SF Bay Area

The Taliban or a Failed State?

By Medea Benjamin

Aug. 15 marks the one-year anniversary of the return to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It has been a disastrous year for the Afghan people. The Taliban rulers have reneged on their promises to respect women’s rights: They have barred secondary-school girls from public schools, dismissed women from many government jobs, forbade them from traveling alone and ordered women to dress in clothing that covers everything but their faces.

The Taliban have also gone back on their promise to create a government inclusive of minority groups. They promised to grant amnesty to those who worked with the former government, but then killed or disappeared hundreds of former government officials and members of the Afghan security forces. And they promised not to harbor terrorists, but al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was living in a “safe house” in a toney neighborhood of Kabul until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike.

But if you think the Taliban are bad, and I do, just think of what will happen if the country devolves into another civil war. Let’s face it, there are no democratic forces waiting in the wings to take over. If the U.S. doesn’t want Afghanistan to plunge into a state of chaos, it better take measures, including working with the Taliban, to revive the economy.

How can we work with the Taliban, you ask? Not only are they misogynists and sectarian zealots, but they had been harboring one of the most wanted men on the planet. But intelligence analysts at the time of the U.S. withdrawal described al-Qaeda as a skeleton of its former self” and the 71-year-old al-Zawahiri was no longer “the brains” of al-Qaeda but a figurehead.

The real threat today is not al-Qaeda but the Islamic State-Khorasan (known as ISIS-K). As former CIA director General Petraeus told CNN, “They are the ones carrying out the most significant attacks in Afghanistan trying to foment a sectarian civil war.” ISIS-K was responsible for the horrific bombing at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26 that killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members. It regularly targets minority groups, especially the Shiite Hazaras, and is thought to be responsible for thousands of deaths since it was formed in 2015.

The Taliban have declared ISIS-K a corrupt “sect” and forbidden Afghans to deal with it. When the U.S. military was in Afghanistan, there was tacit collaboration with the Taliban to target ISIS-K.

Right now, they are only able to carry out sporadic bombings but their goal is to take over the country and create an even more draconian Islamic State, plus they have transnational ambitions. As the economic situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen, impoverished men will be more and more enticed to join this bloodthirsty group, as will disenchanted members of the Taliban.

That’s why, apart from humanitarian considerations, it’s in the U.S. interest to help the failing Afghan economy.

When I traveled to Afghanistan in the Spring of 2022 with an all-women’s delegation, we found a level of poverty that was heartbreaking — families eating boiled grass, parents selling their children, fathers selling their kidneys. Visiting a poor community, when we asked one mother how she felt about the Taliban keeping girls from going to secondary school, she replied, “We don’t even send our sons to school because we can’t afford a notebook and a pen. Besides, we need to send our children out on the streets to beg for food.”

The World Food Program said in July that nearly half the population is acutely food insecure and that Afghanistan continues to face “the highest prevalence of insufficient food consumption globally.”

Many Afghans we met, even those who had supported the U.S. presence and detest the Taliban, saw the U.S. as responsible for the economic collapse. They said the U.S. created an economy totally dependent on outside funds, then not only stopped the flow of funds once the Taliban took over but also froze over $7 billion in Afghan Central Bank money that the previous government had parked at the U.S. Federal Reserve. They were particularly appalled that half those funds were now subject to a lawsuit by 9/11 families, even though none of the 9/11 hijackers were Afghans.

The Biden administration has been engaged in talks with the Afghan government to come up with ways to return at least half the $7 billion, but it has been almost a year with no resolution. Now the harboring of al-Zawahiri makes it even more politically difficult for the administration, which has always been afraid of being labeled soft on the Taliban.

But giving Afghans back their own money would help save the banking system from utter collapse, and filling in the missing $2 billion shortfall in the UN $4.4 billion emergency appeal would help feed millions of hungry Afghans.

Let’s remember the dire consequences of previous U.S. actions. The U.S. helped create al-Qaeda when it funded the mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The U.S. invasion of Iraq, including the brutal treatment of Sunni Muslims, led to the creation of ISIS. Will we let the U.S. freezing of Afghan funds create an ISIS caliphate in Afghanistan?

Yes, the international community should keep pressuring the Taliban to fulfill its promises, but punishing the Afghan people for Taliban abuses only victimizes them twice. Helping to jump-start the Afghan economy is not only a compassionate policy for the long suffering Afghans, but it is also the right policy for the security of the region and the United States.

Medea Benjamin is one of the co-founders of CODEPINK and the organization Unfreeze Afghanistan. She was a member of the Women’s Peace and Education Delegation to Afghanistan in March.

CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


5:00 PM Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the S... @ In front of MLK Library
Sep 30 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Friday Peace Vigil Back on the Street. @ In front of MLK Library
End Endless War Remaining silent is not an option. We can either have a culture of complicity, or a culture of resistance. With no public opposition we will have a culture of complicity. Public acts[...]
8:00 AM SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobil...
SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobil...
Oct 15 @ 8:00 AM – Oct 22 @ 12:00 PM
SHUT DOWN CREECH: National Mobilization to Nonviolently Resist Killer Drones
Mark your calendars and please join us for all or part of this year’s national mobilization to Shut Down Creech! Fall Action: October 15 – 22, 2022 (Saturday through Saturday) Sponsored by: CODEPINK, Veterans For Peace & Ban[...]
11:00 AM YEMEN – Emergency Online Action
YEMEN – Emergency Online Action
Sep 29 @ 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
YEMEN - Emergency Online Action
  The ceasefire in Yemen expires in just a few days. Join our action session to demand Congress pass a War Powers Resolution for Yemen and end U.S. support for the Saudi-UAE led war! RSVP[...]
12:00 PM Dance of Peace Class Municipal R...
Dance of Peace Class Municipal R...
Sep 30 @ 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Dance of Peace Class Municipal Rose Garden.
Join Khalilah Ramirez, the Peace Dancer, for the Dance of Peace class at the Municipal Rose Garden (at Dana and Naglee) San Jose. Dance & Play among the flowers! You will learn how to create[...]
9:00 AM Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Oct 1 @ 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Peaceful Yoga w/Khalilah @ Online
Description This is a morning yoga class focused on strengthening, calming and centering the body, mind and spirit. No prior experience in yoga is required. Link To All Classes: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3090894469… Meeting ID:[...]
4:00 PM Cuban Women of the African Diasp...
Cuban Women of the African Diasp...
Oct 2 @ 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Cuban Women of the African Diaspora Film Festival
A series of five programs,  on Oct 2,9,16, 23, 30 (Sunday evenings.)   The films of Juanamaría Cordones-Cook. Films in this series – all with English subtitles Oct. 2: Belkis Ayón: Grabado de desasosiego / The Engraving of Restlessness[...]
5:00 PM Captial Calling Party
Captial Calling Party
Oct 4 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Captial Calling Party
On Tuesday, October 4, join CODEPINK Congress for the next Capitol Calling Party – guests TBD. RSVP and stay tuned for more information!    WHEN October 4, 2022 at 5:00pm – 6:00pm (PDT)  WHERE Zoom  CONTACT Marcy Winograd · marcy@codepink.org[...]









From our National Site

The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!