The prospects for Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, ranging from the Taliban’s ideological evolution and their relations with regional powers to the issue of women and the rights of minorities, was the subject of the webinar “What’s next for Afghanistan and the War on Terror?” held on 3 September 2021. Organised by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) , the webinar featured Ambassador Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada and now a non-resident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council South Asia Centre in Washington, DC. Chaired by Mr Raffaelo Pantuci and Mr Abdul Basit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Fellow of ICVPTR respectively, the webinar covered areas ranging from the Taliban’s ideological evolution and their relations with regional powers to the issue of women and the rights of minorities.
Amb Omar believed the Taliban now has little connection to Al-Qaeda. He argued that the Taliban would not want to be associated with any terrorist group as such associations could hamper their attempt to secure legitimacy and international assistance. Amb Omar believed that although Al-Qaeda’s key leadership no longer exists in Afghanistan, the group’s remnants are still in the country. This is because they either have no other place to go to or have married local women. As for the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP), the local franchise of the Islamic State movement, Amb Omar assessed that it is not a major threat to Afghanistan. ISKP and the Taliban, he noted, have different views on how Islamic governance should be executed and what constitutes immediate and long-term enemies.
On the Taliban’s ideology and their commitment to protecting human’s rights, Amb Omar cautioned that it was too early to assess whether change had indeed occurred. Nonetheless, he highlighted some ostensible modest changes in the Taliban’s policy towards women. For instance, women are now allowed to go to school and work although these changes have to be in keeping with the Taliban’s ideas of Islamic principles, i.e., segregation between males and females.
Amb Omar remarked that the Afghan people should not have to bear the consequences of the Taliban’s misconduct. If countries want to engage with the Taliban, they should do so one step at a time. Since the Afghan people had endured humanitarian crises for decades, countries wishing to engage the Taliban should focus their efforts initially on providing humanitarian aid, he suggested.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: