Not for the first time since the US exit fiasco in August, the Taliban are sending a message to the world that they've "changed" - which includes being devoted to implementing education and jobs for girls and women. Taliban leaders further say they want positive relations with the United States.
But while touting this new "reformed" image, they are simultaneously pleading with global powers to send $10 billion in funds to the country. In particular they are urgently asking for the release of reserve funds in the Afghan central bank that were previously frozen.
Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Afghanistan needs the world's "mercy and compassion" at a moment millions are on the brink of starvation, and are without jobs, and amid a fast plummeting currency. This as they deploy 'Islamic morality police' to the streets (something the Saudis have long done too).
He urged the immediate lifting of sanctions for the sake of the suffering population. "Sanctions against Afghanistan would... not have any benefit," Muttaqi emphasized in an Associated Press interview at the start of the week. "Making Afghanistan unstable or having a weak Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone."
The Biden administration has said it would mull releasing funds and providing additional humanitarian aid determinant on the Taliban's behavior and whether it would see through implementing human rights and democratic reforms. However, among the Islamists' first major actions was the closure of the former government's Ministry of Women's Affairs, which promptly switched to the Ministry for the "Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" - or the hardline Islamic morality police.
It appears the Taliban is now desperately trying to convince Washington and the West that it has indeed taken significant steps toward change, including granting a general amnesty to former government officials, which has been in dispute.
The below section from the AP interview with the Taliban's top diplomat is emblematic of the Taliban's new messaging:
When they first ruled from 1996-2001, the Taliban shocked the world by barring girls and women from schools and jobs, banning most entertainment and sports, and occasionally carrying out executions in front of large crowds in sports stadiums.
But Muttaqi said the Taliban have changed since they last ruled.
"We have have made progress in administration and in politics... in interaction with the nation and the world. With each passing day, we will gain more experience and make more progress," he said.
Muttaqi said that under the new Taliban government, girls are going to school through grade 12 in 10 of the country’s 34 provinces, private schools and universities are operating unhindered, and 100% of women who had previously worked in the health sector are back on the job.
"This shows that we are committed in principle to women participation," he said.
However, the report notes that in many parts of Afghanistan girls still can't attend school for grades 7 through 12, with former civil servants are still being forced to stay home. In many parts of Afghanistan, female students between grades 7 and 12 have not been allowed to go to school since the Taliban took over, and many female civil servants have been told to stay home.
But in reality few US officials have shown much concern for the country post-troop exit, which seems to confirm that America's long occupation of various chunks of the Middle East was never at all about the high-minded and self-affirming principles of "human rights" and "democracy building".
The U.S. left Afghanistan, then crippled its economy w/ sanctions that left several million on the brink of starvation. Food and fuel prices are skyrocketing. Banks can't process humanitarian aid. We tried to speak to lawmakers but few seemed to care: pic.twitter.com/iH3BpIbpXv— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 13, 2021
US leaders and lawmakers have finally washed their hands of one foreign intervention and quagmire, and are already eyeing the next.