Daily Evacuation Brief | March 24, 2022
LAST 24 HOURS:
The Taliban reversed a decision to allow girls to attend school. Multiple explanations have been given, and it is currently unclear what the real reason behind the reversal may be. Condemnation was nearly instantaneous around the world, and Afghanistan found itself back on the front pages of newspapers due to the decision. The UN Secretary-General expressed his remorse at the Taliban’s decision and urged the regime to change course and admit female students immediately.
Unconfirmed reports of female students being flogged by the Taliban in front of a school in Baghlan surfaced late in the day. We are continuing to monitor the situation.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
Clarification over the school decision is expected from the Ministry of Education.
Several protests are rumored to be in the works to protest the ban on female students. Most major cities are expecting demonstrations to take place. At-risk Afghans are urged to avoid these protests as the potential for violence and arrests is significant.
The NATO Heads of State summit will commence in Brussels and will primarily focus on the Ukraine crisis. However, there is also an unscheduled meeting on Afghanistan.
Taliban’s Decision on Girls Education Erodes all Goodwill Built
The Taliban closed schools for female secondary school students on the day classes were expected to recommence. After promising for months that they would reopen classrooms to teenage girls in March, their reversal of the much-anticipated concession could have dramatic effects on their efforts to obtain recognition and increased aid.
The incomprehensible decision by the Taliban to ban female students in grades 7 to 12 from returning to school is a colossal blunder that will have reverberations far beyond the classroom. There is no way to spin this decision that could put the Taliban in a positive light.
The reasons given for the policy reversal ranged from not having an approved school uniform developed yet to a lack of female teachers. Multiple Taliban spokesmen assured the public that the decision was temporary, that only technical issues on proper Islamic procedure needed to be decided on, and that they hoped to have the issue resolved quickly.
Regardless of their weak and vague excuses, the Taliban had months to prepare for the reopening of schools, and the last-minute cancellation cannot be justified to the international community. Furthermore, they developed a plan they deemed appropriate for women enrolled in university months ago. The policy differences between secondary school and higher education cannot be so substantial that they could not have resolved it in the meantime.
Whoever suggested this reversal of policy does not understand geopolitics and has drastically miscalculated how this will be received. The careful and sometimes skillful public diplomacy campaign the regime has waged to this point now lies in tatters.
The Taliban now have two options. They can immediately let girls into secondary school and begin to rebuild trust, or they can follow in the fateful footsteps of the 1990s regime. When the Taliban were last in power from 1996-2001, they similarly promised that girls would return to school when the time was right and the correct Islamic procedures were in place. They made promises for 5 years, but never delivered. The international community, which has been operating in good faith with hopes that the Taliban would keep their word, now fears a return to 1990s strategy. If the Taliban do not reverse course, their ban on girls' education may result in a regime almost as isolated as they were in the 90s.
However, international politics aren’t all the Taliban are concerned about. Internal politics are messier than ever. Their decision reinforces the consensus among Afghanistan experts that no one is effectively in charge of the Taliban. The lack of leadership has guaranteed that a cycle of inconsistent rule by fiat will be the norm for the foreseeable future.
Divisions are deepening and becoming more public. NPR reported that Ahmad Yasir, the deputy head from the office of the first deputy prime minister, tweeted that he saw no religious justification for girls not to attend school. He quickly deleted the tweet, but his opinion is representative of the more moderate Taliban who are frustrated at some of the poor decisions being made by the regime.
On the flip side, there has also been discussion about a potential revolt among lower-ranked and more rural Taliban who demand more conservative policies and are threatening to defect to ISIS-K. It is not yet clear if this more conservative group has demanded that girls not be reintegrated into secondary school, but regardless the decision may be an attempt to pander to them.
As for the international community, the ramifications of the Taliban’s decision will be huge. Widespread international recognition is almost certainly shelved for the time being. A few states like China and Iran may continue lobbying for it, but they lack any real credibility due to the repressive norms of their governments. Some of the countries that have recently voiced support for recognition will begin to walk back this support or at least cease to be as vocal.
Furthermore, countries and institutions are rethinking engagement. While the international community will not refuse to supply aid to a starving and impoverished population, we believe future support will seek to entirely remove the Taliban from the equation. Aid and development programs deemed non-essential to the sustainment of life will begin to be modified or canceled. This decision will undoubtedly have enormous ramifications for the pledging conference scheduled less than a week from now.
Even if the Taliban reverse their decision again, it is unlikely many governments will be willing to extend their trust. International aid agencies and foreign governments must now contend with blatant duplicity that has eroded trust and whatever goodwill that may have existed up to this point. Critics of engagement with the Taliban now have ample ammunition. Even those who were open to engagement are now in a difficult position since many officials in the West had explicitly made the deliverance of aid contingent on girls returning to school.
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 87.49 AFN (as of 24 MAR 2022)
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