Britain has said it will work with the Taliban if they take back power in Afghanistan — even as the fundamentalist group is reportedly barring women from leaving home alone and forcing many to marry soldiers.
The insurgent group claims to have taken back 85 percent of Afghan territory since the Western withdrawal and is due to have talks this week with senior government leaders in Doha.
“Whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK government will engage with it,” British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the Telegraph on Tuesday.
“All peace processes require you to come to terms with the enemy,” he said of the fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 until the Afghan war started in 2001.
Wallace said he was confident that the Taliban would have learned their lesson and would behave rather than risk “isolation” and being toppled again.
“What [the Taliban] desperately want is international recognition. They need to unlock financing and support [for] nation-building, and you don’t do that with a terrorist balaclava on,” he told the UK paper.
He urged the government and Taliban leaders to “show leadership and bring together Afghanistan” and share power.
“If there is a government, and it is a government of both [existing groups and the Taliban] and we have committed to a diplomatic relationship, then that’s exactly what it will be,” he reiterated.
Still, he warned, “If they behave in a way that is seriously against human rights, we will review that relationship.”
The fundamentalist group claimed Wednesday it had seized a strategic border crossing with Pakistan, joining others with Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The surge has seen tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing their homes — many out of fear of what life might be like under Taliban rule.
In areas where they have gained control, reports from villagers say women are often being ordered inside, allowed out only when accompanied by a male relative.
Other rules ban anyone from smoking or men from shaving their beards, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Anybody violating the rules “will be seriously dealt with,” the agency said, citing written orders.
A statement purporting to come from the Taliban circulated on social media ordered villagers to marry off their daughters and widows to the movement’s foot soldiers, AFP said.
“All imams and mullahs in captured areas should provide the Taliban with a list of girls above 15 and widows under 45 to be married to Taliban fighters,” said the letter, issued in the name of the Taliban’s cultural commission.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, dismissed the report as “baseless claims” and “rumors spread using fabricated papers.”
But it is a terrifying reminder of the group’s extreme version of Islamic Sharia law that left females facing mass violence, with women largely confined to their homes and girls going without education. Those found guilty of crimes such as adultery were also stoned to death.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it was increasingly concerned about “reports of killing, ill-treatment, persecution and discrimination” that “are widespread and disturbing, creating fear and insecurity.”
And on Wednesday, former President George W. Bush warned that the withdrawal of NATO and US troops would leave Afghan women and girls to “suffer unspeakable harm.”
“I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad,” Bush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
“I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only US troops but NATO troops, and it seems like they’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. And it breaks my heart,” said the 43rd US commander-in-chief.
With Post wires