Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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What Stands Between the Taliban and Recognition

This piece was first published by Russia in London. Opinions do not represent those of RUSI.

EXPERT POINT OF VIEW – The international community is under increasing pressure to recognize the Taliban and unlock Afghan funds held by the IMF or to risk a humanitarian crisis during the winter and a resurgence of international terrorism.

As Afghanistan sinks into winter, the desperate need is to avoid a humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program has launched a appeal to feed up to 23 million people and Médecins sans Frontières has followed suit in the health sector. Fortunately, the distribution mechanisms are in place inside Afghanistan; what is needed is that the international community to assure that United Nations humanitarian programs be fully funded. This will require Western capitals to overcome the shock of their recent defeat. It goes without saying that hunger and health should not be used as political levers.

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Taliban lack the skills to run a country that is far more complex than the Afghanistan of 1996 – when they began their previous and disastrous tenure in power. They will need international assistance to stabilize the economy, get people back to work, and ultimately continue the gradual infrastructure improvements that have been underway since 2002. China will undoubtedly be willing to help in some areas, but Beijing has already made it clear that it is adopt a cautious and gradual approach. However, new indications show that the Taliban’s hardline views are starting to loosen; such as their endorsement of the polio immunization program and their willingness to work with UN humanitarian agencies.

The Taliban will also need outside help to defeat the threat from Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISK). The Taliban are already struggling to counter similar asymmetric tactics they have used so successfully against Western forces. This is probably one of the topics CIA Director William Burns discussed with the Taliban during his visit on August 24 and where there is mutual interest.

What can the international community (not just the West) really expect from the Taliban after the militant group’s resounding victory? The maximalist requirements will inevitably be overlooked.


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First, the Taliban should form a more inclusive government. According to several sources, the Taliban intended to form such an administration if Ashraf Ghani had not fled the country on August 15. I doubt that was ever their intention, but former President Hamid Karzai and former reconciliation chief Abdullah Abdullah may have stayed in Kabul on that basis and Fatima Gailani, a former negotiator, may have stayed in Kabul on that basis. insists that was the intention of the Taliban.

An inclusive government should include women and non-Taliban representatives from the Hazara, Uzbek and Tajik communities. It doesn’t necessarily have to understand the failed politicians and bloodstained warlords of the past, let alone Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rashid Dostum. It is certainly time for a new generation of more technocratic Afghans to get involved in government. Some may be persuaded to return from abroad, but they will need insurance for their safety.

Second, the international community should insist that the education of women at all levels be restored and that women play a greater role in society. The Taliban will hesitate to do this, but they need only look at Pakistan where women play an important role in an openly Islamic, if not Islamist, society.

Third, all neighboring countries, as well as the rest of the world, want Afghanistan to commit to removing all terrorist bases and terrorists from its soil; not only ISK and Al-Qaida, but also the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), anti-Iranian and anti-Indian groups and militant movements in Central Asia, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Fourth, the Taliban should commit to allowing people to reunite with their families in exile if they so choose and also stop prosecuting and punishing Afghans who have served the Afghan government and its Western allies since 2001.


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In an ideal world, there would also be a fifth demand: to remove members of the Haqqani network from the Taliban administration. However, that laissez-passer was sold when US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad engaged with the Haqqanis in Doha – another result of that calamitous dialogue. Moreover, the current reality is that the Haqqani control both Kabul and its airport, and Sirajuddin Haqqani holds the key post of interior minister.

Instead, the Haqqanis must be persuaded to prevent the regrouping of Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Sirajuddin’s father was close to Osama bin Laden and the group maintains its links with Al-Qaida. Pakistan is already using the Haqqanis to bring the TTP to the negotiating table. It remains to be seen how successful this will be. It is doubtful that the Haqqanis are willing to take military action against a group from a similar area in the tribal border areas. However, the Haqqanis could be useful as intermediaries, if not as enforcers.

Meanwhile, the wider Taliban, commonly referred to as “Kandaharis,” are increasingly enraged by incoming Haqqanis. Although they worked together, there was never much love lost between the two. The Kandaharis have always been wary of the Haqqani’s proximity to the Pakistani army. Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, Mullah Abdul-Ghani Baradar, whose willingness to negotiate with the government in Kabul in 2008 and 2010 saw him eight years in a Pakistani prison, has been jailed. difference. There will undoubtedly be an account

A lasting regret at the reckless US withdrawal is that Washington failed to strike a broader deal for Afghanistan involving China, Iran, Russia, India, and the Central Asian Republics. From now on, it is essential to involve all neighbors in the discussion on recognition and the conditions required. But first we have to help the Afghans survive the winter.

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