Evaluating the U.S. Foreign Policy Toward the Taliban
By: Ali Sajad Mawlaee
It has been almost two years since the American forces withdrew from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to regain their power. The current approach to U.S. foreign policy has done little to improve the situation in Afghanistan. The strategies employed by the Biden administration in its foreign policy towards the Taliban have been largely ineffective and have not been able to convince the group to accept universal human values. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been rejecting any forms of political, social, and religious diversity, and is determined to reintroduce the strict policies from the 1990s. In violation of previous agreements with the United States, the group has not stopped providing shelter to international terrorists, and numerous terrorist groups are currently active within Afghanistan.
The United States and other nations have attempted to use various methods to persuade the Taliban to recognize the rights of minorities, women, and the media. However, these efforts have not yielded significant results, and in many cases, have had the opposite effect. Sanctions and withholding recognition have been employed in an effort to induce the Taliban to change their policies, yet two years have passed and they have not only failed to do so, but have instead intensified them.
It was a widely held belief among American foreign policy elites that the Taliban might adapt to the international environment and become part of the global system. However, as time went on, it became clear that the Taliban’s refusal to integrate into the international order was not a temporary issue. It was highly improbable that an ideological group would change its core beliefs. The Taliban has strongly resisted the demands of the international community, perceiving them as an interference in their internal affairs and in conflict with their interpretation of Islam. The Americans thought that by withdrawing from Afghanistan, they could better focus on the issues of China and Russia. Nevertheless, two years have passed, and it is evident that America has not been able to finish the Afghanistan issue and remains involved in the country’s affairs.
There have been significant criticisms both domestically and internationally of the Biden administration’s approach to their policies concerning Afghanistan and the Taliban. These criticisms can be broken down into five main areas.
- Human rights, Women, and Media
The Biden administration has been criticized for its failure to ensure human rights and civil liberties in Afghanistan through the Doha agreement with the Taliban. Following the withdrawal of the United States and the return of the Taliban to power, women have been subject to strict restrictions on their work, travel, and education, and the media has been subject to regular inspection and censorship by the forces of this group. International pressures have not been successful in providing a solution, and the Taliban have not shown any signs of flexibility due to their rigid religious beliefs. Despite human rights being an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, the country has yet to take serious action to achieve this goal in Afghanistan and towards the Taliban. Afghanistan ranks 152nd in the world in terms of media freedom, and its human rights situation is highly unsatisfactory, with Freedom House giving it only 8 points out of 100, indicating a severe and concerning situation of civil and human freedoms in the country.
- Humanitarian Aids
Up to this point, the United States has provided $2.2 billion in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The primary purpose of this aid was to avert a human disaster in Afghanistan. However, according to reports from the field, the aid has not been managed properly and a considerable amount of it has not reached those who require it. Poor management and inadequate oversight of the aid has had the opposite effect, and the Taliban have taken advantage of it.
- U.S. Local Partners
The Biden administration has faced pressure from Congress and various American institutions regarding the discussion of local and indigenous partners of the United States who have been left destitute in Afghanistan or a third country. Despite the evacuation of a large number of these local partners from Afghanistan in the limited days after the collapse of the Republic’s government, over 100,000 people eligible to travel to the United States remain in Afghanistan and third countries. Furthermore, Afghan military forces and individuals who worked with U.S. forces have been killed by the Taliban or have become refugees in third countries. Additionally, many people with P1, P2, and SIV files are living in Pakistan, and two years have passed with no action taken to relocate them from Pakistan.
- Economic Stability of Afghanistan
On August 15th, the fourth axis of the United States’ foreign policy towards Afghanistan became the revitalization of the Afghan economic system. The withdrawal of the United States and other funding countries has caused the Afghan economic and banking system to collapse. To address this, the United States has implemented two approaches: providing weekly aid and creating a fund for Afghanistan in Switzerland. According to US officials, the income from this fund will be used to improve the economic situation of Afghan citizens. Although the weekly aid from the United States has somewhat stabilized Afghanistan’s currency and provided for the livelihood of employees in the education and health sectors, Afghanistan is still far from achieving economic stability.
Many Americans believe that the US should continue to intervene in Afghanistan in order to conduct counter-terrorism operations that will prevent future attacks against the US. There is growing concern about the strengthening of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Khorasan branch of ISIS, which were once the main targets of US counterterrorism activities. However, US actions have now been significantly reduced and are mostly limited to drone operations. This has resulted in Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, which is a cause of great concern for the US and regional countries.
An examination of these five criteria reveals that the Biden administration has not been successful in meeting its objectives in Afghanistan. The United States has been unable to engage with the Taliban and ensure human and women’s rights. Financial assistance from the US and aid organizations has thus far prevented a disaster, but it is not sufficient, and a humanitarian crisis is looming on the horizon for Afghanistan.
For the United States to effect a change in the situation in Afghanistan, it must thoroughly assess its foreign policy approach and alter its strategy towards the Taliban. The current strategy of the United States is not the answer to the current impasse in Afghanistan, and if no alteration is made, the situation in this country will deteriorate. The US approach towards the Taliban has been very lenient and gentle thus far, and there is a requirement for a significant change in this country’s strategy towards the Taliban.