U.S. officials worry that too harsh a response could alienate Taliban leaders, with whom the U.S. is trying to cooperate on counterterrorism efforts, according to Politico.
“We knew this was coming but dreaded it and couldn’t stop it,” one administration official told Politico.
The reported divide is best visible in the tension between Tom West, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, and Rina Amiri, U.S. special envoy for Afghan women, girls, and human rights. The two agree that there should be repercussions for the Taliban, though the two disagree on the degree that U.S. interests in working with the Taliban should factor into the U.S. response.
“It’s generally true that Tom wants to find some way to keep working with the Taliban. I think he thinks that’s his mandate from the president,” an official said. “Rina has a more human rights-principled approach — do what we should do and let the chips fall where they may.”
The White House downplayed the existence of divisions among the staff over the administration’s response to the Taliban. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday told reporters that the U.S. is working with “partners” to come up with an appropriate response.
“We are working with our partners throughout the government and also with like-minded partners around the world to devise an appropriate set of consequences that register our condemnation for this outrageous edict on the part of the Taliban, while also protecting our status as the world’s leading humanitarian provider for the people of Afghanistan,” Price said.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, the terror group has enacted a series of strict laws, especially restricting the freedom of women. In December, Taliban leaders banned women from attending universities in the country. Women are also under other strict regulations, such as a rule banning them from traveling outside their homes without a male guardian.
Protests over the strict Taliban rule are typically broken up.
The terror group has faced international condemnation over its rule. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned the Taliban that the more it presses in its strict rule, the further isolated Afghanistan will become from the world.
The U.S. withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, ending a 20-year occupation of the country. The withdrawal was chaotic, bloody, and marred the reputation of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus. Hundreds of Americans, thousands of the U.S. military’s Afghan allies, and millions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment were left behind.
The U.S. also lost 13 servicemen in a terror attack on Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, the final headquarters of the U.S. withdrawal as the Taliban blitzed and conquered the country behind the departing Americans. In an attempted counterstrike against a suspected terrorist, the U.S. mistakenly bombed an Afghan aid worker, killing 10 civilians, including seven children.