Girls’ rights to education in Afghanistan will be solved with “the passage of time” and should not be a “condition for aid” from the international community, a senior Taliban leader has told Sky News.
Anas Haqqani made the remarks as the Taliban marks one year since it captured the Afghan capital Kabul and regained control of the country following the US-led withdrawal after a 20-year campaign.
International funding to Afghanistan was later suspended and billions of dollars of the country’s assets abroad were frozen due to the Taliban’s human rights abuses and stance on issues such as women’s rights.
Asked whether it would be a good idea for his government to compromise on issues such as allowing girls to have a secondary school education in exchange for aid, Mr Haqqani said: “Regarding education, the Islamic Emirates has made its decision clear to everyone that this issue is one of many incomplete issues across the ministries.
“This part of the education sector needs to be worked out and completed, like all other incomplete plans in other ministries.
“Half of the process is functional, and as you can see, the universities are open, the schools are open for girls up to grade six, and you can see in other provinces that schools are open for girls up to the ninth grade.
“There are no politics involved with this, and with the passage of time this issue will be solved. We want the international community and other institutions to not use it negatively, or use it against us, and it should not be a condition for aid.”
Mr Haqqani also said the country’s economy was in a poor state before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year, adding it “only benefited those in power and they were sucking the blood out of the Afghan nation”.
He continued: “You cannot find a single hospital with all the facilities and quality services despite the billions of dollars the international community and NATO countries gave to Afghanistan.
“(Healthcare) is not at the same level as Pakistan and Iran, our Afghans are still going to these counties for their medical treatment. And this is all because of the brutal economic system that they had for the last 20 years, and it should not be called a quality economic system but should be called a brutal economic system.”
Haqqani is saying the new guard understands there needs to be changes… but it will take time
The Taliban are often accused of wanting to impose a ninth century interpretation of Islam on the people of Afghanistan, and certainly in the 1990s that was the case.
But 20 years on, the organisation has changed. Many of the fighters were babies when the war started, they’ve grown up with smart phones, and computers, in a society awash with western products, advertising and TV.
It doesn’t mean the old guard has changed much, but some of their leaders are different and acknowledge that things have to change – Anas Haqqani is one of them.
He’s 28 years old, and a member of the Haqqani family, a family derided by the United States as a criminal network, but they are a huge force within the Taliban.
For Anas Haqqani to indicate a potential shift to a more liberal attitude to girls’ education he has to frame it in a language that the old guard can at least go along with.
In this interview with Sky News, Haqqani is acknowledging that girls’ education and international aid, and the unfreezing of the country’s assets, are linked.
But in essence, he is saying to the West that the new guard understand that there need to be changes, and that it will happen, but it will take time.
Equally, he is acknowledging that when it comes to the economy, healthcare and the well-being of the whole country, there is no time.
So he is asking the international community to trust the young guard, split the issues, help with aid and development projects, to bring the civilian population out of abject poverty and trust that the new guard will come through on education.
It’s a big ask for countries like the United States and Great Britain in particular, but there is a growing consensus across the world from governments to NGOs, that the ordinary people of Afghanistan can’t be allowed to die in huge numbers this winter because of a stand-off between western powers and a religious-based organisation that economically can offer nothing to those they rule over.
Mr Haqqani spoke to Sky News as a damning new report said the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan was carried out with no planning, was mired in “chaos and confusion”, and ended in “tragic yet avoidable outcomes”.
The US withdrawal led to the sudden mass evacuation of thousands of displaced Afghans.
The Taliban still celebrating a year after taking control of Afghanistan
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Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the Taliban taking control of the country, Haqqani said: “This is a proud day for us, we have achieved everything that other nations in the world also celebrate, their Independence Day, and today we have this day.
“This is our absolute right, and we carried out Jihad to achieve this.
“We have paid a very high price for this achievement, we were innocent, and we did not interfere in other national and internal matters, but we were invaded, and we have achieved our rights.”