Just over a day after the last American service member left Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top two leaders expressed wariness about continuing to cooperate with Taliban leaders who helped provide safe passage to more than 124,000 people evacuated out of the country.
“We were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters on Wednesday. “I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues.”
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was more blunt in his assessment of Taliban leaders, whom American commanders have praised for their cooperation during the evacuation.
“This is a ruthless group,” said General Milley, who commanded troops in Afghanistan. “Whether or not they change remains to be seen. In war, you do what you must.”
Asked if the U.S. military would cooperate with the Taliban in fighting the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attack that killed 13 American troops and more than 100 Afghans, General Milley said: “It’s possible.”
General Milley also defended an Air Force drone strike on Sunday that the military says destroyed a car filled with explosives that posed an “imminent” threat to the evacuation operation. Afghans on the ground say it killed at least 10 people, including seven children.
The Taliban are preparing to set out their new Islamic government imminently, naming Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, the insurgency’s top religious leader, as the country’s supreme authority, according to a Taliban official.
Although the group swiftly seized final control of the country this month, the Taliban have spent more than a decade preparing to take power by steadily expanding a shadow government, called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and appointing officials down to the district level in preparation for a moment when they were again in power.
While it remains unclear when exactly an announcement may come and whether it would include a more inclusive council, the new government will face huge challenges, including growing humanitarian and economic crises that have forced Afghans to flee. It will also be strapped for cash as funds are cut off by the United States and international lenders, and foreign governments debate whether to recognize the Taliban.
Basic services like electricity are under threat and Afghans have been struggling with a surge in food prices and malnutrition.
The announcement, which will also lay out key appointments to the communications and interior ministries, may come as soon as Thursday, according to the official who requested anonymity because talks were continuing.
According to interviews with Taliban and other sources in Kabul and Kandahar, Sheikh Haibatullah will be the supreme authority of the new Islamic government, with a theocratic role similar to that of the Iran’s supreme leader. Sheikh Haibatullah — who carries two of the most senior religious titles, Sheikh ul-Hadith and Mawlawi — has been meeting with other leadership figures in Kandahar this week, Taliban officials say.
Bloomberg News, citing Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, also reported on the plans for the new government, including Sheikh Haibatullah’s new role.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who has served as the group’s deputy leader in recent years, was expected to be in charge of day-to-day affairs as head of government.
Mr. Baradar acted as the chief negotiator for the group in peace talks with the United States in Qatar, presiding over the agreement that cleared the way for the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Other key positions in the government are expected to go to Sirajuddin Haqqani, another deputy and an influential operations leader within the movement, and Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqoub, who is the son of the Taliban movement’s founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar.
Still unclear was the role of a leadership shura or council, and whether its membership would fulfill the Taliban’s promise of building an inclusive government. The question also remains of whether leaders from previous governments, such as Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who have remained in Kabul for talks, will be included.
Other Taliban leaders expected to receive cabinet posts included Sadar Ibrahim, who has functioned as de facto interior minister since the Taliban’s takeover.
Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting.
WASHINGTON — Early last year, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, praised former President Donald J. Trump’s deal to pull American troops out of Afghanistan as “a positive step.” As secretary of state, Mike Pompeo helped negotiate that agreement with the Taliban. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri pressed last November for a withdrawal as soon as possible.
Now, the three are among dozens of prominent Republicans who, with President Biden seeing the pullout through, have sharply reversed themselves — assailing Mr. Biden even as he keeps a promise that Mr. Trump had made, and carries out a policy to which they had given their full-throated support.
The collective U-turn reflects Republicans’ eagerness to attack Mr. Biden and ensure that he pays a political price for the way he ended the war. With Mr. Trump reversing himself as the withdrawal grew chaotic and, in its endgame, deadly, it also offers new evidence of how allegiance to the former president has come to override compunctions about policy flip-flops or political hypocrisy.
“You can’t be going out there and saying, ‘This war was worthless and we need to bring the troops home’ in May, and now hitting Biden for doing just that,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican who broke with Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and has long favored maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan. “There’s no shame anymore.”
Ahmad, 27, lingered in bed. He did not want to face the day. His sister Haanya, 20, had no appetite for breakfast. She looked out the window, where four Taliban fighters were patrolling the block, AK-47 rifles swung over their shoulders.
It was Tuesday morning in Kabul, a day after the United States completed its military withdrawal, and there was no doubt who was in charge now.
In telephone interviews, the two siblings recounted what their lives looked like on Day 1 of Taliban rule, after two decades of U.S. occupation. Like many ordinary Afghans, they were already trying to learn how to navigate the new Afghanistan.
“Our life just two weeks ago seems 10 years away,” Ahmad said. “For 20 years the U.S. lied to us and said: ‘We are with you. We will not leave the Afghan people.’ Who is with us now? Only the Taliban.”
Just two weeks ago, before the Taliban entered the capital, Ahmad was a government employee. He lost his job and access to his government bank account with his savings. His wife had a miscarriage.
Haanya, a freelance journalist, used to roam cafes freely and talked to strangers for her stories. Now, her story pitches are turned down, and she hasn’t left the house in 10 days. Worried about Taliban harassment, her father will let her go outside only with a male relative.
On Tuesday morning, Ahmad ventured out with two friends. Shops were open and traffic flowed. The crowds that recently mobbed the airport in hopes of leaving the country were gone.
But the Taliban made their presence known with checkpoints at roundabouts. Few women were out alone on the street. A friend drove Ahmad to three bank branches in search of cash, but he gave up after seeing lines that stretched for blocks.
When they headed toward a friend’s house in a neighborhood where a prominent politician has a home, they found that Taliban fighters had blocked access to the road. They parked the car and walked to their friend’s house, where they drank tea and discussed potential exit plans.
Applying for visa to India? Attempting to cross the border into Pakistan? Joining the resistance in Panjshir?
There were no good options.
Later, Ahmad said, the Taliban stopped them at two checkpoints on their way to dinner, and asked them where they were going, where they lived and where they worked.
Stuck at home, Haanya texted Ahmad every hour, pressing him for details about what Kabul looked like now.
Other friends texted him with similar questions: “Who is out? What’s the situation in the city?”
At a nearly empty restaurant, Ahmad took a photograph of his sandwich and his soda and sent it to his friends, asking them to join him. “I didn’t tell them about the waves of emotion hitting me up and down all day,” Ahmad said.
Haanya was restless. She looked out the window. She checked her messages on her phone. She wandered from room to room.
“I am in my house, and I feel like I have no home,” she said. “I miss the little things I used to do that I can never do again: go to a bookstore alone, sit in a cafe and talk to people.”
She posted an essay she wrote in Dari to a private group for friends. “After 20 years of war and bloodshed, the war did not end,” it began. “Everything returned to 20 years ago and we are back at square one.”
By early evening Ahmad was back. A friend called him and said she had lost her job. They cried on the phone together.
They heard President Biden was giving a speech. He was announcing the end of the long war in Afghanistan — or, at least, America’s part in it.
Neither brother nor sister wanted to hear it.
What could he possibly say, wondered Haanya, that would make any difference for Afghans like them now?
Emergency food distributed by the United Nations to hundreds of thousands of hungry Afghans will be exhausted by Sept. 30, the organization’s top humanitarian official in Afghanistan said on Wednesday.
The assertion by the official, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, amounted to a warning that starvation could soon compound the humanitarian crisis convulsing Afghanistan under its newly resurgent Taliban leadership, which seized power two weeks ago as the U.S.-backed government collapsed after 20 years of war.
Speaking to reporters by videoconference from Kabul, Dr. Alakbarov also said that a third of the country’s population of roughly 38 million is facing acute levels of food insecurity, which means they often don’t know when they will be eating next. A prolonged drought, coupled with the upheavals of the war, he said, mean that “food insecurity is very apparent throughout the country.”
Afghanistan heavily relies on foreign aid, much of it funneled through the United Nations. The United States and other NATO countries have also been major suppliers over the past two decades.
The country has been largely shut off from the rest of the world since the last American forces left a few days ago, signaling total Taliban control. The militant movement commands virtually all border crossings and Kabul’s airport, a major entry point to the landlocked country. The airport was damaged and rendered temporarily inoperative after the emergency American-led evacuation ended on Monday.
The United Nations, which runs an extensive humanitarian aid operation in Afghanistan, has maintained a presence with a mostly Afghan staff but has been unable to replenish most supplies since the Taliban takeover.
Dr. Alakbarov said the U.N.’s storehouses of food in Afghanistan had been drastically depleted. He warned that if current trends prevail “we will be out of stocks” by month’s end. He also said only $400 million of the $1.3 billion sought from international donors by the United Nations for Afghanistan relief this year had been received.
Asked whether the Taliban leaders have honored their pledge to respect the rights of women, who were severely repressed under the 1990s Taliban regime’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, Dr. Alakbarov suggested a mixed picture. In some provinces, he said, women hadcontinued to travel, work and go to school without a problem. But in others they had been ordered to stay home and had been harassed if unaccompanied by male escorts.
“It differs from one province to another, not consistent,” he said. “The Taliban is a very decentralized movement.”
The tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban now face a harrowing dilemma: Where to go?
After the last American evacuation planes departed from Kabul on Monday, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Afghan capital’s airport would reopen for air traffic within days. He also tried to assuage fears of retribution, saying that Afghans with passports and visas would be allowed to leave the country, regardless of their role during the American occupation.
But with the airport’s future uncertain and evacuation flights no longer an option, some Afghans are scrambling for neighboring borders. Hundreds gather each day at Torkham, a major border crossing with Pakistan, hopeful that Pakistani officials will let them pass.
The United Nations refugee agency recently warned that as many as half a million Afghans could flee by the end of the year, and urged countries in the region to keep their borders open for those seeking refuge.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, has estimated that about 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within Afghanistan.
“Most have no regular channels through which to seek safety,” he said this week, warning of an intensifying humanitarian crisis.
For those Afghans seeking to escape to Pakistan, however, there is a serious hurdle. Pakistan has said that it will not accept any more refugees from Afghanistan. Border officials only allow Pakistani citizens to cross, and the few Afghans who have a visa.
Standing on the Afghanistan side of the border at Torkham, about 140 miles east of Kabul, some families in recent days have been huddling with their belongings, determined to flee the Taliban’s rule. There are also laborers from neighboring Afghan provinces who want to cross to earn a livelihood amid spiraling cash and food shortages.
Last week, after a suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport that killed scores of Afghans, large numbers of refugees — some helped by smugglers — managed to enter Pakistan through the Spin Boldak-Chaman crossing, roughly 70 miles southeast of Kandahar.
But Pakistani border officials said that Islamabad had since ordered tighter controls. While Afghan refugees living in Pakistan shuttled back and forth for decades without being asked questions, in recent years, Pakistan has made access more difficult, and built up a fence 1,600 miles long with Afghanistan.
In recent months, as the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan was collapsing, 30,000 Afghans were leaving Afghanistan every week, many through the Iranian border, according to the International Organization for Migration. Afghans have moved to the top of the list of asylum seekers seeking to make their way to Turkey, and then to Europe.
But there is a public backlash in Turkey against the migrants, while European governments want to avoid the 2015-16 migration crisis fueled by the war in Syria, which fanned far-right nationalist movements.
European Union ministers pledged on Tuesday to increase humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and its neighbors, but did not agree on amounts or on a common approach to resettling Afghan refugees.
Nevertheless, some Afghans are preparing for a new life abroad. This week, a large-scale mission at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, was underway to help thousands of people, most of them Afghans who were evacuated in the final days of the mission in Kabul, prepare for resettlement.
Five babies have been born during the evacuation, including, a girl named Reach, aboard a C-17 aircraft that was bringing evacuees to the base.
When President Biden served as Barack Obama’s vice president, he was often a lonely dissenter in White House debates about military intervention, never more so than on Afghanistan, where he strongly opposed the Pentagon’s 2009 troop surge and was overruled by Mr. Obama and his generals.
Now, Mr. Biden is the commander in chief, and in pressing to conclude the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, even at the price of a frantic, bloodstained evacuation, he has put himself at odds with much of the foreign policy establishment, on the right and left, in Washington and across Europe.
Critics have piled on Mr. Biden, not just for the messiness of the departure but also for his repudiation of the principles that drove the mission in Afghanistan. While the president sees the United States belatedly ending “an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” as he put it on Tuesday in a defiant defense of his decision, critics see a dangerous American retrenchment that could leave the world in deeper disarray.
“This was a political decision, pure and simple,” said Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Biden, he said, had “ignored the advice of his own top generals and his own intelligence community.”
Even Mr. Biden’s fellow Democrats have delivered harsh assessments. Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, has called for hearings into the administration failure to foresee the swift collapse of the Afghan Army. Representative Seth Moulton, the Massachusetts Democrat, called the evacuation “a disaster of epic proportions,” leaving some Americans and Afghan allies behind.
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the doctrine of an aggressive, expeditionary foreign policy — in which all options, including military force, are invariably on the table — has become a bipartisan article of faith in Washington. The news media, which covered those wars, played a significant role in amplifying these ideas. NATO allies, which fought alongside the United States in Afghanistan, went along, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Mr. Obama stopped short of pulling troops out of Afghanistan long after he concluded that the mission — to transform the country into a stable democracy — was a futile effort. Even President Trump, who made a career of thumbing his nose at the foreign policy establishment, deferred to his generals when they warned him not to withdraw all American forces.
Mr. Biden, a longtime senator who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, once embraced the post-World War II vision of a globally active United States. He voted for the Iraq War. Yet in his years as vice president, his disenchantment with military adventures emerged as one of his core beliefs.
“You have a president who is willing to stand up to the Washington foreign policy establishment in a way that Trump or Obama or George W. Bush were not,” said Vali R. Nasr, a former Obama administration official who teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Mr. Biden’s determination to extricate the United States from costly entanglements overseas plays better with average Americans than with foreign policy elites. While harrowing images of the evacuation have damaged his approval ratings, polls suggest that many, if not most, share his conviction that the country does not have a compelling reason to stay in Afghanistan.
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting from Washington.
For more than a week, Samiullah Naderi, a U.S. legal permanent resident, waited days and nights with his wife and son outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, hoping to be let in so that they could leave on one of the dozens of daily flights out.
But on Monday, after being told that no more people would be allowed inside the airport gate, Mr. Naderi and his family returned to their apartment in Kabul with no clear path back to Philadelphia, where he has been living since last year.
“All flights are closed,” he said with an incredulous laugh. “I am scared.”
Mr. Naderi, 23, is among at least hundreds of U.S. citizens and potentially thousands of green card holders who are stranded in Afghanistan at the end of a 20-year war that culminated not in a reliable peace, but with a two-week military airlift that evacuated more than 123,000 people.
“The bottom line: Ninety percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” President Biden said on Tuesday. He said the U.S. government had alerted Americans 19 times since March to leave Afghanistan.
“And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline,” he said. “We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Wednesday that two decades of American military engagement in Afghanistan had yielded “zero” results.
“It is impossible to impose anything from the outside,” Mr. Putin told an audience of schoolchildren in the eastern city of Vladivostok. Moscow, like Beijing, has sought to use the U.S. withdrawal to paint America as a waning global superpower that cannot be trusted.
“For 20 years, American troops were present in this territory, and for 20 years they tried to civilize the people who live there,” said Mr. Putin, in remarks carried on the TV channel Russia 24.
Americans, he said, had sought “to introduce their own norms and standards of life, in the broadest sense of the word, including the political organization of society.”
“The result is some tragedies, some losses — both for those who did it, for the United States, and even more so for those people who live in Afghanistan. A zero result, if not negative,” he concluded.
Previously, after an August meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Mr. Putin had said it was “not in Russia’s interest” to call the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan a failure. In a news conference, he said that “the lesson of Afghanistan” was that countries could not be forced to democratize.
Russia has its own history of intervention in Afghanistan, withdrawing in 1989 after a 10-year war waged by Soviet troops. With the U.S. withdrawal, Moscow has sought a role as a diplomatic and military power broker in the region. Unlike Western powers, Russia has kept its embassy in Kabul open, and Taliban guards now patrol there.
Just a few weeks before Taliban militants strode into Kabul without a fight last month as the U.S.-backed government collapsed, the capital seemed a world away from the extremist group’s severe view of an Islamic society. As the weeks went by, however, there were gathering signs of crisis, soon to be etched in the faces of Afghans who ultimately decided they had no choice but to flee.
Tyler Hicks, a New York Times photographer, has captured the arc of the conflict in Afghanistan through at least 30 assignments since the American-led invasion in 2001. In July he traveled to Kabul, the western city of Herat and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif just weeks before each fell, when the anxiety about a Taliban takeover was intensifying. Following is his chronicle of those critical weeks.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
The future of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, once a thriving school that provided training and education for dozens of young musicians, remains uncertain nearly three weeks after the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Ahmad Sarmast, the director of the institute, said that while it had not been officially closed, as some media reports suggested on Wednesday, whether it would be able to continue providing musical education hangs in the air.
“We don’t have an official order yet on whether to continue or stop our activities,” Mr. Sarmast said, speaking from Australia. “Looking at the history of the Taliban there is not much hope, but it makes me hopeful that Afghanistan today is much different than in the 1990s.”
The Taliban imposed a total ban on music when they last ruled over the country in the 1990s, severely punishing those who listened to music or owned and played musical instruments.
But the group has shown some flexibility since entering Kabul last month. Instead of forcing people to stop listening to music, it says, this time it will persuade them to avoid music.
“Music is forbidden in Islam,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, told The New York Times last week, “but we’re hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressuring them.”
The institute, founded by Mr. Sarmast in 2010, has been training young girls and boys, some from disadvantaged backgrounds. Its students have performed in international musical festivals and won the Polar Music Prize in 2018 and the Global Pluralism Award in 2019.
The Taliban have previously spoken out both against music and against girls being educated — particularly in shared classrooms with boys — putting the institute in a vulnerable position.
Mr. Sarmast said that he was ready to negotiate with the Taliban, but he would not give up on the achievements of the institute in the last decade.
“I am not ready to compromise the rights of young men, and especially young women, to learn and play music — under any circumstances,” he said.
Pope Francis criticized Western involvement in Afghanistan in an interview released on Wednesday, saying it showed the flaws of exporting Western values and of nation building.
In the interview with the Spanish radio network COPE, in which he also discussed recent health troubles, the pope said that “all eventualities were not taken into account” when the Western allies left.
President Biden has staunchly defended the withdrawal, which was engulfed at times in deadly violence. But he has come under widespread criticism abroad and at home, where many moderate Democrats were furious at the Biden administration for what they saw as terrible planning for the evacuation of Americans and their allies.
The pope cited a quote he attributed to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, saying it was necessary to put an end to the “irresponsible policy” of intervening from outside and trying to build democracy in other countries.
But it turns out the pope misattributed the remark, which was actually made by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a news conference with Ms. Merkel last month in Moscow. Mr. Putin said at the time that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan showed that it was time for the West to end its “irresponsible policy of imposing someone’s outside values from abroad.”
President Biden on Tuesday hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of the evacuation of Kabul as he vehemently defended his decision to end America’s war in Afghanistan, just one day after the end of a two-week rescue of 125,000 people that saw the deaths of 13 service members.
Speaking from the Cross Hall at the White House, Mr. Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died in the evacuation mission.
“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said in a speech in which he offered no apologies for either his decision to end the war or the way in which his administration executed that mission. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”
Mr. Biden appeared intent on forcefully rejecting criticism of the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, offering a defensive recounting of his decision-making and blaming former President Donald J. Trump for negotiating a bad deal with the Taliban that boxed Mr. Biden and his team in.
“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” Mr. Biden declared, his tone angry and defensive as he opened the first minutes of his remarks. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”
The president delivered his remarks almost 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban from power in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and just a day after the last American troops and diplomats departed the country, which is once again under Taliban rule.
Mr. Biden’s speech comes as White House officials are hoping to wind down a difficult episode for his presidency, and focus instead on domestic crises at hand — including the ongoing Delta variant wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s destructive path through the Gulf Coast.
The president is also expected to pivot in the days and weeks ahead toward a push in Congress next month to pass key provisions of his multi-trillion-dollar economic agenda, including major spending on infrastructure and social services.
In the weeks leading up to President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a secretive and highly secure compound used by the Central Intelligence Agency became a hub for clandestine evacuations before parts of it were deliberately destroyed, an investigation by The New York Times found.
The C.I.A. had used part of the compound, called Eagle Base, to train Afghan counterterrorism units. Another section — the C.I.A.’s first detention center in Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit — was where a U.S. government report found that the agency had carried out torture on detainees. Structures in both Eagle Base and the Salt Pit were demolished to prevent the Taliban from seizing sensitive materials.
Even as several of these planned detonations were happening, the heliport at the compound was still used to conduct covert evacuations, according to visual analysis and a former agency contractor.
The Times analyzed satellite imagery, corporate records, active-fire data and flight paths to assess how the evacuations and planned demolitions played out — and how the Taliban eventually easily gained access to the compound.
BRUSSELS — The Americans have left 20 years after invading, the Afghan government has dissolved and the Taliban are now in charge of some 40 million people in one of the poorest countries, ravaged by decades of violence and upheaval. Foreign powers must now decide how to deal with an organization that remains on terrorist watch lists around the world. What happens now?
Why are other countries so interested in Afghanistan’s future?
Three main reasons: counterterrorism, a trove of natural resources and humanitarian aid.
It is in much of the world’s interest to ensure a stable Afghanistan that doesn’t once again become a haven for Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups, as it was when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001.
Another terrorist group, Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, an Afghan branch of Islamic State, established itself during the American occupation, fought with the Taliban and attacked U.S. forces. Whether the Taliban can control this group is a matter of widespread concern.
The country’s neighbors will be watching the Taliban-led government closely. China shares a short border with Afghanistan, which under the Taliban in the 1990s served as a haven for Uighur militants. Pakistan sees Afghanistan as a strategic bulwark against India and has close ties with the Taliban.
Foreign powers are also grappling with the humanitarian catastrophe they left behind, raising the prospect of a new refugee crisis. And, of course, several countries have commercial interests in the estimated $3 trillion in mineral reserves in Afghanistan including gold, copper and lithium.
What must the Taliban do to achieve international recognition?
The United States and European Union have urged the Taliban to form a more inclusive leadership representing women and the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.
“The Taliban will be judged on their actions — how they respect the international commitments made by the country, how they respect basic rules of democracy and rule of law,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Union. “The biggest red line is respect for human rights and the rights of women, especially.”
The United States has said that the Taliban will be judged on whether they allow freedom of travel for Afghans and foreigners with valid documents, women’s and minority rights and, probably more important for Washington, whether the Taliban prevent international terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base.
Diplomatic recognition would help open direct channels for development aid and sizable loans from countries and institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
How much leverage do the United States and its allies have over the Taliban?
Most of the leverage can be measured in dollars. The Afghan economy, so dependent on foreign aid and spending, is grinding to a halt, with cash running out, government salaries stopped and prices rising fast.
For now, the United States, European Union and Britain have suspended their considerable aid programs, and Afghanistan’s central bank reserves, nearly all held abroad, have been frozen. The I.M.F. has withheld $400 million that it was scheduled to deliver to the old government this month.
U.S. and allied officials say they want to continue providing humanitarian aid, no matter what political system emerges in Afghanistan. The most powerful lever that the United States and its allies have against the Taliban are terrorism sanctions, which prohibit contributions of money, goods and services.
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