Where now for Afghanistan?
Now that the Buddhas of Bamiyan have been destroyed, it will be fascinating to see what happens next in the continuing struggle between the United Nations and the repressive Taleban regime that controls most of Afghanistan.
Plainly, international opinion has little effect on the Islamic fundamentalists. Nor so far have U.N. sanctions.
The sanctions are intended to force the Taleban to hand over the Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden, accused of plotting the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 250 people died.
But rather than bow to debilitating restrictions, the Taleban have -- through the media-managed destruction of the Buddhas -- refused to budge even the slightest bit to international pressure.
Treating Bin Laden as a guest in their country, the Taleban have consistently rejected U.N. and U.S. demands.
Since the world first became aware of the Taleban in 1994, only three countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- have formally recognized the regime.
Devastated by more than two decades of war, Afghanistan's capital Kabul now lies in ruins, and the Taleban's stated goal of creating the pure Islamic state has seen the implementation of a string of Draconian laws.
Women must be covered
Women are largely barred from education or employment, except in healthcare, and must remain completely covered and in the company of a male relative when leaving the home.
The teaching of other religions, rejection of Islam, homosexuality and female adultery can all result in the death penalty. Public executions are staged in sports grounds and amputations have been introduced to deter criminals.
The Taleban's criminal code has attracted global media coverage, something the regime has courted by meting out advertised public punishments.
Last year the regime's radio station broadcast to the nation that a young woman caught trying to flee Afghanistan with a man who was not her relative had been stoned to death.
On another occasion, it was announced that 225 women had been rounded up and sentenced to a lashing for violating the dress code. Another woman had the top of her thumb amputated for wearing nail polish.
Three men accused of "buggery" were sentenced to death by being partially buried in the ground and then having a wall pushed over on them by a bulldozer.
And when the Taliban castrated and then hanged the former communist president and his brother in 1996, they left their bloodied bodies dangling from lampposts in busy downtown Kabul for three days.
Photographs of the corpses duly appeared in news magazines and newspapers around the world.
The Taleban owes its present status as a regional power to one of its few allies, Pakistan.
The militia first came to prominence when they were assigned by the Pakistan government to protect a convoy trying to open up a trade route between Pakistan and Central Asia.
So effective were the religious students trained by the mujahedin, or Islamic fighters, that they advanced through an Afghanistan fractured by warring Tajik and Uzbek warlords, eventually taking the capital in September 1996.
The regime, largely comprised of ethnic Pashtuns, gained wider popularity by bringing order to a lawless land and through their refusal to deal with the existing leaders.
The Taleban now control all but the far north of the country. Afghanistan's seat in the U.N. is held by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Concessions to break the impasse by either the U.N. or the Taleban seem remote.
No doubt aware of the tide of world opinion turning against the effectiveness of sanctions in general and Iraq in particular, the Taleban, if they care at all, will be hoping the U.N backs down in the face of their resolute indifference to the global trade embargo.
The destruction of the Buddhas suggests the U.N.'s hopes of a Taleban retreat appear forlorn.
Photos document destruction of Buddhas
U.S. 'ready to talk' with N. Korea
Death toll nears 1,000 in South Asia's cold spell
IAEA: Year for Iraq inspections
U.S. doubles forces in Persian Gulf
Mugabe resignation offer proposed
OPEC to raise daily oil output
N. Y. plans to heal skyline
Stocks rise on Case departure
Lieberman's presidential announcement today
New arrests may be linked to UK ricin scare
Jordan says farewell for the third time
Shaq could miss playoff game for child's birth
Ex-USOC official says athletes bent drug rules
|Back to the top|