U.S. in a diplomatic hard place in dealing with Afghanistan's Taliban
October 8, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT)
An analysis by State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is disturbed about the
expanding human rights abuses in Afghanistan since the ruling
Taliban militia overran the capital of Kabul two weeks ago
and launched a crackdown on women's rights.
But as is often the case, the U.S. is hamstrung by
conflicting goals where support for human rights often, in
the short term, conflicts with strategic aims.
The draconian Islamic regime that has swept Afghanistan in
the name of the Taliban has also made women prisoners of
their homes and veils, and has shut girls out of schools.
The U.S. and the United Nations have joined in condemning the
Taliban for human rights abuses, and threaten to withhold
"If we continue to see policies that absolutely restrict the
right of women and girls to be normal people, it will have an
effect... on the ability of the international community to
lend and to give assistance," said State Department spokesman
The U.N. runs many aid programs in the country, including
UNICEF and the World Food Program, and Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali has threatened to curtail assistance.
"The international community is speaking with one voice
here," said Sylvana Foa, U.N. Secretary-General spokeswoman.
"All the aid agencies went today to the Taliban to express
their concerns, and I think this was quite surprising to
But as the Taliban reduces the rights of women, it
likewise is paring the vast network of anti-U.S. terrorist
training camps that sprang up among Afghan rebel factions
after the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989.
Since the U.S. embassy closed and there
has been no representation in Kabul, U.S. officials say
privately that the Taliban have made overtures to Washington
seeking good relations.
The United States wants good ties as well, but can't openly
seek them while women are severely repressed.
Washington has dispatched an envoy to Kabul but he still has
not reached the Afghan capital which, after a half decade of fighting among Afghan rebels, is
If the Taliban, now fighting two remaining warlords in the
north of the country, manage to evolve from a fighting to a
governing force, international aid and recognition will become
critical to rebuilding.
China and many Muslim nations oppose the criticism of the
Taliban crackdown on women's rights. Even Washington feels
edgy about being too noisy.
It's a classic diplomatic dilemma, one the U.S. faces in
relations with China, for example: how to balance
geopolitical considerations against human rights.
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