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Gandhara Briefing: Decapitating The Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Brain Drain, Private Schools Close In Kabul

PAKISTAN -- Pakistani militant Omar Khalid Khorasani is seen at an undisclosed location near the Pak-Afghan border, undated

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Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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This week's Gandhara Briefing brings insight into the killing of top Pakistani Taliban commanders, the brain drain from Afghanistan, and why private schools are shutting down in the country.

Peace Talks And The TTP

Radio Mashaal broke the news about the killing of three top commanders of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) inside Afghanistan this week. They included Abdul Wali, alias Omar Khalid Khorasani, one of the most notable Pakistani Taliban commanders.

In an analysis, Daud Khattak assessed whether the killings could end the TTP's delicate peace talks with Islamabad. The murky killings have also possibly exposed the frictions within the hard-line organization, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other Islamist militant groups.

"The TTP may not be interested in scrapping it because it is the Pakistani state that is making compromises," Muhammad Amir Rana, an Islamabad-based security analyst, said of the talks that began earlier this year and have so far seen the release of more than 100 TTP militants in return for a cease-fire.

Hundreds of TTP fighters have already returned to the parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa they had fled because of military operations years ago.

Residents of Dir and Swat protested against their return this week, while the residents of North Waziristan have been protesting for nearly a month.

Afghan Brain Drain

Michael Scollon writes about the large-scale exodus of Afghan professionals and educated middle class from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover nearly a year ago.

The brain drain is particularly difficult for a country that barely recovered from its human resource losses during the war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the civil war in the 1990s.

The departure of those who were educated abroad has retarded Afghanistan's development.

"Losing such human capital, simply put, is disastrous for Afghanistan," said Weeda Mehran, an Afghanistan expert at the University of Exeter, adding that the loss of trained professionals has hit health care, education, security, and judicial sectors hard.

"We always have to start from scratch in Afghanistan to make some progress, if at all," said Sima Stanekzai, who rose through the ranks to eventually become the deputy governor of Jowzjan Province.

Afghan Private Schools Take A Major Hit

Radio Azadi reports on why private schools are closing across Afghanistan. More than 200 schools have already shut their doors to students in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

"Our school was shut because of economic difficulties," said Maiwand Mangal, whose school, Nawakht, recently ended its lessons. "We could not raise funds to pay rent for the building we were letting."

Our photo gallery captures how the economic collapse has triggered a hunger crisis in Afghanistan:

Azim Maidanwal, the head of the Afghan private school association, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of Afghanistan's pro-Western government last year ravaged their schools.

"Many owners simply walked away from their schools by locking the doors," he said. "They even left behind their desks and chairs."

Teenage Afghan Girl Questions Taliban

In a video report, we take you to meet a teenage Afghan schoolgirl who aspires to be a digital artist.

"Why are you taking away our rights?" she asks the Taliban, who have banned teenage girls from education since returning to power last year.

"It is our right to be educated. We don't want the history to be repeated," she said, referring to the Taliban's first stint in power from 1996-2001 when women were banned from education, the workplace, and social life.

'We Want Our Voice To Be Heard': Afghan Girl Demands An Education
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Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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