Taliban Failure Accelerates Afghan Brain Drain, Hitting Already Dysfunctioning Economy (Part I)

The massive exodus caused by the Taliban takeover in August 2021 has forced Afghanistan’s new rulers to call on Afghans to stay and help rebuild the country. But after a year in Taliban rule, the economy is in tatters, confidence is shattered and Afghan talent is not coming back. They are running away en masse.

A few days before his interview with a US university admissions officer, Huma Usyan went to a local internet service provider in Kabul to avoid being disconnected during a much-anticipated online meeting.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the internet has been a lifeline and a source of stress for Afghan teenagers.

When the new rulers banned secondary schools for girls in Afghanistan, Usyan turned to the internet in a desperate attempt to continue her studies. In her October 2021 interview with FRANCE 24, the top-of-the-grade schoolgirl discussed the challenges of her online self-study endeavor.

>> Read more: Online education is the only hope for Afghan schoolgirls, but it will be a bumpy road

Inspired by the extraordinary drive of Afghan high school girls, and with the help of volunteers, including an English teacher, Usyan finally made it to the US university interview stage after months of online learning.

But the Internet connection for the all-important January 8th interview was out of the hands of the 16-year-old boy.

The Taliban takeover has plunged Afghanistan into an extreme economic crisis, and domestic policies, or lack thereof, combined with global trends are creating a humanitarian storm.

You need electricity to run the internet. But fuel prices have soared in countries that have long been forced to use generators due to blackouts, with diesel prices up 111% since last year, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.

So when Usyan tried to get a warranty from her local Internet service provider, she failed miserably. “They said there was no electricity, generators were very expensive and they were doing nothing,” she said.

Usyan, who never gave up in the face of odds, went to his aunt’s apartment in Kabul. There the service was a little more reliable. Within weeks, the hard-working Afghan student received admission and a full scholarship to her college of choice, United Worlds in New Mexico, USA.

Usyan finally landed in the United States on Saturday, July 30, almost a year after the Taliban took over. Her family, including her mother and her four siblings, were heading to the Netherlands to meet her father, who left Afghanistan shortly after Taliban rule.

Huma Ussian arrives at Islamabad Airport, Pakistan from Kabul on July 7, 2022.
Huma Ussian arrives at Islamabad Airport, Pakistan from Kabul on July 7, 2022. © Handout

It marked the end of the Afghan schoolgirl’s long journey from Kabul to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. There she spent her three weeks until she obtained a US visa.

Usian was lucky. The closure of US and other Western embassies in Kabul has forced Afghan citizens to travel to neighboring Pakistan. The high demand has attracted marketers, travel agents and middlemen, and in recent weeks he has increased the cost of a Pakistani visa to $1,000.

But for Usyan, the stress, hard work and struggle were worth it. In a phone interview with FRANCE 24, arriving in Santa Fe, New Mexico was “amazing,” Usyan said. Here in Santa Fe is like my village in Afghanistan. I expected a tall building with a house and a garden. But here, the house is only his ground floor. It feels like my village in Daikundi,” she said, referring to her ancestral province in central Afghanistan’s Hazarajat region.

Afghanistan’s best and brightest vacations

Immigration from Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon. After more than 40 years of conflict, Afghans are one of the world’s largest refugee populations, with about 2.6 million registered refugees from the country, according to the United Nations. Actual numbers may be higher.

But the scale of the panicked daily exodus following last year’s nimble Taliban takeover was unprecedented. Thousands of desperate Afghans flocked to Kabul airport, some clinging to or falling off planes taking off.

As hundreds of thousands of the country’s brightest and brightest sought to board departure flights, Taliban leaders called on educated Afghans to stay and help rebuild the country. A media-savvy spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, accused the US of urging “Afghan experts” to withdraw. At a press conference in Kabul days after his takeover, Mujahid vowed “no one will be harmed in Afghanistan” and promised amnesty.

But one year after the Taliban seized power, none of the promises made by Islamist groups have come true. Many Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan or Iran after the air evacuation ended due to the new government’s crackdown on those associated with the previous government.

Among them were young people like Ussian, Afghanistan’s brightest student who constitutes the developing world’s greatest intellectual capital and is key to its future growth and stability.

As the Taliban enter their second year of reign, following a disastrous first dominance that began in 1996 and effectively ended with the 9/11 attacks on the United States, this loss will jeopardize regional and global security. can also affect

school reopening day

After nearly two decades of insurgency, when the Taliban finally got what they wanted on August 15, 2021, they boarded Kabul without a governance plan.

The turmoil in their vision, with a vague definition of an Islamic ’emirate’, became apparent seven months into their reign. It effectively killed the hopes of half of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million.

Following coordinated international pressure, the Taliban announced earlier this year that a girls’ high school would open on March 23, the start of the spring semester.

But they were even more disappointed the day schools reopened, when middle school girls flocked to campuses across the country for the first day of classes. The heartache of the girls who burst into tears outside the school was captured live by national and international news teams.

“Girls’ education is a very important factor for many Afghans because they were unable to send their daughters or sisters to school. They chose to stay in Afghanistan. Their daughters and sisters were basically imprisoned and they are now desperately trying to leave because they think they have miscalculated,” he said in Kabul. Tamim Assay, co-founder of the based War and Peace Institute and former Deputy Defense Minister of Afghanistan, explained.

Kandahar rule over Kabul

Women’s rights are a major obstacle in the Taliban’s attempt to gain international recognition, which could lead to the unfreezing of Afghan bank assets blocked in the US. Reopening girls’ secondary schools, a minimum policy requirement, is perhaps the easiest gesture the Taliban can make toward that goal.

But the reversal of girls’ education on March 23 has led to what some experts call the “Doha Taliban,” who negotiated a US withdrawal deal in the Qatari capital, and the reclusive emir of the Qatar-based movement. It exposed a schism with the “Kandahari faction” centered on Hibaturah Akunzada. Southern Afghanistan birthplace of the Taliban.

Despite the Taliban’s insistence on unity, there are signs the regime has developed a divide between “rival power centers” in Kabul and Kandahar. just days before the Afghan Minister of Education was suddenly summoned from Kabul to Kandahar. Kabul factions, including the Minister of Education, who announced the decision to allow secondary education for girls, were read off by conservative Kandahari factions. “Kandahar asserted itself against Kabul,” noted The Times.

(For Part II of our feature on the Afghan brain drain, click here)

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