U.S. Special Representative Thomas West tweeted his “shock and deep disappointment” about the decision, calling it “a betrayal of public commitments to the Afghan people and the international community.” He said the Taliban had made it clear that all Afghans have a right to education, adding, “For the sake of the country’s future and its relations with the international community, I would urge the Taliban to live up to their commitments to their people.”

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers unexpectedly decided against reopening schools Wednesday to girls above the sixth grade, reneging on a promise and opting to appease their hard-line base at the expense of further alienating the international community, AP reports.

The surprising decision, confirmed by a Taliban official, is bound to disrupt efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis. The international community has urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women their right to public space.

The reversal was so sudden that the Education Ministry was caught off guard on Wednesday, the start of the school year, as were schools in parts of the Afghan capital of Kabul and elsewhere in the country. Some girls in higher grades returned to schools, only to be told to go home.

Aid organizations said the move exacerbated the uncertainty surrounding Afghanistan’s future as the Taliban leadership seems to struggle to get on the same page as it shifts from fighting to governing.
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