mullah's rise charts Taliban's long road back to power
The Taliban's top political leader, who made a triumphal return to Afghanistan this week, battled the U.S. and its allies for decades but then signed a landmark peace agreement with the Trump administration. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is now expected to play a key role in negotiations between the Taliban and officials from the Afghan government that the militant group deposed in its blitz across the country. The Taliban say they seek an “inclusive, Islamic” government and claim they have become more moderate since they last held power.
McKenzie said he made clear to Taliban senior leaders in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Sunday that interference with the evacuation or any attack "would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces."
"The protection of U.S. civilians and our partners is my highest priority," he said, "and we will take all necessary action to ensure a safe and efficient withdrawal."
Mujahid said private media could maintain independence, but journalists "should not work against national values."
The White House froze Afghan reserves Sunday in an attempt to block the Taliban from accessing money in U.S. banks, according to The.
‘No possible life’ under Taliban rule:
Evacuation flights from Kabul underway
The Kabul airport was back open, and as many as 800 people were evacuated overnight, including 165 U.S. citizens, said Army Gen. William Taylor, an official on the Joint Staff.
U.S. military commanders in Kabul are communicating with Taliban officials outside the international airport to allow for the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghans, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday.
Who are the Taliban and what is happening in Afghanistan?
Who are the Taliban and what is happening in Afghanistan? The Taliban, a militant group that ran the country in the late 1990s, have again taken control.The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left. After they blitzed across the country in recent days, the western-backed government that has run the country for 20 years collapsed. Afghans, fearing for the future, raced to the airport, one of the last routes out of the country.
Kirby declined to characterize the discussions but said “the results are speaking for themselves.”
Evacuation flights could carry as many as 9,000 people out of Afghanistan per day, Taylor said. The airport has been secured by American Marines and soldiers, and more than 4,000 troops will be on the ground by the end of Tuesday, he said.
Biden's remarks draw bipartisan criticism; $500M pledged for refugees
President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops despite the rapid collapse of the Afghan government.
Opinion: Our Muslim allies must step up to protect the women of Afghanistan
Dean Obeidallah writes that with no US military option to protect women in Afghanistan from the Taliban's brutal treatment of women, the best approach at this point is enlisting our Muslim allies to pressure the Taliban "Muslim to Muslim" to stop its oppression of women. Not only is it morally wrong -- it's an insult to Islam. What the Taliban subjected women to when they ruled the nation from 1996 to 2001 may be worse than many remember. Amnesty International put it bluntly that women were brutally oppressed simply for "the 'crime' of being born a girl.
The president returned to Camp David, the Maryland presidential retreat, and stayed largely out of view as he drew bipartisan criticism for the administration's handling of the evacuations.
After his remarks, the White House announced Biden allocated $500 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to assist refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
The funds will be used to meet "unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas," according to a statement from the White House.
“We plan on being on the ground there in Afghanistan for the next couple of weeks,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It’s not just about moving out Americans. It is very much about meeting our moral and sacred obligations to those Afghans who helped us over the last 20 years, getting as many of them out as we can.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
The bursting 'Ka-bubble': Taliban extremism is remaking a once-cosmopolitan Kabul .
Restless Kabul residents ponder what remains and what changes in the Afghan capital after more than a month of Taliban rule.Some would say it was less a place than a feeling, the sense that this metropolis — supercharged by billions in Western assistance — was somehow insulated from the daily battles grinding outside the city gates. That wasn't entirely true. Bombings, assassinations and attacks echoed through the capital over the years. But unlike the provinces and hinterlands, this messy city of markets, mosques and green Ford Ranger pickup trucks felt like a relatively safe space in a battered nation.