With a new government and unrivaled control over Afghanistan, Taliban rulers are seeking international recognition of the Islamic emirates of Afghanistan they have established.
Almost a month after the fall of the Afghan republic, no country has given the Taliban such recognition. Still, governments around the world, as well as the United Nations, are eagerly awaiting high.level contacts with the Taliban, especially as the country faces a humanitarian crisis.
Some Western governments say such a dialogue with the Taliban is possible – and desirable – without recognizing de jure the organization’s rule. “Before recognition they need to have some sort of mandate stemming from the political will of the population,” a senior Western diplomat said. “But apart from the question of consciousness we can discuss with them, we can talk to them.“
Prior to the reopening of Western embassies, all closed since the fall of Kabul on August 15, such involvement could take the form of short trips by diplomats to Kabul, if the security situation allows, the senior diplomat added.
First international recognition?
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman al.Thani was on Sunday the first foreign minister to travel to Kabul since the Taliban takeover. The contrasting descriptions of the short trip highlighted the organization’s desire for international recognition – and the hesitation of the international community to grant it before some conditions were met.
In a statement celebrating victory, the Taliban hinted that the Islamic State of Afghanistan had finally gained its first international recognition. “The Qatari Foreign Minister congratulated the IEA leadership and the entire Afghan people on the victory and stressed the strengthening of bilateral relations,” the Taliban said.
In Doha they were not satisfied. The Qatari description of the talks in Kabul between Muhammad’s Sheikh and the new prime minister of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Ahund – did not mention any congratulations.
Instead, the announcement highlighted the concern of many in the international community. In Kabul, the Qatari foreign minister has urged the Taliban to form a more comprehensive government and ensure freedom of movement for Afghans and foreigners who wanted to leave the country, and fight international terrorism, a statement from Doha said.
A tweet from the Qatari Foreign Ministry also showed footage of a conversation Muhammad met in Kabul with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and with former peace talks representative Abdullah Abdullah. Despite Taliban promises from the past to share power with other political leaders, last week the Taliban formed a transitional government whose members are all senior members of the Islamist organization.
The government has repeatedly said it wants Western embassies to return to Afghanistan. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants a positive peace relationship with the world,” it read in English on the giant sign the Taliban hung over the passenger terminal of Kabul airport.
“Recognition is very important,” said Rohula Umar, a political commentator close to the Taliban in an interview with the Taliban government’s new information office on Monday. “If the United States and Western countries do not lend a hand to Afghanistan, the Taliban will have to lend a hand to Russia and China.“
Foreign countries ‘demands for political inclusion, Umar added, do not make sense because the Taliban is bound by its commitment to the US as set out in the Doha agreement of February 2020, where the organization is required to ensure that Afghan soil is not used to undermine other countries’ security.
“The world needs to understand that what is needed is not inclusion but security,” Umar said. “If we put into the government Karzai, Abdullah, and all these other people who have relations with Russia or China or other countries, and they give someone permission to attack another country, how can we be responsible for that?”
The Taliban is a monolithic organization, and many of its simple fighters say they are troubled by what they perceive as too soft an approach to former enemies. While different currents refer to different government jobs as loot from the battles, the new government reflected more than anything the desire to contain the internal tensions, diplomats say.
Rumors of murder
On Monday, the organization rejected rumors that Mullah Abdul Rani Brader, the relatively moderate deputy prime minister who headed the Taliban’s political office in Doha, was assassinated on Sunday at Kabul’s presidential palace. Brader, who was flown back to Afghanistan aboard a Qatari military plane last month, was not among the dignitaries who met with Qatar’s foreign minister on Sunday.
In a voice message issued by the Taliban, Brader was heard saying he was traveling outside Kabul and reports of his death were “shameful lies”. Taliban social media accounts later showed photos allegedly proving that Brother had visited a rural area in Razani province.
When the Taliban ruled Kabul between 1996 and 2001, before the United States invaded the country, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates gave its regime diplomatic recognition. And other embassies Taliban officials have been in contact with the United Nations and the United States through unofficial offices in Queens, New York.
Senior Taliban figures in Kabul point out that today the situation is completely different. Having taken control of the capital Punjab, the last province to have opponents of the Taliban, the organization now unquestionably controls the entire country. “After 43 years, the war is finally over in Afghanistan,” said Anmula Samangani, a Taliban spokesman and former rebel commander in northern Samangan province.
There has been no attempt to form an exiled Afghan government since President Ashraf Rani fled to the United Arab Emirates on August 15. But for now, all of Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions in foreign countries, including the UN delegation and the embassy in Washington, are still waving the flag of the collapsed Afghan republic.
The U.S. and all other Western countries closed their embassies in Kabul after the Taliban took over, turning the once.flourishing green zone with thousands of diplomats and contractors into an abandoned ghost town with stray dogs running through its alleys, armed with bombed.out concrete barriers.
Hoping for recognition, the Taliban protect most of the embassies, though some – like the Norwegian delegation, just outside the Green Zone – were looted by Islamist fighters who also destroyed the diplomats’ wine collection in front of cameras. The United States and many other countries have temporarily relocated their Afghanistan.related diplomats to Doha.
In contrast, China, Russia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and neighboring Central Asian countries have all maintained their diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, and Qatar in particular plays a major role in renovating Kabul’s airport and organizing the evacuation of foreign nationals last week. The UN has also left many staff members in its office in Kabul. This month senior UN officials visited Kabul and met with Taliban leaders – whom the UN now refers to as “de facto authorities”.
Holding an embassy in the country is not equivalent to recognizing its government, diplomats say, pointing to the fact that many Western countries have left their embassies in Myanmar open even though they did not recognize the legitimacy of the country’s military regime after a military coup last February.