Officials in the Biden administration have maintained the optimistic claim that a desire for international approval could influence the actions of the Taliban. They reject criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Who opposes the withdrawal and rejects what he calls “diplomatic carrots.”
“If the Taliban claim to want international legitimacy, these actions will not give them the legitimacy they seek,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday in one of several warnings from the administration.
US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad traveled to Qatar on Tuesday to make the point directly to Taliban officials, telling Voice of America that if the Taliban take control of Afghanistan by force, ” they will become a pariah state ”.
Whether or not the Taliban heed this warning, Biden shows no signs of slowing down or reversing a decision to withdraw from the war.
The United States ends its nearly 20-year combat mission in Afghanistan on August 31 as part of an agreement President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban in 2020 plotted the September 11 attacks. He overthrew, along with Afghan allies, the Taliban government which had refused to surrender Osama bin Laden.
Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have recognized the former Taliban government. The inward-looking rulers applied the strictest interpretation of Islamic law. They banned singing, flying kites and watching television, and held public hangings at Kabul’s main sports stadium.
Mullah Mohammed Omar, then Taliban leader, made a gesture to the international community before September 11 by ending the heroin poppy cultivation, which UN officials have verified. But Omar told his ruling council that he believes there is nothing his government can do to end the international condemnation.
Members of Omar’s Taliban council at the time admitted that the financial sanctions were causing suffering.
For today’s Taliban, US talks about things like international inclusion, aid, and money for reconstruction might have mattered more if they had come a few years ago, a said Andrew Watkins, senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Today’s Taliban have been emboldened by the US withdrawal. Hopes of capturing all or part of Afghanistan, along with all the import fees at the border and other income a country offers, make international support less essential.
During the talks in Qatar, “the political representatives of the Taliban have expressed a genuine interest in international legitimacy and all the benefits that flow from it,” Watkins said. such global recognition or financial support, he said.
Trump and Biden officials hoped that the prospect of ending its former pariah status would moderate the behavior of the fundamentalist Pashtun ethnic group in various ways: negotiating its place in the Afghan power structure rather than taking it over, dealing with the Afghan minority groups with humanity and prohibit Islamic extremist groups from using the country as a base to attack on a regional or global scale.
Yet the Taliban’s political and military wings often seem at odds with Taliban representatives in Qatar, who negotiate as Taliban field commanders roll over the territory at home.
While political leaders speak of compromise and power sharing, Pakistani officials accustomed to private talks with the insurgent movement say they want full power.
They also envision a strict religious government, allowing girls to go to school and women to work, but only under their Islamic injunctions. Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Some European diplomats are more skeptical than Americans that international opinion can influence the Taliban. The Afghan president too.
“Yes they have changed, but negatively,” Ashraf Ghani, who rushed to Balkh province, already surrounded by Taliban-held territory, told his cabinet this month to seek help to repel the insurgents.
The Taliban have become “crueler, more oppressive” and would only share power if they were forced to do so on the battlefield, Ghani said.
Scenes of black-turbaned Taliban officials signing the US withdrawal agreement with officials Trump himself have given the Taliban new legitimacy. The same is true of Trump’s praise of the enemies of the US Taliban on the battlefield as “very tough, very smart.”
Eager to maintain regional and even global trade and economic ties, Taliban officials appealed to Central Asian governments and diplomats in Russia and China, assuring the Taliban would be good neighbors.
The Taliban have largely honored at least part of their deal with Trump, repelling attacks on the withdrawal of US forces.
The deal’s core requirement for Americans says that the Taliban cannot again allow al-Qaida or anyone else to use Afghanistan to threaten the United States or its allies.
But an April Pentagon report said the Taliban had “mutually beneficial” relations with groups linked to al-Qaida, and felt the militia was unlikely to take substantive action against them.
Overall, “I don’t think the United States will get what it hoped for,” said Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, researcher in Afghanistan and former head of US development in Central Asia. .
The Taliban “don’t really have any incentives,” unless their governing plans have changed, and it is not clear that they have changed, she said. “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking that the Taliban had changed, you know, in the fundamental sense of the word.”