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.