Not recognizing the Taliban government in Afghanistan is pure folly
More than half of Afghanistan’s population faces acute poverty. More than a million children are suffering from extreme malnutrition. Food insecurity is a matter of deep concern as drought has taken hold. The humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed the country as the future looks bleak. The worst affected are the internally displaced people numbering more than three million women and children. The health system has nearly collapsed. Foreign investment has vanished; unemployment has soared to new levels. In this grim scenario the only ray of hope is a quick response by the international community to urgently begin to donate cash and food and medical assistance. The UN has made an accurate assessment of the humanitarian needs of a country that is teetering on the edge. It has launched an aid appeal for nearly $5 billion – the biggest ever amount for a single country.
To what extent the international community reacts to the appeal remains to be seen. But time is of the essence. In that context, one has to consider why the world has failed to bring pressure to bear upon the US to release the Afghan assets it has been holding. The $8.5 billion assets kept in American banks are key to overcoming the economic crisis that Afghanistan is currently facing. Not only that, it’s the crippling sanctions that have continued to obstruct any inflow of funding into the country causing disruptions in the whole governance system. Taliban are a de facto government. But de facto authorities cannot receive funding from international donors or banking systems. Funds may be coming into the country but government run hospitals are not able to receive any money or donations. Doctors and health workers in government hospitals are not receiving any salaries. Schools and government run educational institutions are not able to pay teachers and other staff. The banking system has nearly become dysfunctional. All this has caused many doctors, teachers and technicians to leave their jobs in the government sector and seek opportunities abroad or focus on other options.
If Afghanistan descends into free-fall and chaos ensues, the implications for the region would be disasterous. There is obviously a paramount need for a reappraisal of policy by the US and international community. The key to avoiding a great humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in the country is the release of Afghan assets held in the US and the lifting of sanctions that have led to a near collapse of the health and education systems in the country. Unless there is tangible progress on these two counts, the crisis will only deepen with horrendous implications.
Only a strong Taliban government with the help of the international community can wipe out the scourge of terrorism from Afghanistan.
Rustam Shah Mohmand
On the issue of women’s rights, the Taliban government has made its position clear. Women will be allowed to work and have the right to seek an education. But the full mainstreaming of women into the administrative systems of the country may take some time. What the world must not forget is that by imposing isolation onto the country, the goal of a liberal governance system will not be achieved. By isolating the regime, the hard-liners will take control. This will push the agenda of reforms into the background. What is needed is constant engagement with the leadership of the Taliban, which helps them realize the benefits and need for a pluralistic, participatory system of governance. Persisting with the notion of ‘no recognition’ will only embitter relations and cause a more severe ideological response from a group that now controls the destiny of an important country. To continue with the current policy of denying recognition to a government that is in control of the country would only create conditions for suspicions,hatred and distrust. The only prudent and wise course under the circumstances is to acknowledge objective reality and work closely with the leaders of the group and help them overcome the critical problems of health, hunger and poverty. Only such an attitude can lead to the emergence of an atmosphere of trust which could in turn lead to reconciliation and durable peace. For Taliban leaders it is imperative that they include representatives of all ethnic groups in the government and offer equal opportunities to all, irrespective of ethnicity or faith. Therein lies their success, and that is the key to sustainable peace.
The world must recognize the great change that has occurred, and the international community must realize the many positives in the current situation. For the first time in more than 40 years, there is a government in Kabul whose authority is unchallenged. For the first time in many years, all the warlords have fled the country. People are desperate for peace and there is a deep longing for stability to return. This opportunity will only be squandered at the peril of peace in the region. To persist with an uncompromising attitude on the issue of recognition is a folly that is fraught with danger. The delay in accepting the legality of the Taliban government will only cause more humanitarian problems and increase the woes and misfortune of millions of its inhabitants.
There is the need to dispassionately evaluate the pros and cons of the existing policy of ‘no recognition.’ Such an attitude could potentially help create space for warlords, gangsters, terrorists, Daesh and other militant groups. Only a strong Taliban government with the help of the international community can wipe out the scourge of terrorism from Afghanistan. By refusing to interact with the Taliban government, the international community will only be facilitating the work of the militant outfits that exist in the country and have their eyes on the countries of the region bordering Afghanistan. The sooner these facts are acknowledged, the better it will be for the region.
*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.