Australia's men's team has withdrawn from their one-day international (ODI) series against Afghanistan in March following further restrictions on women's and girls' rights imposed by the Taliban, Cricket Australia (CA) said on Thursday.
Afghanistan's Taliban-led administration last month imposed a ban on women attending universities. Girls have been banned from high school since March. They have also been excluded from parks and gyms.
Australia and Afghanistan were scheduled to play three ODIs in the United Arab Emirates but CA scrapped the series after "extensive consultation" with stakeholders, including the Australian government.
"This decision follows the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women's and girls' education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms," CA said in a statement.
"CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country.
"We thank the Australian government for its support on this matter."
The series formed part of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Super League, where the top eight teams automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup. Australia have already qualified for the tournament.
Teams are awarded 10 points for wins, meaning Afghanistan, who are seventh in the standings, are set to receive 30 points for Australia's forfeiture, boosting their hopes of securing qualification for next year's World Cup in India.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) said it was "extremely disappointed and saddened" by the decision to withdraw, adding that it would write to the ICC and rethink the participation of Afghan players in Australia's Big Bash League.
"Cricket Australia's decision to withdraw ... is coming after consultation and potential enforcement from the Australian Government which is an unfortunate attempt to enter the realm of politics and politicize the sport," the ACB said.
"By prioritising political interests over the principles of fair play and sportsmanship, Cricket Australia is undermining the integrity of the game and damaging the relationship between the two nations.
"The decision to withdraw ... is unfair and unexpected and will have a negative impact on the development and growth of cricket in Afghanistan as well as will affect the love and passion of the Afghan nation for the game."
The ACB added that cricket had been an important tool for promoting education and social development in the country.
Australia were scheduled to play a test match against Afghanistan in November 2021 but the fixture was postponed after the Taliban seized power in August of that year.
Afghanistan remain the only ICC full member nation of without a women's team. They have continued to appear at ICC events since the Taliban takeover, however, and faced Australia during last year's Twenty20 World Cup.
ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice has said Afghanistan's lack of commitment to women's cricket is a concern for the sport's global governing body and that the matter will be discussed at its next board meeting.
"Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime," Allardice said. "It is a concern that progress is not being made in Afghanistan and it's something our board will consider at its next meeting in March. As far as we are aware, there isn't activity at the moment."