Does anybody but Barack Obama believe the Afghan Taliban won’t prevent girls from attending school?

Afghanistan minister claims the Taliban leadership has undergone a ‘cultural change’ and will no longer oppose education for girls. (Yeah, and I’m the Queen of England)

UK GUARDIAN –According to Farooq Wardak, the country’s education minister, the movement has decided to scrap the ban on female education that helped earn the movement worldwide infamy in the 1990s.

Wardak said the Taliban’s leadership had undergone a profound change since losing power after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. “It is attitudinal change, it is behavioural change, it is cultural change,” he told the Times Educational Supplement.

“What I am hearing at the very upper policy level of the Taliban is that they are no more opposing education and also girls’ education.” (At least, not until after the American troops leave)

The minister, who is one of the most trusted members of Hamid Karzai’s inner circle, has a key role in official efforts to bring the Taliban to peace talks.

The movement’s two spokesmen were unavailable for comment today and the Taliban have never made any public statements that back up Wardak’s claim. (DING DING DING) Alex Strick van Linschoten, a leading analyst of the Taliban, said an announcement was unlikely in the near future.

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“They are unlikely to announce things like this since it will all come up in any potential negotiations and this is one ‘concession’ they could make to the foreigners,” he said. Experts say that the attitude of the conservative Islamic movement towards women’s education has always been far more ambivalent than popularly understood.

Mullah Zaeef, a former high-ranking Taliban official who served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan in 2001, said the movement was not against educating women and that the ban on girls’ schools was only a “temporary measure.”(HAH!)

Analysts say the policy was largely due to Taliban concerns about boys and girls being educated together and male teachers overseeing female classes. (Sure, it was)

The movement claimed it would establish a new national education system after it had brought stability to a country where internal conflict continued right up until the US-led invasion of 2001. Even then some senior members of the regime were known to be extremely unhappy with the policy.

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“When I was in Islamabad I spoke to many foreign embassies to see if they were interested in funding girls’ schools, but they weren’t interested,” Zaeef said. “I personally think the Taliban are not against education but simply against a western type of education,” Mansory said. “And if local people want to educate their girls the Taliban know they can’t do anything to stop that.” (A little acid, a little poison works wonders)

But public acceptance of female education by the Taliban would be seen as a milestone, particularly by western nations anxious that any peace deal does not undermine the rights of women.

Taliban leaders have already rethought many of their notorious policies of the 1990s, Strick van Linschoten said. For example, during the Taliban government mobile phones and video were considered un-Islamic but both technologies are now used extensively by insurgents. (It’s a big stretch from using cell phones to letting girls go to school)

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