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The History Of The Taliban In Afghanistan

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

And I want to bring in another voice now. Wazhmah Osman is an associate professor of globalization and development communication at Temple University. Thank you for being with us.

WAZHMAH OSMAN: Thank you for inviting me.

KEITH: I just wanted to get your perspective on the events of this day thus far. What are you seeing?

OSMAN: I think it's a humanitarian catastrophe and a crisis situation, and so I think that's where both U.S. policymaking efforts and the international community need to focus, which is, how do we help the people on the ground there? And I think they're, on multiple fronts, under attack. And on the one hand, you have the Taliban advance and take over. And on the other hand, you have the casualties, civilian casualties, that are arising from the army's aerial campaigns against the Taliban. And so they're all fleeing. They're in really dire situation, so I think the international community has a responsibility to step up. They have the power to force the cease-fire and negotiate with the Taliban. And then the next steps, I think, are more complicated. But at this point, you know, as a refugee of war myself, I know it's a very difficult position to be in. And it's - you know, your life is in danger, and your family's life is in danger. And so that's what needs to happen first.

KEITH: The Taliban now marching right up to the border of Kabul - their advance has surprised a lot of people. Certainly, it is happening much sooner than the U.S. intelligence community expected, but it's not like the Taliban have come out of nowhere. They were allegedly defeated in 2001. Clearly, they were not.

OSMAN: Yes, and that's a really great point. It's not just that they're a savage, barbaric bunch of Islamic extremists that appeared out of thin air. There was, you know, very specific reasons that led to their creation and their emergence. And that had to do with - after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, there was a power vacuum, and then you had the civil war. And I was there during the civil war, and the situation was extremely violent. And people were getting kidnapped and raped, and all the different jihadi warlords that the U.S. had backed were, you know, vying for power.

And it was out of that chaos that the Taliban, who are also refugees and were trained in these madrassas in order to get something to eat, rose to power. And initially, they were actually welcomed in some places. And soon, we learned. And I also went back during - I was there in 1999 in the height of the Taliban power. And I have to say, even though that the civil war time was terrible, that was the darkest time I've seen Afghanistan - was during the Taliban. Soon, we learned that their interpretation of Islam and their draconian laws imposed a terrible toll on women, ethnic minorities and pretty much everybody who believes in a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan. So there's definitely...

KEITH: We are almost out of time, but I just..

OSMAN: Sure.

KEITH: ...Want to know - they are saying that they're going to be different this time, that women will be able to have rights. Do you believe it?

OSMAN: I don't know if I believe it because reports that are currently coming out - it seems like in places that they have taken over, they're doing the same types of, you know, unlawful, misogynist types of things. But, you know, yeah, and if the past is any indication, I don't think they're going to be different, either. But...

KEITH: Wazhmah Osman, I'm so sorry. We have to go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.