Since its attainment of independence from British in 1919, Afghanistan has had a turbulence history characterized by foreign invasions, sectarian wars and poor governance. From the 1980s the Taliban, which began as a resistance group fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, has played a key role in the affairs of Afghanistan.
While the Taliban governance may have appeared to be limiting the rights and freedoms of Afghans by their strict enforcements of religious laws, they brought about relative peace and stability by ending the near anarchy state that ensued following Afghanistan’s splitting along ethnic lines after the Soviet withdrawal in the late 1980s.
Following the US led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban lost the almost absolute control it held in the country. However, the Taliban is still a potent force and the group still has some influence in the county.
Through the course of the last two decades, Taliban has made a number of reforms which affect the lives of the people in Afghanistan. This paper shall argue that Taliban reforms are by the large good for the wellbeing of Afghanistan citizens. To buttress this assertion, this paper shall give a detailed description of some of the Taliban reforms which resulted in an improvement in the lives of the people of Afghanistan.
Arguments for Taliban Reforms
One of the most significant reforms by the Taliban was the crushing of the drug industry in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is hailed as the world’s biggest opium producer and its production capacities are reported to have increased significantly following the toppling of the Taliban regime.
While it would be a fallacy to assume that there was no poppy cultivation during the Taliban reign, it is a well documented fact that on July 2000, the Taliban “issued a decree banning opium poppy cultivation” (Perl 2). Following this decree, the drug production was almost stamped out of the Taliban controlled regions in Afghanistan.
This reform demonstrates the Taliban’s commitment to establishing a drug free Afghanistan. However opponents of the Taliban rule have argued that the Taliban regime did in fact encourage the production of poppy and subsequently used the poppy-derived income to fund their arms purchases and training of their police. This is a view that is refuted by Whitaker who concedes that the Taliban only threatened to allow the resumption of opium production in light of imminent military action against them by US in 2001.
In addition to this, the invading forces and the interim government that replaced the Taliban showed great reluctance in putting pressure on local farmers to stump out poppy production. One especially damaging report by Nathan of the USA today magazine affirms that the Afghan authorities continue to enjoy up to 12% in taxes from opium sales.
Arguably one of the most notorious laws by the Taliban was the strict application of Islamic law which in some instances compelled doctors to “cut off the hands and feet of thieves in accordance with the Shariah”. Another significant reform by the Taliban justice system was that killers were tried promptly and punishment handed down in a matter of hours (Matinuddin 35).
This strict law enforcement resulted in a marked decrease of crimes in Afghanistan as the severe punishments acted as deterrence. Owing to the prompt manner in which sentences were handed out, there was a sense of justice by the population for as the old dictum goes, “justice delayed is justice denied”. However, there are those who feel that this strict laws practiced by the Taliban were too severe and amounted to a gross abuse of human rights.
Considering the remarkable decrease in the levels of crime and a restoration of Afghanistan from its previous state of near anarchy to some semblance of order, one must contend that despite their harsh nature, the laws imposed by the Taliban were indeed good for the people of Afghanistan. The prompt dealing of punishments to criminals also evoked a sense of fairness and justice which resulted in harmony in the country.
Taliban reforms were credited in restoring security in a war-torn Afghanistan. By use of their police force, Taliban was able to come up with security policies that resulted in a decrease in the cases of crime and insecurity in much of Afghanistan. Bryden and Hanggi note that following the collapse of the Taliban regime, there has been a steady growth of insecurity which has rapidly spread throughout the country (210).
It is for this reason that Taliban still continues to enjoy the passive support of the majority of the population since they concur that for all its ill, Taliban reforms are able to bring about relative stability to the volatile region.
Critics of the Taliban movement argue that the increased insecurity in Afghanistan is as a result of Taliban insurgency which has resulted in the death of thousands of civilians. While there is some truth in this statement, one must consider such claims in light of the fact that the violence only erupted following the overthrowing of the Taliban. In addition to this, Taliban forces are not the sole sources of violence in Afghanistan.
Warlords and criminal gangs fighting for control over territories have also been responsible for a big percentage of the insecurity problems in the country. This is very similar to the situation that existed in the late 80s and early 90s before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. As such, it is a credible assumption that only the Taliban reforms can lead to peace in Afghanistan.
Arguments against Taliban Reforms
The most contentions reforms by the Taliban are those that dealt with the treatment of women. One of the issues which have been focused on is the encouragement of wedding off of girl children. According to the Taliban, it is “good and Islamic to marry your daughters off while they are young’ (Ellis 143).
In the modern age that we are living in, this is tantamount to child abuse and studies indicate that girls who are forced into such marriages have a higher chance of suicide or mental problems. Taliban reforms also led to a ban on employment of women and a temporary halt to formal female education; these reforms were very retrogressive in nature (Marsden 88).
From the above examples, it is evident that Taliban reforms as pertains to the female population were mostly adverse in nature. The Taliban religion police were also often accused of beating women with sticks in the street undoubtedly led to a deterioration of the already bad situation for the women in Afghanistan.
Arguably the most significant argument presented against the Taliban reforms is as concerns their treatment of women. The Taliban rules which resulted in the lack of education for the girl child and a restriction on their movement evoked wide spread criticism from the Western world.
However, It can be argued that the Taliban’s gender policies which led to a restriction on the education of women and generally placed them under the protection of men was an attempt to protect Afghan women from influences that could weaken the society from within.
Ayub, Kouvo and Wareham note that while the 2001 Afghanistan invasion by the US let military force may have been largely welcomed by the general Afghan public, the ensuing breakdown of security and reemergence of sectarian war largely undermined the efforts of the new government and its international backers (7).
Nearly a decade after the dramatic fall of the Taliban, the country is full of violence, drug-related crimes and other abusive behavior that have cast a dark cloud over Afghanistan. While there is no doubt that Taliban is far from perfect, looking at the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, one cannot help but acknowledge that the country is in a sorrier state that it was in during the Taliban rule.
This paper set out to argue that Taliban reforms are generally good for the welfare of the Afghans. By taking a critical look at some of the specifics of these reforms, this paper has shed light to the advantages that these reforms presented to the population of Afghanistan. This paper has also presented some reforms which have been perceived as negative so as to provide a balanced view of the Taliban reforms in Afghanistan.
While the reforms are in some areas largely flawed, from the evidence provided in this paper, it can be seen that these reforms presented the best means for Afghan to be a functional society. It can therefore be authoritatively stated that Taliban reforms are good for the welfare of the Afghanistan people and as such, ways in which they can be incorporated into the current government should be looked into.
Ayub, Fatima., Kouvo, Sari and Wareham, Rachel. “Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan.” International Center for Transitional Justice. April 2009. Web. 23 April 2010. http://www.ictj.org/static/Publications/ICTJ_AFG_SSR_pb2009.pdf
Bryden, Alan and Hanggi, Heiner. “Reform and Reconstruction of the Security Sector.” LIT Verlag Munster, 2004. Print.
Ellis, Deborah. “Women of the Afghan War.” Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. Print
Marsden, Peter. “The Taliban: war, religion and the new order in Afghanistan.” Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. Print.
Matinuddin, Kamal. “The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994-1997.” Oxford University Press US, 1999.
Nathan, James. “The Folly of Afghan Opium Eradication.” USA Today Magazine, March 2009. Print.
Perl, Raphael. “Taliban and the Drug Trade.” CRS Report for Congress. 5 October 2001. Web. 23 April 2010. http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/6210.pdf