The Taliban Maintains Its Grip on Afghanistan as Its Citizens Starve, U.N. Reports Show

Afghan women protest against the Taliban ban on women accessing university education on Dec. 22, 2022 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Stringer / Getty Images)

Two recent reports from the U.N. shed light on the current situation in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, highlighting an administration that is failing to deliver on counter-terrorism promises as citizens—especially women and children—experience acute food insecurity.

A U.N. Security Council report highlights the Taliban regime’s return to an “exclusionary” administration reminiscent of the late 1990s, the first Taliban regime. The report also reveals internal divisions within the Taliban leadership, particularly between those based in Kandahar and in Kabul, with the latter experiencing a weakening role. The report indicates that Kabul-based Taliban leaders have failed to “influence” significant policy changes.

The report also underscores the consistent “strong and symbiotic relationship” between the Taliban and both Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), showing that it has not delivered on its counter-terrorism promises made in the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.

A range of terrorist groups have greater freedom of maneuver under the Taliban de facto authorities. They are making good use of this, and the threat of terrorism is rising in both Afghanistan and the region.

U.N. Security Council Report

The regime’s lack of willingness to embrace reforms and an inclusive form of government is also highlighted in the report. The Taliban chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada, remains “proudly resistant” to reforms as the regime ushers in repressive policies and attempts to gain international political recognition.

The Taliban’s ban on female education, employment and participation in the humanitarian response poses a challenge to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and places more constraints on those most vulnerable: women and children. Approximately 3.2 million children and 804,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, according to the FAO-WFP findings.

There are 15.3 million people living in acute food insecurity in Afghanistan in 2023, representing 35 percent of the population. Afghanistan is marked as a hotspot of highest concern for food insecurity in the FAO-WFP outlook report on hunger hotspots for June to November 2023.

Afghanistan has experienced natural hazards in the past, such as droughts. It is currently facing below-average rainfall combined with above-average temperatures, leading to water scarcity for crop growth this season.

The Taliban’s seizure of power in 2023 triggered an economic collapse that led to inflation and mass unemployment. Last month, the U.N. found that 85 percent of Afghans were living below the poverty line—an increase of 15 million people since 2020.

The number of child laborers has also increased dramatically. Female-led households that previously relied on cash and food assistance have lost those sources of livelihood since the ban on organizations by the Taliban in December. And the prevalence of child labor is higher in female-led households than male-led households, a survey by the REACH initiative found.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director general Qu Dongyu said “immediate action” is needed “to pull people back from the brink of hunger, help them rebuild their lives and provide long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurities.”

Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), added that there will be “catastrophic consequences” unless there is action “to help people adapt to a changing climate and ultimately prevent famine.”

The Taliban has introduced a cloak of fear and violence that threatens the rights, freedoms and livelihoods of the women and girls fighting to survive under looming security threats, humanitarian crises and gender apartheid in Afghanistan.

The Feminist Majority Foundation—publisher of Ms. magazine—remains firm in its stance against international recognition of the Taliban’s administration and stands in solidarity with Afghan women and girls and urges rapid humanitarian action to support their lives.

Aastha Jani provided editorial assistance with this article.

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About and

Claudia Nachega is a summer intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation, working on the ERA Project and the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. She also works as deputy executive director at Generation Ratify and will be attending Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City.
Anselma Ellingwood is a rising junior at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City and an intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation working on the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.