Washington appears to be getting fed up with the Afghan Taliban’s refusal to honour several aspects of the Doha peace deal that led to the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and opened the door for the militant group to retake control of the country. Chief among the violations is the backtracking on women’s access to education and other human rights issues. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West made a stop in Pakistan as part of a world tour to convince regional countries to join it in this assessment and find ways to either convince or pressure the Taliban into compliance.
One unusual break from past precedent is that Pakistani authorities feel even more let down by the Taliban’s betrayal than the US. Despite close ties between the establishment and the Taliban that helped get the Doha deal done, the Taliban have done little to repay Pakistan, as Monday’s terrorist attack in Peshawar shows. Despite the rising TTP activity from across the border, the Afghan Taliban have done little to dissuade the group. Even on Monday, the only reason the Afghans condemned the TTP attack was because it took place at a mosque — meaning if it were some other crowded building, the Taliban would have likely had no objection.
While the official position in Pakistan remains to give the Taliban a bit of leeway to run their own country, patience has been running thin. Pakistan has in the past attacked TTP positions in Afghan territory because of Kabul’s refusal to cooperate, and it would be unsurprising to see this happen again if the Taliban don’t mend their ways. And even if we are to accept that the Taliban lack the means to establish their writ over the country, outside of the most conservative circles in Pakistan, there was already increasing concern — mirroring the international community — that the Taliban government was abandoning the country’s women and bringing back the kind of repressive regime that had made Afghanistan a pariah state in the 1990s.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2023.
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