New Taliban recruits in Kandahar. PHOTO: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A senior Taliban minister has boasted about “historic” numbers of suicide attacks the Islamist group has carried out, while complaining that the group has yet to be recognised as Afghanistan’s official government by any other country in the world. Muhammad Hanafi, the Taliban’s minister for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice, appeared in a video broadcast on national television and distributed by pro-Taliban social media accounts on Monday, in which he showed off about the brutal levels of violence meted out by the group over the past 20 years.
The Taliban swept to power in August after the US military withdrew from the country. So far, not a single country has recognised the hardline Islamists as the country’s official government because of the group’s history of sheltering jihadi groups and its terrible human rights record against women, ethnic and religious minorities and anyone who dares criticise them. Hanafi — a senior member within the Haqqani network, which is notorious for extortion and kidnappings — was taking part in a conference talking about the “struggle” with being branded an international pariah. Hanafi’s ministry works as the country’s feared moral police, an institution found in some countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. It had been scrapped under the US-backed government, but the Taliban brought it back last year and put its headquarters in the former women’s ministry.
“History hasn’t recorded this many suicide attacks before,” said Hanafi, referring to the attacks using to it by the term “istishhadi”, an Arabic word widely used by jihadists that means “martyrdom”. “Didn’t we fight for 20 years to establish an Islamic system?” he added. “The struggle had two main goals: the end of foreign occupation and the rise of an Islamic regime, and it can only happen if we follow the words of God from the smallest to the biggest institution.”In his speech on Monday, Hanafi complained about the Taliban’s struggle to be recognised as Afghanistan’s legitimate government, blaming it on a “negative view” of the terms “virtue and jihad.”
Afghanistan is hugely dependent on international aid, which has been largely withheld since the Taliban came to power. Last month, the United Nations called for the"largest-ever appeal" for a single country, calling for $5bn (£3.68bn) in funding.Afghanistan’s previous government relied on aid for 80% of its annual budget, and the economy now faces a total collapse. The impact has been catastrophic, with desperate poverty now widespread. According to the UN agencies, from September to January, 9 million people received food assistance, and 276,000 children were treated for malnutrition. In his wide-ranging speech, Hanafi described Afghans who are critical of the Taliban fighters as “cowards,” and asked them to “redeem their mistakes, if they want to save their lives and dignity.” He urged them to “work and strive to live together under the flag of the Islamic Emirates.” He added: “Occupation has ended, and now it is time to follow the words of God and his prophet, and propagate for virtue and prevent vice, and all our problems will be lifted.” The Taliban is chasing international recognition but has made no concessions to the international community’s demands to end basic human rights violations. Despite the claims of “amnesty” from the group’s friendlier faces and promises of “inclusive” governance, the Islamists have tightened their grip over the power in Kabul, and reports of killings and kidnappings of prominent Afghan figures increase every month.The more extremist branches of the Taliban — including the Haqqani network, which has grabbed a substantial share of power in the new Taliban-led government in Kabul — have openly praised suicide bombers and launched initiatives to compensate their kin and family with cash and land.