In last Monday’s speech on Afghanistan, President Biden made the claim, “I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.” He is right that basic human rights are central to America’s foreign policy, as a matter of law and core national values. This is in stark contrast to the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party), which has taken a recent interest in supporting the Taliban. Biden must lead in standing up for the rights of all Afghans, especially those in imminent peril.
Apart from the chaos and violence confronting the throngs fleeing to Kabul’s airport, the fate of human rights under the Taliban demands serious concern. Biden’s policy decision to remove even the small residual U.S. military force in Afghanistan delivered over 40 million Afghans into the hands of one of the world’s most brutally repressive Islamist regimes. Surrendering Afghan troops, U.S. supporters, and former government employees were immediately subjected to bloody retribution—barbarians do not honor the Geneva Conventions. But Taliban repression will last way beyond this transition period. The sweeping disregard for basic human rights norms will continue as long as the Taliban holds power.
Everyone under Taliban rule—Muslim or not, male or female, Afghan or foreign—is at risk of severe punishment for exercising basic human rights. The Taliban’s first acts upon taking over were to declare on its media, “Afghanistan is conquered and Islam has won,” and to raise a white flag with the Islamic profession of faith written in black. A Taliban commander declared this week that the group will govern by sharia. There can be no doubt that the Taliban will rule by an extreme application of sharia, as it did between 1996 and 2001.
This means the state will use harsh forms of coercion to enforce conformity to what the Taliban religious elite proclaim to be Islamic principles. These rules will cover all aspects of life, from men’s shaving practices and women’s