Recognizing the Taliban: Is the Ice Melting?
The Taliban are busy consolidating their grip on the country – amid enormous uncertainty, however. Not only is the world closely monitoring developments, but Afghan citizens stricken by poverty are also concerned about how developments would shape their destiny.
The UN has warned that more than 20 million people could face food insecurity. The biggest problem right now is how to pay the salaries of public sector employees. The country is facing a collapse of institutions. To make matters worse, thousands of doctors, paramedics, engineers, technicians, teachers and administrators have left the country – not out of fear of the Taliban, as many overseas generally believe. but to look for work abroad. This flight of skilled workers has created an administrative vacuum in the country.
But the problem that haunts Taliban leaders the most is the global recognition of their power. Not only Western countries but also regional countries refused to recognize the new government. The reasons given are: The government is not inclusive enough to warrant recognition; guarantees for girls’ education and women’s employment were not respected; and there is as yet no concrete policy to ensure the protection of minority rights.
There is a reason in these arguments. What is not understood, however, is that the Taliban lack experience in governance – and vision, too. The new government has so far been unable to prioritize its policies and options. Most importantly, they have not been able to open up to the world, explain the complexity of the challenges they face, and seek help in overcoming serious financial and management issues. Some sections of the Taliban leadership believe these issues will eventually be resolved. But that’s a simplistic view. And in the meantime, a lot of damage is being done to the credibility of the new system that the Taliban want to put in place in the country.
Equally important, however, is the fact that not everyone seems to realize that a delay in recognizing Taliban rule would only make matters worse. On the one hand, the new government would remain handicapped because of a non-recognition with heavy consequences; and on the other, opponents of the Taliban would try to seize the opportunity to destabilize the government. A long standoff would motivate rivals to put up fierce resistance to the government. This would encourage countries in the region to once again seek favorites and supporting proxies, all to the detriment of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The world also seems to ignore the fact that in more than four decades Afghanistan has at least one government that controls the entire country. For the first time in nearly half a century, there is a government in Kabul that faces no real opposition. The warlords fled the country. The discredited former chieftains and chieftains – those who filled their coffers as grassroots Afghans were killed, displaced and humiliated in years of bloody conflict – have all disappeared. It is therefore the opportunity to turn a new page. It is a chance to rebuild the country and help its transition into a new era – an era that offers hope to a nation tired and exhausted after more than four decades of conflict. Let the world not realize this would be a tragedy. One wonders how such a logic can transcend nations, and how the gravity of the alternative does not strike a chord.
In this deadlock on recognition, the role of the countries of the region, in particular Pakistan, is highlighted. A role full of contradictions, of somersaults, of exerting influence in a way that has left deep scars in the collective consciousness of all Afghans. Even after many serious miscalculations, no lesson seems to have been learned. The recognition is apparently delayed on the “advice” of Americans who fear that with their exit from the region, China has an open ground to establish its credentials as a great economic and political power. There is a lobby in America that promotes the idea of hindering the progress of the BIS. This is just one dimension of the US-China rivalry playing out in different parts of the world – South China Sea, Horn of Africa, South America, etc.
That Pakistan aligns itself with such thinking is deplorable. The reality on the other side of the border must be recognized. The earliest would be best. There is no other option. On the one hand, Islamabad boasts of having historic ethnic, cultural and religious ties with Afghanistan and its longest border with the country; and on the other hand, it clings to countries which do not have such common ground with the landlocked country, thus creating doubts in the minds of the Afghans as to the “eternal” ties that unite the two countries. .
On the question of recognition, meanwhile, the ice seems to have started to melt. EU member states have announced that they will provide much needed assistance to the new Afghan government, although official recognition will take some time. The Americans concluded negotiations with Taliban leaders in Doha amid reports of converging perceptions on some issues. These are encouraging signs.
Moreover, China – an important player in the current scenario – is only waiting for an “opportune” moment to announce its recognition. Apparently, there are issues regarding the Uyghurs who have taken refuge in northern Afghanistan which Beijing says poses a threat to peace in China’s Xinjiang province. Hopefully this problem will be fixed quickly.
The prospects for recognition would become clearer with any initiative from any of the countries in the region. This would be followed by many other countries taking the plunge. Only then would the most pressing issues be focused on, like the fight against Daesh; negotiate the release of $ 9 billion worth of assets held in US banks; carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction; offer incentives to those who have left the country to return and participate in the historic task of reconstruction; take measures to reduce poverty; establish institutions for progress in sectors such as health, education, banking, IT, communication; lay the foundations for a sound judicial system based on the cardinal principles of institutionalized accountability for all; etc.
The delay in recognition is a deception. It will hurt everyone and do little.
Posted in The Express Tribune, October 30e, 2021.