View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Biden Officials Place Hope in Taliban’s Desire for Legitimacy and Money

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism that it could allow a takeover by the Taliban, with brutal consequences, particularly for the rights of women and girls.

In response, top Biden administration officials have offered a case for why the outcome may not be so dire: The Taliban, they say, might govern less harshly than feared after taking partial or full power — in order to win recognition and financial support from world powers.

That argument is among the most significant defenses against those who warn that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul and impose a brutal, premodern version of Islamic law, echoing the harsh rule that ended with the American invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the case on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Taliban must gain power through an organized political process and not through force “if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah,” he said.

Mr. Blinken announced that the administration would work with Congress to expedite a commitment of $300 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, pledged last fall under the Trump administration.

“As the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan and a brighter future for the Afghan people,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement.

In a background briefing for reporters after Mr. Biden’s withdrawal announcement last week, a senior administration official said the denial of international legitimacy would be a punishment for any effort to roll back human rights and women’s rights in the country.

Other U.S. officials and some prominent experts call this “pariah” theory valid, saying Taliban leaders have a record of seeking international credibility, placing a high priority on the removal of sanctions against them. Taliban officials have made clear their desire for foreign aid to rebuild their country after two decades of grinding war.

military aid to Afghanistan’s government in hopes that its security forces will not be overrun.

But in the long term, there is almost no doubt that the Taliban will either become part of the Afghan government or take over the country entirely. How the United States will respond is unclear.

a paper published last month by the United States Institute of Peace, before Mr. Biden’s announcement, Mr. Rubin contended that America “has overestimated the role of military pressure or presence and underestimated the leverage that the Taliban’s quest for sanctions relief, recognition and international assistance provides.”

Mr. Rubin added that the agreement Taliban leaders signed with the Trump administration in February 2020 committed Washington to beginning the process of removing U.S. and United Nations sanctions on the group, including some that are targeted at its individual leaders. It also featured a guarantee that the United States “will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government.”

released a report.

most prominent human rights advocates.

“America doesn’t shovel out aid unconditionally,” Mr. Malinowski said. “Most American aid is designed to help governments do the very things that the Taliban despises.”

The Taliban were presented with such choices when they controlled much of Afghanistan in the 1990s. For several years in a row, the group sent delegations to United Nations headquarters seeking recognition there, to no avail.

A desire for recognition and assistance was not enough, however, to make the group heed the United States’ demand that it hand over Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, a stance that ultimately led to Afghanistan’s invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think the Afghans deserve more than just being told, well, the Taliban better not do this,” said Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and who has studied Afghanistan for years. “They’re really clear that they want to roll back the rights of women. And they don’t want to contest elections. They believe that they should be given a piece of the government because they have killing power.”

Ms. Fair added that the Biden administration should be placing more focus on the role of neighboring Pakistan, which has long had great influence over the Taliban.

H.R. McMaster, a retired three-star general who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration, said it was “delusional” to believe that the Taliban had fundamentally changed in 20 years, and dismissed the idea that the group was seeking greater international acceptance.

It is false, he said, to think “there is a bold line between the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” he said on Monday during a discussion for the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in which he roundly criticized Mr. Biden’s decision.

“They have said that their first step is to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said. If that were to happen, it would be “a humanitarian catastrophe of a colossal scale.”

Mr. Eggers said that the reality could be more nuanced, and one that could confound American policymakers.

“For example, what if Afghanistan ends up being about as bad as the Saudis with regard to their treatment of women?” he said. “That’s not good enough, but what do we do then?”

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

View Source

A Rundown School for Palestinian Children Awaits U.S. Aid

JABA, West Bank — When Joe Biden was elected president, residents of the tiny hilltop village of Jaba in the occupied West Bank cheered.

They hope the new American president will restore funding to a project to transform a rundown school in their village into a modern facility by adding an impressive three-story building with a library, a new science lab, more classrooms, an office for social workers and a shaded basketball court.

Work on the project stopped in 2019 after the Trump administration effectively ended aid to the Palestinians.

Jaba, home to about 1,300 residents near Bethlehem, is set on a series of small rolling hills that straddle Israel and a string of settlements. It has few businesses; its sole medical clinic operates one day a week; and its streets are narrow. It also suffers from a housing shortage because it is in an area where Israel rarely allows new construction.

The original plan to expand the school would have represented one of the village’s most significant upgrades in the past decade. It would have allowed it to increase its student body from 80 to 250, including 50 girls.

“We hope Biden will find a way to rectify the cruel decision to halt funding to the school,” said Jaba’s mayor, Diab Mashala, sipping coffee in his spacious living room. “It is vital to the future of our children.”

Many Jaba residents were excited about the school’s expansion because it would have made grades 11 and 12 available in the village. Students in those two grades must now travel to a larger school in the neighboring village of Surif, a one-and-a-half-mile journey that parents complain can be dangerous because of occasional assaults by ultranationalist settlers.

“I would feel much less anxious if my son could learn in our village,” said Muheeb Abu Louha whose son studies in Surif.

Along the trek between the villages, students must bypass a large roadblock — an orange gate surrounded by piles of burned trash and mounds of dirt — and then walk the rest of the way or hail a taxi or minibus. The only other option is a circuitous 30-minute car ride.

Humam al-Tos, a senior, said settlers have hurled stones at him more than once.

“It’s terrifying,” said Mr. al-Tos, 18, who hopes to study mechanical engineering in Turkey. “When the army comes, they stop them. But when the army isn’t in the area, they do what they want.”

The Israeli military would not say whether it was aware of settlers attacking students between Jaba and Surif, but said it “does not stand by” when it witnesses violence. And on a warm day in mid-February uniformed boys and girls walked along the narrow road without incident.

The roadblock has not been removed, Israeli security officials said, because the road does not meet Israel’s safety requirements and the Palestinian Authority must submit to Israel a plan to repair it before any efforts to reopen the road can begin.

Palestinian officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The school itself is a symbol — one example of how the Palestinians hope the United States will restore relations with them.

During a recent tour of the partially built structure in Jaba, layers of dirt, dust and trash were collecting in its interior, rebar protruded from its rooftop and walls of exposed concrete blocks appeared to be weathered.

In late February, the United Nations Development Program and the Education Cannot Wait fund solicited bids for completing a small part of the project, but program officials said while they would work to make an 11th-grade classroom available, there were no funds to construct a 12th-grade one. It also said it would install a multipurpose room and a canteen.

For handicapped students, the project is crucial because it would be much easier not to have to travel to Surif. “Finishing high school here would be a difference-maker for me,” said Khader Abu Latifa, 14, a ninth grader who has a muscle-related disease.

Khader started walking at the age of eight but he still struggles to take steps. He said he hoped his father would drive him to Surif when he entered 12th grade, but worried the older man would not always be available to give him a ride.

And for a handful of girls, the school project embodies their only hope to obtain an education.

Several religiously conservative families in the village refuse to allow their daughters to study in other towns, forcing them to drop out before completing high school, said Mr. Mashala. “Giving these girls the option to complete their studies could be transformative for them,” he said.

But while a number of people in Jaba say they are optimistic that the Biden administration will restore the needed funding, bipartisan legislation known as the Taylor Force Act, signed into law by Mr. Trump in 2018, could complicate efforts to do that.

The act restricts the U.S. government’s ability to disburse aid that “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority as long as the authority pays salaries to families of Palestinian security prisoners and slain attackers.

Analysts, however, said that what “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority must be defined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Would funding construction of this school, which is controlled by the Palestinian government, be considered direct support of the Palestinian Authority? It may or may not be,” said Joel Branould, an expert on U.S. law surrounding foreign aid to the Palestinians. “It is up to the secretary of state to decide.”

A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. looks forward to resuming economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, but would do so in a manner consistent with relevant U.S. law.

The Palestinian Authority hasn’t announced plans for any significant reforms to its highly popular payment system in the coming months.

Mr. Mashala, who has been mayor since 2017, questioned the logic of holding students accountable for policies they had no part in developing.

“Our kids have nothing to do with politics,” he said. “They are totally innocent. Why should they pay the price for something they have nothing to do with?”

View Source