Former Afghan Ambassador Reveals What Has to be Done by Taliban to Gain International Recognition

© REUTERS / ALI KHARAA Taliban fighter guards a street in Kabul, Afghanistan November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Khara
A Taliban fighter guards a street in Kabul, Afghanistan November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Khara - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
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In an interview with AP, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi spoke about the Taliban’s commitments and goals on securing good relations with all countries. Speaking in Kabul, Muttaqi stated that making Afghanistan ‘unstable’ or having a ‘weak Afghani’ government was not in the interest of anyone.
According to Muttaqi, the Taliban* is ready to make changes that will benefit the nation and encourage the US and other countries to "slowly change its policy towards Afghanistan". Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador to France, Canada, the EU, and NATO, spoke about the new message coming out of Afghanistan.
Sputnik: What message is the Taliban trying to send?
Omar Samad: It's four months after the controversial exit of Ashraf Ghani from Kabul. And the vacuum that was filled by the Taliban. The caretaker government in Kabul is feeling both domestic pressures, mostly from a collapsing economy and increasing poverty, as well as external pressures from those countries, especially that used to provide aid and funding to the Afghan government before 15 August.
Taliban fighter, Mostashhed from Wardak province, looks on as he visits Kabul for the first time as hundreds of Taliban fighters take a day off to visit the amusement park at Kabul's Qargha reservoir, at the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2021. Picture taken October 8, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
Afghanistan
Seeking 'Good Relations' With All Countries, Taliban Appears Ready to Sink Feud With US
In this interview, the caretaker foreign minister of the Taliban expressed on the one hand frustration with the domestic pressures and external pressures on them, as well as their willingness to engage and be a partner to the international community in order to decrease the pressure on their regime. They're facing financial and economic collapse. At the same time, the request by the international community that the Taliban show more flexibility in terms of creating a broad-based government and addressing the needs of women's rights and education for girls. This is what has to be resolved by the Taliban in order to gain recognition by the international community.
Sputnik: How likely is it that the US will establish relations?
Omar Samad: I don't expect a sudden change in terms of official recognition. I think that engagement is going to be gradual and it's going to be selective. On one hand, the international community has a responsibility, especially those who were providing most of the funding before 15 August to make sure that the Afghan population does not suffer as a result of bad policy and bad governance in the past, at the same time that the Afghan people do not pay the price for Taliban inflexibility and intransigence in certain sectors.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
US Faces Difficulties in Ensuring Taliban Do Not Benefit From Aid Funding
The United States and its allies and some other countries who have used the United Nations Security Council as a platform to make their demands known to the Taliban are expecting some change in the behaviour and the government's restrictions that the Taliban have implemented. The Taliban, on the other hand, seem to be having an internal discussion and debate about how much flexibility to show, how much of an open system to create, and how much of these demands and expectations to meet. This discussion, sooner or later, has to come to a conclusion and the hope is that the Taliban will be more flexible and less intransigent.
Sputnik: What kind of steps must the Taliban pursue to achieve recognition by European countries?
Omar Samad: You have to go back to the intra-Afghan reconciliation process and peace process that was going on before the fall of Kabul in Doha, Qatar. In those meetings, it is now known that the Taliban had at least provided some assurance that if there is a transitional government, interim government that will replace Ghani that they will accommodate other political and social and ethnic groups in a coalition government.
Number two, they had also given assurances that certain accomplishments in regards to human rights, women's rights, education, freedom of expression will be maintained. And this is where they now have to prove to the Afghan people and to the international community that they stand by those assurances now that they are in power. So I think that the criteria and the conditions are very clear. And the ball is in the Taliban court now.
Sputnik: How likely is it that the EU will recognise the Taliban?
Omar Samad: I don't see the EU or any EU country recognising the Taliban politically and diplomatically anytime soon. What we are hearing is that some countries of the EU, as well as the EU itself, are assessing the possibility of opening a mission that will deal with mainly humanitarian and consular issues. So that is a step towards engagement, but not full recognition.
Sputnik: Can we expect a situation where, for example, Europe engages with the Taliban independently from the US?
Omar Samad: At this stage, I don't see it. As I said, the United Nations Security Council decisions that have been made and the statements that have been issued since the fall of Kabul show a certain level of unity between different countries — including Russia and China — on moving forward with recognition. Now, it is possible that in the next few weeks maybe a group of countries may change their minds. But for the moment, I don't see that happening under current conditions, unless the Taliban show some level of flexibility.
Sputnik: You said that in a few weeks some countries could change their minds, can you please elaborate?
Omar Samad: The international community in regards to Afghanistan is divided into different camps. But they have a certain level of understanding overall. The different camps — for example, the neighbours of Afghanistan, because of the fact that they are neighbours and share borders with Afghanistan, obviously have to deal with the country differently.
Then you have countries in the region that are stakeholders for a variety of different reasons and who also have a different approach towards Afghanistan, depending on their level of interest. Then you have the global, larger context of great power rivalry and strategic issues that also impact the relationship with Afghanistan, and with others as well as among different players.
So, it's a complex situation, but I think for the moment, as I said, the general consensus is to stick to the United Nations Security Council resolutions asking the Taliban to create a broad-based government, respect gender rights as well as minority rights, and allow women to work and girls to go to school, and also play a role in counterterrorism, a constructive role in counterterrorism. These are the main demands that the Taliban need to address. And I don't think that this general context is going to change anytime soon.
Sputnik: When will the terrorism label be stripped from the Taliban?
Omar Samad: The question of lifting the Taliban from the UN blacklist and the designation of individuals within the Taliban as having terrorist status is very much also tied to the resolutions that have been passed and to the expectations that have been presented to the Taliban, whether in Doha or in Moscow or in other locations in the past four months – or in Kabul itself. And I think that the Taliban have been given a clear set of policy guidelines in order to address the issue of recognition, as well as delisting from UN terrorist designation.
Sputnik: The economic situation in Afghanistan is dire and the Taliban have expressed their frustration with this. What if the Taliban are not flexible in addressing the international community’s concerns and the international community doesn’t provide aid and assistance to the country? Could we see another stage of chaos within the nation, particularly with internal fighting?
Omar Samad: There are two issues here. I think on the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding, the international community has agreed to bypass the Taliban regime and use the United Nations and NGOs to help the Afghan population, and that is going on right now.
That cannot stop because it will lead to a catastrophe. So that is happening regardless of what the Taliban do or don't do. Now, there are obviously other issues tied to the economy overall, for example, to the banking system and to the devalued currency of the country that is impacting livelihoods as well.
If the Taliban, in my opinion, do not seriously understand the consequences, then obviously, the international community is going to continue to use pressure, which will lead to further isolation of Afghanistan, and further impoverishment of the country, and further alienation, both at home and outside, which is a lose-lose proposition.
Because the more unstable Afghanistan becomes, the more dangerous the situation becomes and allows for transnational terrorist groups and criminal groups to re-emerge and use Afghanistan to further their agenda. So I think that there is a fine line between trying to provide assistance to the population, trying to engage the Taliban to make the right decisions, and then also to prevent a collapse and destabilisation of the country that could have broader consequences.
This obviously is a policy question that has to be answered in Washington, in Brussels, as well as in Moscow and Beijing and the capitals of all those countries that have a special interest in Afghanistan. It's not just one part of the world or one country that is responsible or is a stakeholder. So, one part of the world was providing, until a few months ago, 75 percent of Afghanistan's expenditures at all levels, and that has gone to almost zero.
So the question is how do you fill the gap and then what role do these stakeholders play? And as I said, on the one hand, to make sure that we do not create a humanitarian catastrophe, on the other hand, in order to push the Taliban, constructively, to address the issues that put to them. And third — to prevent a further destabilisation of the country that could benefit terrorist groups, for example. This is a collective responsibility, not just of one country or another. Yes, some countries have more responsibility — the United States and the Western countries, because of their history in Afghanistan, but it does not exclude others as well, including especially the neighbours of Afghanistan who will feel the impact of the collapse and of destabilisation.
*The Taliban is an organisation under UN sanctions over terrorist activities.
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