It has now been almost two years since the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. In recent weeks, a number of international assessments have been published looking at the state of the country under their leadership.
One UN report looked at the potential for terrorism in a country where ‘terrorist groups enjoy greater freedom… than at any time in recent history.’ Links between the Taliban and al-Qaeda are said to be ‘strong and symbiotic’, with al-Qaeda ‘rebuilding operational capability’ from its base in Afghanistan.
Another UN report detailed the arbitrary shootings of former government and security personnel, public executions and flogging of ‘adulterers’. It also examined the continuing discrimination against women and girls, with the removal of their educational opportunities and access to almost all jobs. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, called this ‘gender apartheid’. Journalists have been arrested, while a prominent education advocate, Matiullah Wesa, has been held without trial for several months. And so it goes on.
But Tobias Ellwood, the Chair of the Commons Defence Committee, who has just returned from Afghanistan, appears to have visited a different country. In a video posted on twitter, and an article in the Telegraph, Ellwood argues that it is time to recognise the Taliban administration, and reopen the British embassy, which he says was closed ‘for political rather than security reasons.’ After the very brief visit, he said ‘security has vastly improved,’ and detailed ‘game-changing’ improvements in the past two years, in contrast to the 20 years Nato troops were in the country. The growing of opium poppies is banned, and corruption ‘has all but disappeared.’
But Ellwood’s somewhat thin list of supposed improvements includes things, such as the use of solar panels to pump water for irrigation, that were widespread before the Taliban came to power.