In the recognition game, the ball is now in the Taliban’s court
As G20 nations pledge $1 billion aid for Afghanistan, the first formal meeting between Taliban leaders and US government representatives has ended on a positive note. The interaction will continue in the coming days. The US has promised to consider the release of more than $9 billion of Afghan money stacked in American banks. Recognition of the new Afghan government has for now been put off to some other date in the future, and linked to the Taliban’s policy toward girls’ education and the rights of women to seek jobs.
Nothing beyond this was expected from initial contacts.
Taliban have emphatically declared they would like to have good relations with the US as soon as matters that are pending between the two countries are resolved. Taliban clearly understand the critical role the US can play in the huge task of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Other than releasing the funds now held up, Washington could also play a role in such institutions as the World Bank and IMF responding to Kabul’s request for financial and technical assistance. Taliban leaders also realize that Washington coming around to recognizing the new government will create an environment for recognition by the entire world.
Coming fast on the heels of the Doha talks, the G20 countries also held a virtual meeting that was chaired by the Italian Prime Minister. The meeting was a crucial breakthrough for a country that is on the brink of imminent collapse. The meeting agreed to contribute more than $1 billion as emergency aid to Afghanistan. It was also agreed that the funds would not be directly transferred to the Taliban government but would instead be released to UN departments and such organizations and NGOs that are operating in Afghanistan. Such donations will not directly impact the government’s ability to pay long delayed salaries etc, but will certainly affect the lives of the people.
The ball is in the court of the Taliban. They must make good on their promises and then confront the world to reciprocate.
Russia have announced another meeting on Afghanistan in the coming week. These developments have created considerable hope and optimism after very depressing news about the collapse of the economy and the possibility of a large-scale migration of people.
One very positive signal emanating from the G20 meeting was a near consensus that isolating or disregarding the urgent need for assistance would create a humanitarian crisis that might engulf the whole region. It was agreed that the world must respond to the need for immediate financial help if a humanitarian catastrophy is to be averted.
Now that the world has begun to recognize the need for extending urgent assistance to prevent a humanitarian disaster, the Taliban should seriously consider how to create an environment conducive to their government being recognized. They have stated in clear terms that girls will be free to go to schools, colleges and seek jobs. It is time they implement this decision. The sooner the better. They must also take practical steps to ensure the protection of minorities. The world is waiting to see this happen. Why delay action when a commitment has been made? The Americans have reiterated that the Taliban government will be judged by their actions. The European Union have made similar statements. The ball is in the court of the Taliban. They must make good on their promises and then confront the world to reciprocate. They will also be well advised to give proportionate representation to all ethnic groups in the country. Those included in the cabinet don’t necessarily need to belong to groups that fought against the Taliban but a representation to other ethnic groups will be a most desirable step to take.
With the international community showing signs of agreeing to work with the Taliban government, hopes for peace and progress have been revived. Taliban will be expected to show prudence, statesmanship and perseverance in navigating through these turbulent and difficult times. They should not disappoint a nation that has longed for peace for more than four decades.
- Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.