Hope for Women, Afghan Unity Fades as Taliban Hardliners Gain Control

Last August, Americans were glued to the news, watching the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the rapid collapse of the Afghan government into Taliban hands. But within a few weeks, the news cycle moved on and Afghanistan fell off the radar for most causal observers. Obviously, forgetting is not an option for people inside Afghanistan, living under a regime that remains unrecognized, heavily sanctioned, and deeply impoverished. What does life look like for Afghans? What is the country’s trajectory, and is it a threat? 

We discuss all of that and more with Jawed Ludin, who served in several high-level positions in the Afghanistan government from 2003 to 2013—including presidential spokesman, chief of staff to President Karzai, and deputy foreign minister. He also served as ambassador to the Nordic countries and to Canada. Post public life, he founded the Heart of Asia Society, a think-tank working to expand research and dialogue in Afghanistan and the region.  

Ludin says hardliners now control the Taliban and he’s not optimistic about Afghanistan’s future, particularly given recent clampdowns including reimposing a ban on female education, despite promises to the contrary.

“The Taliban may not have changed in the past 20 years, but the Afghan society has changed indeed. Tragically, though, I think rather than listening to the demands, the Taliban have more often than not cracked down on them,” said Ludin.

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