THE Afghan Taliban are veering closer to international acceptance. However, recognition of their hardline regime remains elusive. Fourteen of the 15 members of the UN Security Council last week voted to establish formal ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan — without extending international recognition. The Russians abstained. It is a step closer to recognition though, and means that the international community is prepared to engage with the regime, open their diplomatic missions in Kabul, and do business and trade, while continuing to exhort the hardliners to heed demands to respect human, including women’s, rights and ensure an inclusive government. The vote also gives a ray of hope to the 38m Afghans who are facing extreme poverty and a severe lingering drought. The UNSC vote is significant in the sense that the international community has finally woken up to the desperate situation in Afghanistan and has found a practical way of dealing with the Taliban regime, without granting diplomatic recognition to it. Another meeting is scheduled to be held in China next month, to be attended by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Besides, the Taliban have been invited to attend the OIC foreign ministers’ conference in Islamabad as observers. There is little doubt that the issue of granting diplomatic recognition to the hardline rulers will be amongst the top issues on the agenda.
The Afghan Taliban must be elated by the de facto recognition of their government, although they know that they will have to soften their rigid positions on some fundamental issues to achieve full diplomatic recognition. True, the Taliban have been able to restore public order in Afghanistan after a volatile international exit, despite all the misgivings and concerns about their ability to retain control over a country torn apart by decades of fighting. The Taliban have also reopened universities and allowed men and women to resume their education, and at least in some cases, have permitted women to return to work. Still, much more remains to be done. The Taliban have been promising the world on this score, but have done little to address key concerns. They have shown hardly any inclination to form a representative, broad-based inclusive government in Afghanistan — a key demand of the international community — and have, instead, been making counter-arguments to rebuff any suggestion to the effect. The Taliban need to walk the talk to claim diplomatic recognition. Rhetoric alone will not take them anywhere.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2022