When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Two Years On, A Dangerous Temptation To Recognize The Taliban

After taking control of Kabul two years ago, the Taliban has continued to present a threat to human rights in the region. But the Taliban's takeover, now slowly nearing official recognition by some governments, has also posed challenges for the country's neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan.

Aftermath of suicide bomb blast at a Mosque that killed 100 people.

Afghanistan remains “the least peaceful country in the world in 2023”, according to the Global Peace Index.

Stefan Wolff


The dramatic and rapid Taliban offensive in the spring of 2021 culminated in its takeover of Kabul on August 15. The chaos of the western withdrawal that surrounded the return of the Taliban represented a sad endpoint of two decades of failed US-led attempts to impose a liberal democratic system on a country that had hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and facilitated his masterminding of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban marked the beginning of a deeply illiberal regime that is particularly hostile to women and minorities.

The swiftness of the Taliban takeover confounded more optimistic U.S. and UK predictions about the survival of the Afghan government. But most of its consequences were entirely predictable, and indeed predicted – from the worsening human rights situation to an economic crisis.

Five million Afghans fled the country and over three million were internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency’s update in July 2023. The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is now at an unprecedented critical level: more than 18 million people – just under half the Afghan population – face acute food-insecurity.

Least peaceful country

After an initial upsurge, violence has significantly declined in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Yet, Afghanistan remains “the least peaceful country in the world in 2023”, according to the Global Peace Index.

This reflects, in part, the ongoing rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group. This branch of the Islamic State remains the most potent domestic challenger to the Taliban. It comprises somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 fighters, including former regime officials and members of ethnic minorities opposed to the Taliban regime.

IS-K has been responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan and has established itself firmly in the northern and northeastern provinces of Afghanistan.From a regional perspective, IS-K poses an equally important security threat to Afghanistan’s northern neighbours in central Asia. At the end of July 2023 it claimed a suicide attack in northwest Pakistan that killed more than 50 people.

IS-K, however, is not the most significant security threat to Pakistan. Rather, the Taliban’s longstanding ally has been afflicted by an upsurge in violent attacks committed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terrorist group allegedly enjoying safe havens in Afghanistan. According to a recent UN report, the TTP has reabsorbed several splinter groups and seeks to regain a measure of territorial control along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Beijing is worried that Uyghur extremists will use Afghanistan as a base for attacks against China.

Since the Taliban takeover, other, more regionally oriented terrorist groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkestan Islamic Party (formerly known as the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement), have also benefited from a more permissive environment in which to operate. These and numerous other groups are smaller in size – numbering in their tens and hundreds, rather than thousands. But they tend to coordinate and cooperate with each other and increasingly also with IS-K.

This is of particular concern to China. Beijing is worried that the Uyghur extremist Turkestan Islamic Party will eventually use Afghanistan as a base for attacks against China and Chinese interests in the wider region.

ran's Foreign Minister HOSSEIN AMIR ABDOLLAHIAN (2R) meets with Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister, MOLAWI AMIR KHAN MOTAQI (2L), in Samarkand.

The Taliban is preparing for what is certain to be a conflict with Iran over water shortages caused by the Taliban reneging on a 1973 water treaty.

Iranian Foreign Ministry/ZUMA

Water wars

Beyond terrorism, competition over scarce water resources is the other major source of conflict. The Taliban’s plan to build the Qosh Tepa Irrigation Canal will decrease water available to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from the transboundary Amu Darya River by as much as 15%. This will have major social, economic and public health consequences for both countries.

A similar crisis is brewing between Tehran and Kabul. The Taliban is reportedly preparing troops, including suicide bombers for what looks certain to be a conflict with Iran over water shortages caused by the Taliban allegedly reneging on a 1973 water treaty.

After two years of Taliban rule, Afghanistan, is a different – but not a lesser – problem. The deal signed between the Taliban and the US on February 29 2020, after two years of talks pushed by the then US president, Donald Trump, precipitated the withdrawal of western troops but did not bring about intra-Afghan reconciliation.

On the contrary, since the takeover in August 2021 the Taliban has ruled with fear and intimidation. And it has failed in its commitment to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

Fear and intimidation, at home and abroad

This has not, however, stopped international efforts to engage with the Taliban regime. Central Asian states have been at the forefront of efforts to integrate Afghanistan into regional trade and security structures and pushed the idea of a trans-Afghan railway line. In early August, 2023, Kazakhstan hosted a Taliban delegation for a business forum. The two countries signed US$200 million (£157 million) worth of deals, primarily to supply grain and flour to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has vast mineral deposits, including critical rare earth minerals. These have attracted Chinese investment in Afghanistan’s lithium sector. Beijing and Kabul also agreed a deal in January 2023, enabling a Chinese company to drill for oil in the Amu Darya basin.

While these efforts do not imply recognition of the Taliban regime – even by its closest neighbors – they suggest a slow but inevitable trend in that direction. This all the more likely now that even Washington has begun to re-engage with the Taliban. This has included signaling, at recent high-level talks in Doha, Qatar, an “openness to a technical dialogue regarding economic stabilization issues”.

Washington is still ruling out recognition “right now for a number of reasons, including the treatment of their own people, including their many flagrant human rights violations”. But this represents a significant shift in US policy.

Two years of Taliban rule have seen the regime in Kabul double down on its repressive domestic policies and do little to assuage its near and far neighbors’ concerns over new and old security risks. So this apparent willingness to re-engage with the Taliban will send all the wrong signals and is unlikely to bring about more security and stability for Afghans and their neighbors.

Stefan Wolff, Professor of International Security, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


How Parenthood Reinvented My Sex Life — Confessions Of A Swinging Mom

Between breastfeeding, playdates, postpartum fatigue, birthday fatigues and the countless other aspects of mother- and fatherhood, a Cuban couple tries to find new ways to explore something that is often lost in the middle of the parenting storm: sex.

red tinted photo of feet on a bed

Parenting v. intimacy, a delicate balance

Silvana Heredia

HAVANA — It was Summer, 2015. Nine months later, our daughter would be born. It wasn't planned, but I was sure I wouldn't end my first pregnancy. I was 22 years old, had a degree, my dream job and my own house — something unthinkable at that age in Cuba — plus a three-year relationship, and the summer heat.

I remember those months as the most fun, crazy and experimental of my pre-motherhood life. It was the time of my first kiss with a girl, and our first threesome.

Every weekend, we went to the Cuban art factory and ended up at the CornerCafé until 7:00 a.m. That September morning, we were very drunk, and in that second-floor room of my house, it was unbearably hot. The sex was otherworldly. A few days later, the symptoms began.

She arrived when and how she wished. That's how rebellious she is.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest