In the time before the 9/11 attacks on America and the resulting U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s ultraconservative Islamic views included severe restrictions on women as well as public stonings. The Taliban barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life, and those who dared to convert from Islam to any other religion faced the very real risk of execution.
Now, after President Joe Biden’s chaotic withdrawal after the U.S. military’s hard-fought 20 years in Afghanistan, the Taliban are back in power and apparently doubling down on another hard-line course despite the outcry that followed their initial presentation of an all-male government lineup. Female employees in the Kabul city government, for example, have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said last weekend.
“I may as well be dead,” one Kabul woman, who was sacked from her senior role at the foreign ministry, told the international news agency Agence France-Presse.
“I was in charge of a whole department and there were many women working with me. ... Now we have all lost our jobs,” she said, insisting she not be identified for fear of reprisals.
For most of the world, these developments and others are, at the very least, incredibly worrisome.
The White House apparently sees things quite differently.
In a statement this month – after a Qatar charter ferried out some U.S. citizens and Afghans who had been left behind when Biden bowed to a deadline to remove U.S. troops – the Biden administration issued a statement that bordered on the absurd. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne thanked the Taliban extremists and said “they have been businesslike and professional.” She went on to call the Taliban’s actions a “positive first step.”
The Taliban? Are we talking about the same Taliban who sheltered al- Qaida, the terrorist group that slaughtered 3,000 of our fellow citizens 20 years ago?
Understandably, the reactions were swift. And for military families, the U.S. statement was like a punch in the gut ... or worse.
“Wow, the first word that comes to mind … was blasphemous, horribly blasphemous,” Gold Star mother Jill Stephenson told the New York Post. “To call the Taliban that – it’s absolutely disgusting. And it’s coming from the White House.”
Stephenson’s son, Ben Kopp, an Army Ranger, was wounded in a firefight with Taliban forces July 10, 2009, and died eight days later at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington.
Stephenson noted that the Biden administration must be “living in the Twilight Zone” to have referred to the brutal regime that way.
In Washington, Fox News’ Peter Doocy questioned how the White House could call the Taliban “professional” when the jihadist group’s acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, owns a spot on the FBI’s most wanted list, the Los Angeles Times reported. White House press secretary Jen Psaki evaded the line of questioning.
Meanwhile, the Taliban issued another decision not to allow girls in grades seven to 12 to return to classrooms for the time being. Boys in those grades were allowed to return to school last weekend. At the moment – but who knows for how long – girls in grades one to six are allowed to go to school, and women in universities can pursue their studies, but only in gender-segregated settings and while complying with an Islamic dress code.
And just days ago, American officials said they’re monitoring the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover, particularly with an eye on how al-Qaida or the Islamic State group could rebuild there to the point of being able to conduct another attack targeting the U.S.
We certainly realize that not all nations have good policies on human rights and other issues, and we understand that – because of America’s role in the world – our presidents have had to deal with some of them on various matters. But heaping praises on the Taliban, calling them “businesslike” and “professional” when in fact they are repressive and reprehensible, should have no place in our foreign policy.
And it just makes one wonder if the Biden administration is indeed living in the Twilight Zone.