Taliban to former gov't officials: All is forgiven. Come back. Trust us!

What’s Pashto for “sap”? Anyone who falls for this line from the Taliban’s acting prime minister will likely find out, as well as experience firsthand the vengeance of the totalitarian regime for twenty years of war. Their promises of late have a nasty habit of expiring tout suite:

Afghanistan’s new acting prime minister, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, told Al Jazeera in an interview aired on Thursday that former officials who fled when the Taliban seized power last month should return to the country, saying the group would “guarantee their security and safety.”

Repeating earlier pledges made by the Taliban, he said anyone who had worked alongside the United States would be granted amnesty and had nothing to fear.

“No one will be able to prove that he was subjected to revenge,” Mr. Hassan said. “And in such tense circumstances, it is easy to do what you want. But the movement is disciplined and controls its gunmen.”

That sales pitch hasn’t yet worked, the New York Times dryly notes:

Those assurances have done little to ease the concerns of tens of thousands of Afghans who are watching as the Taliban tighten their control over the country.

Demonstrations against the government have been banned, and protests have been violently crushed.

The Taliban also promised to respect the rights of women. How’s that working out? Earlier today, they banned women from all sports that don’t allow them to be covered from head to toe, including their faces:

The Taliban will reportedly ban women’s sports where their face and body are not covered, according to a Taliban spokesperson quoted by Australia’s SBS TV. This includes cricket, in which women “might face a situation” where they could be “exposed,” said Ahmadullah Wasiq, the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

“It is the media era, and there will be photos and videos, and then people watch it,” the Australian network quoted Wasiq as saying. “Islam and the Islamic Emirate do not allow women to play cricket or play the kind of sports where they get exposed.”

Wasiq told SBS in August that men would be permitted to play the sport, and the Taliban authorized the men’s national team to play in a November test match in Australia, the Associated Press reported. However, Cricket Australia said in a statement Thursday that it would not go through with the test if the Taliban stance on women’s participation was true.

When women demonstrate to highlight this broken promise, the Taliban are anything but protective. They’re also anything but “disciplined,” unless beatings are official policy of the Taliban:

After being completely shut out from the Taliban‘s new government, women kept up the pressure on Afghanistan‘s new rulers with a number of protests Wednesday, at least one of which was violently broken up by Taliban fighters who whipped some of the demonstrators and detained local journalists. …

In another sobering development, the Taliban has reinstituted a ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, which was notorious during the group’s 1996-2001 rule for its brutal enforcement of the Taliban’s ultra-conservative brand of Islam. The ministry presided over the amputation of thieves’ hands and the stoning deaths of women found guilty of adultery.

On Wednesday, after 45 minutes of walking, the protesters in Kabul came upon a beige Humvee parked to the side, and four Taliban fighters moved to push the women back. Despite the weathered AK-47s they carried, the women swarmed toward them, shouting and arguing at the leader until he relented and allowed them to continue.

But other fighters near the Karte Char police station, close to the center of Kabul, were less tolerant.

And say, didn’t the Taliban promise to allow reporters to do their jobs and uphold press freedom? That also expired rather quickly:

Two Afghan journalists were left severely battered and bruised after being beaten by Taliban fighters for covering a women’s protest in Kabul.

Photographer Nematullah Naqdi and reporter Taqi Daryabi revealed their horrific injuries, including severe welts and bruising to their backs and legs, on Thursday.

The pair say they were beaten with batons, electrical cables and whips after being detained for several hours by Taliban fighters a day earlier.

“One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head … I thought they were going to kill me,” Naqdi told Agence France-Presse.

When he asked why they were being beaten, Naqdi said he was told: “You are lucky you weren’t beheaded.”

That wasn’t just an isolated reaction either, the Los Angeles Times notes:

When two Los Angeles Times journalists approached, the fighters broke away from the protest and surrounded them, lunging for one of the journalists’ cameras. They then aggressively shoved them toward the police station, where a number of local journalists had already been detained.

“It’s not allowed to photograph these protests,” one of the Taliban leaders said after examining a media permit. “They are illegal, and you must delete any photos taken there.”

Another, younger Taliban fighter with kohl-lined eyes said it was forbidden to photograph women.

“Why are you doing this? This is against Islam,” he said.

The Times journalists were escorted to their car and were watched until they left.

Meanwhile, five journalists from Etilaat Roz, a local newspaper, remained inside the station; two of them had been arrested earlier, at the start of the protest. When an editor and two other Etilaat journalists came to the station to try to persuade the Taliban to release their colleague, they, too, were detained. Also taken into custody was a local producer with Euronews.

Taliban promises in this regard are worth little more than the breath used to issue them. This is a clique bent on violent oppression in service to their seventh-century ideology, just as it was during their five-year reign prior to 9/11. Nothing else has changed, not even their triumphalism — except that they have slightly better PR now than they did a couple of decades ago.

So why even bother to float those promises? The Taliban need cash, for one thing, and they might need some short-term political cover to get it:

The Taliban have “almost no chance” of getting their hands on the nearly $10 billion in reserves in Afghanistan’s central bank — and it’s likely that most of the assets will remain frozen in US bank accounts for decades to come, a legal and financial expert said.

“It’s all but impossible, to tell you the truth, both practically and legally,” Robert Hockett, a Cornell University professor of law and finance, told Insider on Wednesday of the likelihood that the Taliban obtain those reserves.

Hockett said it was essentially legally impossible because the Taliban are “not recognized as a legitimate government by the United States.”

“And the United States has the legal authority to freeze assets that were held by a government when that government is replaced by a nongovernment,” he added.

They need official recognition to even have a hope of securing that cash. To get recognition from the US, they will have to play nice in the short run, which is probably why the Taliban is finally facilitating the exit of Americans and some of our SIV holders. It’s a safe bet that some cash has already changed hands for that facilitation, but hopefully the US isn’t stupid enough to surrender it all up front. Of course, that was precisely the stupid move made by Barack Obama in the 2015 Iran deal, and it doesn’t appear that Joe Biden learns much from experience, so who knows?

Even if that’s the trade, any returning official from the US-partnered government is essentially committing suicide by returning. As soon as the recognition occurs and the Taliban get the assets, those officials will get beheaded faster than a woman who dares to show herself in public or a journalist who dares to photograph her. We might be inexcusably stupid at the moment, but I doubt that many of those who were lucky to escape will put their trust in the Taliban now.