By Teagan Westendorf / The Strategist
The Australian government recently donated $40 million to assist with alleviating the food security and economic crises unfolding in Afghanistan, while reiterating its condemnation of the Taliban’s repression and exclusion of women and girls from education and work. Many nations have withheld donations because of these violations of human rights—as well as the revenge executions and disappearances of ‘traitors’ who worked with US-led forces and the US-backed Afghan government or criticised Taliban policies—to avoid legitimising the Taliban’s rule.
The commitment to oppressing women is, however, evidently still more important to the Taliban leadership than basic food security, despite their having a front-row seat to watch the humanitarian crisis play out and affect all Afghan society, not just women.
Surely the international community knows this calculus by now. The most significant difference between the Taliban of the 2020s and 1990s seems to be that instead of banning the internet as part of their strategy to control the population, they are savvy about the potential for a curated social-media presence to affect international perceptions and promote disinformation domestically for political and security purposes.
Australia did the right thing in making its decision based on the immediate food security needs of Afghans. This is a hugely complex situation, and the Afghan people stand to suffer even more if the international community applies too much pressure on particular issues at particular times. Intersecting security issues also make it impossible for the international community to get it right—if that’s defined as finding an option that causes no harm.