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“The Americans, all of whom wanted to come out have come out, praise God,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer

“Like I’ve said all along, this is not about trust. This is about verify, and we’ll see what the Taliban end up doing in the days and weeks ahead, and when I say we, I mean the entire international community.” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan

“This is not a movie.” Worker in Central Asia

“I felt like I can no longer laugh out loud, I can no longer listen to my favorite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favorite cafe, I can no longer wear my favorite yellow dress or pink lipstick. And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve.” Afghan Female University Student

“This is not a movie.” Worker in Central Asia

I want to write this week about what is on many people’s minds, when they are not thinking about Coronavirus, COVID-19, and governmental mandates. It is the fiasco happening in Afghanistan and in the lives of tens of thousands of Afghani people today. If there was ever a season when there is more than meets the eye it is now. 

The rhetoric, misinformation, and outright deception is staggering to me. There are so many hidden agendas, it is like peeling an onion. As soon as you peel through one layer, there is another layer beneath it that looks seamier than the layer you just cut your way through.

Frankly, as an analyst, I have been really scratching my head at the seeming lack of congruency, reason, and purpose that is behind so many of the decisions that are being made at the highest levels. I have lived long enough to know that when there appears to be no reason or purpose behind something it is more than likely because the real reason and purpose has potentially some egregious intent within it. What people do not understand though is that eventually the peeling will come off and there is a core somewhere. Be for certain, your sins will find you out. There is more than meets the eye here.  It will come out.

For now, much of the world waits in some form of Quixotic hope that the Taliban have changed. People are hoping that they are a much kinder and gentler form of jihadist movement that has come to its senses and wants to play nice with the world. They want to believe that the Taliban will be an inclusive group wanting to integrate religious minorities, women, and other marginalized groups into the fabric of society. Global leaders, even on the eve of the 20th year remembrance of 9/11, are just tired. They are tired of the wars, the violence, the distrust. So as a way to somehow assuage their emotional exhaustion, they have decided to capitulate and like Don Quixote drift off into an imaginary world of honor, beauty, and innocence. (For those who are unfamiliar with Don Quixote, he is a man who does not see the world for what it is, but prefers to imagine that he is living out a different story.) Don’t get me wrong. I love the whole story of Dulcinea and her redemption. For most of us, it is our story. 

But in this case, it will come at a cost that the world will have to pay. We will find that it comes with a price tag that will far exceed our capacity or willingness to remunerate. What will that price tag be? That is what I will discuss in this week’s “More Than Meets the Eye”.


What will acquiescence to the Taliban cost the world? What are some of the extremities that the Taliban are willing to go to that will cause all of us to go hmmm? And to eventually say no. 

It is important to remember while in power in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban’s rights record was characterized by systematic violations against women and girls; cruel corporal punishments, including executions; and extreme suppression of freedom of religion, expression, and education. 

“Non-state armed groups are bound by Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and customary international humanitarian law. This requires that the Taliban respect fundamental guarantees in areas that they occupy, including non-discrimination on the basis of sex and other grounds; freedom of religion; respect for family life; humane treatment of prisoners; prohibitions on torture and corporal punishment; collective punishment; and rights to a fair trial. Individuals who violate some of these guarantees, such as by committing torture, are responsible for war crimes.” The prevailing question is, do the Taliban consider themselves beholden to the Common Article 3 or any portion of the Western nations created Geneva Convention. I doubt that many of the Taliban will consider the Geneva Convention Shariah compatible.

Here are some of what should be redlines, that I hope will be redlines for the global community.

  1. Rights of Women and girls. Since 2002, in cities under Afghan government control, millions of Afghan girls have gone to school and Afghan women have participated in public life, including holding political office, in greater numbers than ever before in Afghanistan’s history. 

Although the Taliban officially state that they no longer oppose girls’ education, very few Taliban officials actually permit girls to attend school past puberty. Others do not permit girls’ schools at all. The inconsistencies have left residents wary. As one teacher in Wardak province in central Afghanistan said, “Today, [a Taliban official] tells you that they allow girls up to sixth grade, but tomorrow, when someone else comes instead, he might not like girls’ education.” 

Even recent evidence that suggests the Taliban may be relaxing certain policies slightly, should not disguise the truth—that the foundation of Taliban governance is based on the subjugation of women, and that a remarkable and wide array of specific policies are promulgated and implemented to achieve that end.

2. Freedom of Expressions and Social Restrictions. Taliban commanders have threatened and attacked journalists for critical reporting. Taliban officials prohibit watching television in some districts and residents who watch TV do so in secret. Similarly, some Taliban officials impose restrictions on smartphones or ban them outright, limiting residents’ access to information and their ability to communicate, study, or work using the internet. Journalists covering some protests have said that Taliban officials have told them that reporting on protests is also now illegal.

3. Detention and Punishment for Government Contacts, Criticism of the Taliban. Criticizing Taliban military activities is strictly forbidden; fear of retaliation keeps residents from advocating for their own protection. Although deploying forces in populated villages without taking all feasible precautions to protect civilians from attack is a violation of the laws of war, the Taliban have sometimes punished residents who have complained about Taliban forces entering their homes and firing on government troops.

Even this week a women’s demonstration was brutally crushed before it even got started. The Taliban have declared all demonstrations illegal without their approval. No demonstrations will be approved that are critical of the new Taliban regime. Taliban violent and heavy-handed treatment of demonstrators are being highly documented.

Waheedullah, a police commander from Spin Boldak, had obtained a “forgiveness” letter from the Taliban, but Taliban fighters took him from his house and executed him on August 2, activists and media monitoring these detentions in Kandahar said. The Taliban have no apprehension in lying to their perceived enemies and then murdering them. I was reminded this week by a friend who I have worked with closely these past few weeks. He said, “This is not a movie.”

What I fear is that many will die before global leaders wake from their quixotic stupor and realize that there is little good faith in the words of Taliban commanders and leaders. It is unconscionable that leaders of nations will allow this to go on, knowing full well that they are disingenuous at best in their promises to treat people with respect and civility. These leaders so in clear daylight. The very people they are negotiating with are sanctioned terrorists, yet they continue to negotiate with them as if nothing ever happened. 

Citing credible reports of reprisal killings, crackdowns on women’s freedoms, and other rights violations by the country’s new Taliban-led administration, she added that the UN will also need to decide how to engage with high-level members of the Taliban’s de facto Government – including the newly named prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and foreign minister – who are currently on UN sanctions lists. Does this seem like a red flag, or is it just me. Does a person stop being referred to simply because they have been appointed as a senior government official? Do all their past sins which wound them up on a Sanctions list just go away.

There are many concerns about protections of fundamental human rights, including the rights of women and girls; education; freedom of expression and the media; due process guarantees; as well as ending attacks on civilians and accountability for serious human rights abuses and war crimes. But with all the concerns, little is being done to counter the impact that these rogue leaders are inflicting on innocent people across Afghanistan.


For years after its fall from power, the Taliban enjoyed support. The U.S.-based nonprofit organization Asia Foundation found in 2009 [PDF] that half of Afghans—mostly Pashtuns and rural Afghans—had sympathy for armed opposition groups, primarily the Taliban. Afghan support for the Taliban and allied groups stemmed in part from grievances against public institutions.

But in 2019, a response to the same survey found that only 13.4 percent of Afghans had sympathy for the Taliban [PDF]. As intra-Afghan peace talks stalled in early 2021, an overwhelming majority surveyed said it was important to protect [PDF] women’s rights, freedom of speech, and the current constitution. Around 44 percent of Afghans surveyed said they believed that Afghanistan could achieve peace in the next two years.

There are millions of lives at stake in this egregious chess match being played by the Taliban and particularly by the US. There are thousands of Afghans who are trying to get out of Afghanistan because of serious threats. There are planes waiting to take them to safety. These people have something that many who made it out already. They have been vetted and have experience working for US companies, organizations, or even the US Military. Yet at every juncture, they have been thwarted by the US State Department in being able to leave the region. Many are willing to help but are being denied that opportunity by those who sit in power and do not understand what they are doing.


Contact your congressman or congresswoman and request that their office encourages the movement of Afghan peoples, men, women, and children out of the dangerous area into places of safekeeping, where people can start their lives over again.

If this is not done, it is doubtful in the future that when we need friends to work alongside us, they will remember how we treat our friends and refuse to get tied up in that gordian knot.

The follow-up.

Pakistan: Muslims open fire at church during Sunday service, murder several Christians…

Blinken Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal in First of Congressional Hearing Marathons…

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:


© 2019 • More Than Meets