Since their return to power, the terror regime of the Taliban has not demonstrated any change in its policies. This contradicts the years-long whitewashing of the group by some Western diplomats and media outlets, who propagated that the terror group has changed. Moreover, this propagation led to the ill-developed and ill-lead Doha negotiations which failed to include the Afghan people meaningfully in the negotiation process and emboldened the terror group’s ego. However, despite failing to gain official recognition by the international community and exacerbating already dire social, political, and economic problems in the country, stemming from almost half a century of continued conflict, the group has fully disregarded demands from both the people of Afghanistan and the international community. Moreover, the Taliban has boldly continued their policies with serious breaches of human rights, particularly the rights of women and minorities. The recent wave of imprisonment of women and girls, for not following the strict dress-codes introduced by the Taliban, disproportionately targets Hazara and Tajik women, and is the prime example of the terror regime’s continuation of profoundly inhumane policies. 

The international community has taken no serious steps other than repeated condemnations. Based on reports about Afghanistan, especially those provided by the UN, there seems to be no indication of any change in the terror group’s course of action at all. On the contrary, for instance, the UN Women report from  24 February 2024  is the latest confirmation of the continued disastrous inhumane policies. Against this backdrop, it is vitally important to explore what policy options the international community has to more effectively pressure the Taliban. I contend that providing assistance for the resistance,opposition groups and parties has the potential to be a serious political force against the usurpers. 

Following the discussion about Afghanistan in the media and international community, it seems they are influenced or sometimes even reflective of a narrative which the terror group wishes to spread. The Taliban’s swift takeover as well as their apparent tight grip on power, especially in regards to suppressing the free flow of information from within Afghanistan, and their novel ability in the dissemination of misinformation through their media channels has created such an environment. Consequently, the existence of resistance against the Taliban remains less known. For instance, even though protests organized by women make it to the news headlines, they remain limited to Kabul or some major cities only. Meanwhile, UN reports have detected 23 active armed groups resisting the Taliban in addition to the widespread political opposition to the terror group. 

The terror group, since day one of its return to power, has faced both military resistance and political opposition. A large number of ex-security forces joined different resistance groups to fight the Taliban, including the Afghanistan Freedom Front, National Resistance Front, and Freedom Corps. These groups conduct guerrilla attacks across the country that target the Taliban’s militias and commanders. As this military tactic avoids harming the civilian population, unlike those of terrorist groups, the subsequent low level of casualties, may be one of the reasons behind the lack of media coverage. Furthermore, this is also evident when comparing media coverage on terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS, which usually result in high casualties notably towards Hazaras or other minorities, to the activities of the resistance groups. 

The landscape of political opposition to the Taliban is highly diverse and extensive. The armed resistance groups follow a broader political objective for the country alongside numerous political parties both within Afghanistan and in the diaspora. The most prominent groups are arguably the women’s rights movements who have bravely challenged the terror group’s policies by organizing various protests, despite facing massive violence and experiencing a shrinking space to take action. If supported meaningfully and included in the political process by the international community, these movements have the potential to assert pressure on the Taliban to accommodate their demands. For example, UN conferences can ensure a fair representation of the women’s movements and include their demands on the main agenda, such as utilizing international legal frameworks to bring Taliban’s officials to justice.

Another section of the opposition is the established parties of Afghanistan formed along ethnic or religious lines. Most of these parties, having a dark past of committing war crimes in the 1990s, being widely complicit in corruption, and their leaders accumulating wealth by robbing the people of Afghanistan, have lost their legitimacy both among the people of Afghanistan and the international community. However, despite such a bleak past, most of them unfortunately still possess the ability to mobilize and militarily resist the Taliban. Thus, it seems unrealistic to completely cut them off from any political process for the future of Afghanistan. These parties, mainly organized in the self-proclaimed “Supreme Council of National Resistance,” could be seen as one among many other political groups who should be included in a political process concerning the future of Afghanistan. Their main demand is to create intra-Afghan dialogue in order to form an inclusive government- a wish shared by everyone except the Taliban.

In addition to these parties, there are newly formed parties or movements such as the Federalist Assembly of Afghanistan, Afghanistan National Liberal Party, and others, who have proposed a decentralized political system. Since these parties have come up with political programs for the future of Afghanistan, including them and engaging with them, along with others, while dealing with national issues is highly crucial, as an all-inclusive approach will put the Taliban in serious distress. Moreover, these groups have far more support from the public than the terror group, therefore they should be consulted instead of the Taliban at the international level. Unfortunately, in the recent conference in Doha convened by the UN General Secretary, the Taliban was instead invited to join to discuss the future of Afghanistan. Such engagement with the Taliban only aggrandizes the terror group’s status and marginalizes the opposition groups. Inviting Taliban along with some civil society members while ignoring other political forces, in particular the resistance groups and opposition parties, depicts a misapprehension of the current reality of Afghanistan. This also shows that despite repeatedly failed attempts, the UN has not learned its lesson:  UN-led efforts, which exclude different political factions, are doomed to fail.

Therefore, as all efforts to pressure the terror group into changing their policies have failed, it is time to take into account the existence of several resistance groups and opposition parties as a salient part of Afghanistan’s reality. Engagement with them as partners, and including them in all international political efforts can offer new possibilities to effectively counteract Taliban’s stubbornness, paving the way to the end of their inhumane policies inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan. 

Written by Mansoor Hussein Ayobi, Edited by Reed McIntire

Photo credit: Farid Ershad, Unsplash