Having dramatically ousted Afghanistan’s democratically elected government and seen the US finally withdraw last night, the Taliban is still advertising its new moderation. It has pledged to preserve women’s rights — within what it deems the limits of Islamic law — and not seek reprisals against those who supported the previous administration.
Such protestations, even at face value, do not take into account the questionable level of control its leadership has over its soldiers and the country as a whole. Nor do they chime with a regime that has freed thousands of terrorists and murderers from Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Or the stories of murder and threats — a musician at the weekend assassinated just as music was banned, house-to-house searches, families fleeing in fear. Britain will judge the Taliban “by its actions, rather than by its words” as set out by Boris Johnson. What this means in practice is yet to be determined. A powerless leadership will ensure chaos. Furthermore, if the country is fragmented, what action might we and our Nato allies take if Afghanistan is again used as a base for international terrorism? Who will we go after? And what will be the trigger for action? These questions need answering or our words will simply ring hollow.