Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, shown here in a file photo taken on July 18, 2021, in Doha, now faces the huge challenges of running a state. Photo: AFP / Karim Jaafar

Academic research posits that the old saying “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is true, but not as much as people often think. People’s behavior changes significantly when they rise to powerful positions. Violation of political and social ethics and acceptable manners becomes their routine.

After the fall of Kabul, the Taliban are in seemingly precarious circumstances. The absence of law and order, authoritative behavior and persecution of opponents have absolutely debauched the entire Taliban government. 

Rationally, the most baffling challenge being faced by the Taliban is their internal disputes and differences of opinions. Prominent Taliban leaders including Mullah Ghani Baradar, Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai and Mullah Abdul Salam Zaheef, who held peace talks with the US and its allies in Doha, Qatar, are among those caught up in such disputes.

The principal cause behind contentions among the Taliban leadership is the autocratic attitudes of the fighters of Haqqani Network.

Also read: China on verge of recognizing the Taliban

Last month, a dispute between Haqqani Network chief and Deputy Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Ghani Baradar at the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, was due to the Haqqani Network’s alleged abuse of power and oppressive attitude. The global sanctions on the Haqqani Network and specially designated terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani are divisive factors\ among the Taliban leadership.

Moreover, the rampant and blatant re-emergence of Islamic State-Khorasan Province is one of the biggest challenges for the Taliban.

Before the US withdrawal, the Taliban had the advantage of being non-state actors, and functioned in an insurgent way to counter the US forces and the then Afghan government. Now, after the US withdrawal, the Taliban are channeling themselves as state actors and political entities to ensure their effectiveness to run state affairs and get global legitimacy.

ISIS-K has the advantage of being a non-state actor, and behaves in an offensive way. Since the fall of Kabul, ISIS-K has carried out attacks in major cities including Kabul, Jalalabad, Kanduz and Kandahar. Forestalling the threat of the ISIS-K is a matter of grave concern for the Taliban. 

Mass migration and the resulting brain drain are another key challenge to the Taliban regime. According to United Nations Commission on Refugees, more than 6 million Afghans have been displaced and driven from their homes and country because of insecurity, conflict and persecution. Half a million Afghans are expected to flee their homeland by the end of this year.

Consequently, the Taliban will face a grave administrative challenge to dealing with fundamental official and public affairs. 

Getting global legitimacy is the first and foremost challenge for the Taliban to meet. So far, no state has recognized the Taliban government. Getting regional and global legitimacy is the prerequisite for diplomacy, political engagements, trade and business, monetary and other state of affairs.

The Taliban have taken power by force, and always fought for power to run Afghanistan according to their strict and violent rules. Atrocities, targeted killings, public persecutions, suppression of minorities and women, and taking revenge on opponents are their core characteristics.

Recognizing the Taliban regime without prior consideration of its governance, their abusive behavior toward women and minorities, connection with militant groups and persecution of political opponents, would be a mistake for the global community. 

Besides these challenges, a ban on girls’ education and outdoor activities of women is another serious factor that will resonate on the Taliban’s regime. Along with insecurity, fear and unemployment, victimization of women is prevailing across Afghanistan.

In the past, the Taliban have burned and bombed dozens of girls’ schools to prevent them from getting education. A number of teachers affiliated with girls’ education have been killed in past years. Messages of intimation against girls’ schools and teachers involved in girls’ education are prevailing over the entire Afghan population.

Additionally, the Taliban are pursuing those who either worked with NATO forces or the previous Afghan government. The houses of anti-Taliban people are being searched actively. In this regard, many people have been arrested and persecuted.

Those who escaped the Taliban are trying to leave the country to find asylum in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia. If the repressive and violent attitude of the Taliban continues, Afghanistan will surely witness complete anarchy and state failure, which is a threat to regional security too.    

What is more, extreme political corruption, severe economic crisis, failure to provide public service and physical security, inability to ensure collective decision, rampant militancy, unavailability of basic health facilities, and lack of infrastructural development are other challenges being faced by the Taliban.

The Taliban government is facing the worst kind of challenges. For stability, integrity and effectiveness, the Taliban leadership must rethink their outdated policies which are completely incapable of running the affairs of state in 21st century.  

First and foremost, the Taliban need to call a Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) inviting all political figures, religious and academic scholars, tribal elders and other prominent people to discuss current challenges and define the future of Afghanistan. Without national reconciliation and integration, Afghanistan will be facing a chaotic situation and insecurity. A Loya Jirga would surely pave the way to general elections.

Second, the Taliban leadership must review their rigid and authoritarian attitude toward liberals, democrats, political opponents, and former officials of past Afghan governments. A policy of revenge will bring the Taliban to complete failure. 

Third, observance of democratic principles and practicing liberal values are equally important. For global legitimacy, the Taliban must adhere to democracy, create a significant space for political activities and elections if they want to ensure international recognition, meet challenges, hold power and run affairs of the state smoothly. 

Finally, females’ right to education and attending workplaces must be a fundamental rationale of the Taliban’s policy on education and development. In this regard, the international community must convey a clear message to the Taliban regime to restore girls’ educational institutions across Afghanistan.

Rahim Nasar, an Islamabad-based security and political analyst, a PhD scholar, writes on regional security, political and strategic affairs with special focus on Central and South Asia. He tweets on @RahimNasari.