The United States is exploring additional measures to be imposed on Afghanistan’s Taliban to further isolate them for their “appallingly bad” decision to suspend girls’ education, according to a senior American diplomat.
Karen Decker, the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission to the South Asian country, issued the warning Wednesday evening, a day after the Islamist rulers suspended female students’ access to all Afghan public and private universities until further notice.
“My leadership in Washington is taking a look at a range of actions to signal how the Taliban are following the wrong path,” Decker told journalists in a video conversation from her office in Doha, Qatar.
The tiny gulf state of Qatar is where Washington and other Western capitals have based their Afghan diplomatic missions since August 2021, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan as U.S.-led international troops withdrew after nearly 20 years of war.
“We will be looking at what specific consequences can be levied against the Taliban to register that it cannot be business as usual with us going forward, that the Taliban cannot expect us to treat them as a responsible partner,” Decker stressed without elaborating.
“The Taliban claiming they want to be economically self-sufficient and stand on their own two feet, well nobody is going to do business with them. I am pretty sure,” the U.S. diplomat stressed.
Decker noted that the female university education ban had even deterred Washington from looking into easing current sanctions on the Taliban or removing foreign travel bans on their leaders in line with a 2020 deal the two sides had signed in Doha.
The international community has not yet granted legitimacy to the men-only Taliban administration in Kabul, the Afghan capital, over human rights concerns, especially the treatment of women.
The return of the Taliban to power has plunged the economy into turmoil and worsened an already bad humanitarian crisis in the conflict-torn country where U.N. agencies say millions face acute food shortages.
Decker said while considering punitive actions against the Taliban for their “ill judged” decision on suspending girls’ education, the U.S. administration would make sure Afghans are not isolated.
“We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan who need it,” she stressed.
Responding to criticism of the U.S. for pursuing engagements with the Taliban and not supporting armed resistance against the Islamist leaders in Kabul, Decker said neither Afghans, nor regional nations support more violence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have increasingly excluded women from public life despite repeated pledges they would respect fundamental rights of all Afghans. They have ordered women to cover their faces in public and to not visit health facilities or go on long road trips unless accompanied by male relatives.
Women have been barred from public places like parks, gyms and baths. Most female government staffers have been told to stay home or have been rendered jobless. Teenage girls beyond grade six have been banned from attending secondary schools.
The ruling Islamist group has in recent weeks revived public floggings and executions of convicts, stemming from a directive their reclusive supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, issued last month to the Taliban judiciary to begin applying Sharia Islamic law to criminal justice.
Since then, scores of people, including women, have been flogged in crowded sports stadiums across several Afghan provinces for crimes such as adultery, gay sex and theft. This month, in a western province, the Taliban staged their first public execution of a convicted murderer since assuming power last year.
When the Islamist Taliban last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, female education and most employment for women was banned, and routinely staged public floggings as well as executions.