Unless major diplomatic shifts, increased targeted sanctions, and intra-Afghan-organizing improves quickly, 2024 is going to look a lot like the past three years. That means a continuation of the gender apartheid system, Taliban and Haqqani terrorism and terror-support, food and shelter shortages, declining health (especially for women and girls), increased regional instability, Afghan frustration with all leaders, and many other negative aspects.

What is at stake

Beyond starvation, forced marriages, education denials, and more terrorists flocking to the country, there is a one issue that should unify nations and peoples who believe in human rights, and understand the dangers of terrorism and extrajudicial murders. That issue is the international recognition of the illegal terror regime, as a legitimate government body.

While senior diplomats continue to say that no recognition is on the table from major nation-states, that is not how the terror regime sees it. The Taliban and Haqqani leaders are busy collecting deals related to business, security, immigration, aviation, healthcare, natural resources, transportation, and other forms of soft recognition from neighboring nations. They are steadily rebranding the Republic embassies around the world as Taliban and Haqqani outposts as the Republic envoys run out of money. And the nations they reside in are wooed by the terror regime. Just last week, a variety of terror regime leaders made public statements about the types of “soft” recognition they are counting towards international recognition in their tally books.

Once a few nations recognize the terror regime as legitimate, the floodgates will open and full recognition will follow. It might come slow at first, but it will gain speed as other world crisis emerge and Afghans are forgotten—again. Then the calls by the terrorists to occupy the Afghanistan seat at the UN will have more standing. Then every anti-Taliban, pro-human rights organization that exists will be made illegal and even labeled as terrorist groups by the newly recognized Afghanistan government.

What can be done

The reverse of the recognition tsunami that is growing must be the top issue for everyone who believes in human rights for all and wants to see a safe and stable Afghanistan at peace with its neighbors and the world.

1. International Gender Apartheid legal push.

There is a growing movement that is pushing to get Gender Apartheid recognized as a crime in all applicable international organizations. This group is made up of civil rights activists, human rights groups, celebrities, veterans who served in Afghanistan from military and diplomatic services, and victims of gender apartheid. It is a critical issue for both Afghanistan and Iran (and also Pakistan) right now. A nation or a group of nations must reinforce the gender apartheid efforts with their stature and help push this action through the various bodies. Someone needs to step-up and lead now.

2. Diplomatic shifts.

An international diplomatic shift away from meetings with the Taliban and Haqqani regime, and towards groups of Afghans who believe in human rights for all (both inside and outside the country) will help change the status quo. For almost 2.5 years the world has tried to negotiate with a donkey, and seems perplexed about why the donkey has not changed. The Taliban and Haqqani senior leaders do not negotiate. If diplomats have not learned that in almost 15 years of diplomatic outreach (NATO states started hard diplomatic outreach in 2009-10), then we need an overhaul of our diplomatic services.

Nations can alter the future by following a few simple steps. First, they must stop sending male envoys to Kabul and Doha. They should be sending women, and also religious minorities that the Taliban and Haqqani terrorists despise. This will decrease the number of regime-requested meetings, and allow diplomats to reverse the propaganda of meetings that the terror regime uses to their advantage daily. No more photos and videos should be taken so the terrorists can add them to their “recognition” chest. All envoys should only agree to meet with the terror regime if the Taliban and Haqqani leaders in the meeting are 50% women of more. Turn the tables on them and make them hate having to go to meetings to get help. The regime needs diplomatic contact more than the world needs the regime.

Second, while letting the UN in Kabul deal with the terrorists as they must for humanitarian issues, all other envoys should pour their works into helping Afghans inside and outside the country organize themselves into a “convention” of sorts so they can design the governance model that Afghans want. Afghans have never polled at over 15% in favor of the Taliban, that means the majority want something better. They repeatedly polled to be in favor of better education, physical safety, fair justice, accountable government leaders, and modern medical care. Diplomats can help Afghans get to that future by giving them safe spaces to discuss their future, and funding an internet-based voting platform that allows Afghans to decide what future governance they want.

This puts the Taliban and Haqqani lies about the governance model Afghans want on the defense. Right now, the terrorists own the narrative and control it by silencing or murdering journalists in Afghanistan. Strengthening civil society is a critical task. Afghans are already busy globally on this effort, they need to be reinforced.

3. List the Taliban network as a terrorist organization and sanction accordingly.

There is a very simple reason why I constantly use the title “Taliban and Haqqani regime” when I refer to the externally unrecognized and internally illegitimate regime that has stolen power and holds around 40 million Afghans hostage in an open-air prison. The Haqqani network, a designated terrorist group, holds key “security” positions in the regime. That means the Taliban regime in total is absolutely a terrorist group. Although it is convenient for the U.S. government and their allies to ignore this fact, it is still a fact.

“The US Government in 2012 designated the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because of its involvement in the Afghan insurgency, attacks on US military and civilian personnel and Western interests in Afghanistan, and because of its ties to the Taliban and al-Qa‘ida. In addition to designating the group, key members have also been individually designated. Haqqani leaders Saidullah Jan, Yahya Haqqani, and Muhammad Omar Zadran, as well as suicide operations chief Qari Abdul Ra‘uf (also known as Qari Zakir), and Ibrahim Haqqani, remain either designated for financial sanctions or are on US most-wanted lists.”

National Counterterrorism Center

By listing the entire terror regime AS WHAT IT IS, this allows numerous nations to bring economic pressure on the various leaders inside the regime. Those sanctions and travel bans should also be extended to their families, business and religious partners, and all remaining Pakistan military personnel aiding the illegal regime in Afghanistan. If the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of terrorists, generals/colonels, diplomats, business folks etc. are unable to travel to school abroad or take lavish vacations, you can bet pressure at home will build quickly. Businesses will start to think twice before getting involved with the leaders of the terror regime. Nations will halt their conversion of Republic embassies and re-opening their missions in Kabul.

The key is to find every way possible to damage the income and freedom of maneuver that the terror regime uses to strengthen themselves. A recognition of the true nature of the regime also allows more counterterrorism efforts aimed at arresting terror kingpins to get underway.

 Do not Repeat history

These are not the only ways to reverse the creeping international soft and formal recognition of the terror regime, but they will help. The key is to do as little harm as possible on the humanitarian front, while disempowering the terror regime—and empowering the people of Afghanistan who want a fairly-chosen and capable government.

A failure to make any changes in 2024 means the world can expect the terror regime to continue down their path. That path includes opening more extremist brainwashing centers modeled on the Pakistan Islamist-terrorist factories. Tens of thousands of young Afghans will be poisoned into violence, misogyny, and hatred—that means more Khawarij-style attacks like ISIS, Haqqani, and Hamas perform will follow. That regime path does not have opportunities for women or girls to get an education, go to work, avoid being sold for food, or avoid being traded into a forced marriage.

If gender apartheid and terrorism are conditions that the international community wishes upon Afghanistan, then they can rip up this blueprint to stop it. So many Afghans, historians, and Afghanistan specialists are warning the world not to repeat their mistakes, maybe the world should listen.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild and aids with conflict resolution in Afghanistan.