The Onus Is On The Taliban
The Onus is on the Taliban to decide how the World reacts to Regime
Resolution Number 2593, passed by the UNSC just prior to India handing over its presidency, read: “(UNSC) demands that Afghan territory not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter, train terrorists or plan or finance terrorist acts.” The Resolution specifically mentions UNSC proscribed groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the two Pakistan-based terror outfits. The Resolution was passed with China and Russia abstaining. The Indian Foreign Secretary, Harsh Shringla, stated: “Needless to say the adoption of the resolution is a strong signal from the Security Council and the International Community on its expectations in respect of Afghanistan.”
A near similar Resolution on August 16, post takeover by the Taliban, had mentioned that it would be held responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from Afghan soil. The current Resolution displays that there is a re-think in global perception, that too, within a fortnight. The reason stated by the Indian Permanent Representative to the UN, T S Tirumurti, was Taliban’s support in the evacuation. This, despite the Taliban restricting movement and charging heavy bribes to permit entry into the airport.
General Mark Miley, Chairman of the US Chief’s of Staff Committee, stated that there is a possibility of the US co-operating with the Taliban against the the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K). It is rumoured that drone strikes launched by the US, post attacks on Kabul airfield, were based on intelligence inputs from the Taliban. Reports also mention that the US military commanders co-ordinated daily with Taliban commanders to facilitate evacuation.
Earlier, the US State Department representative, in a press interaction, termed the Taliban and Haqqani network as two different groups, ignoring the fact that the leader of the Haqqani network is a senior member of the Taliban Governing Council, responsibility of security of Kabul is with them and they would be part of the Government. Last week, the US Treasury Department issued a notification, permitting the Government and private contractors to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, despite sanctions. The US has also indicated co-operating with the Taliban against the ISIS-K and al-Qaeda.
The European Union (EU), meanwhile, announced an increase in funds for humanitarian support in Afghanistan. The global community, including the US and European nations, apart from Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia, had already provided the Taliban with global legitimacy, post multiple rounds of interactions in Doha.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, while on a visit to Islamabad, stated: “We do see the importance of being able to engage and having a direct line of communication (with the Taliban).” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, during his visit to the Pakistani capital, was non-committal on engaging with a Taliban-led Government, unless it was an inclusive government. Most nations, including India, have adopted a wait and watch policy, prior to engaging the Taliban.
The Taliban still remains on the UNSC list of proscribed groups with a travel ban on its leadership. Western Powers have blocked financial aid to Afghanistan, which comprises 60% of its budget. Afghan bank assets in the US, amounting to almost USD 9.5 billion, remain frozen. These curbs would possibly be lifted once the world is satisfied on the Taliban’s intentions of adhering to its promises.
The Indian Ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, interacted with the Deputy Head of the Taliban’s Political Office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai. This is the first time when India officially announced its engagement with the Taliban. As per the Indian Government, the interaction focused mainly on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan. The Indian Foreign Secretary commented: “Our engagement with the Taliban has been limited. They seem to indicate they will be reasonable in the way they handle things.”
In an earlier statement, Stanekzai had stated: “India is very important for this Subcontinent. We want to continue our cultural, economic and trade ties with India, like in the past.” Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson of the Taliban, mentioned that the Taliban has the right to speak in favour of Muslims anywhere, including in Kashmir, though it will not conduct armed operations against any country. Annas Haqqani, a member of the Taliban Governing Council, in an interview, stated: “We want a good relationship with India. Kashmir is not part of our jurisdiction and interference is against policy.” The new Afghan dispensation needs India, not only to fund development, but as a counter-balance to Pakistan.
Pakistan, which seeks to place its close ally Haqqani network in important portfolios in the new administration, has been harping for global recognition, engagement and financial support to the Taliban. Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf attempted to pressurise the world when he mentioned, in an interview to the BBC, that the world risks a second 9/11, if it doesn’t immediately recognise the Taliban. He was compelled to withdraw his comment, later. S M Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, has stated in every interaction, post the Taliban takeover, that not engaging with the Taliban, would open doors for re-emergence of terrorist groups.
During the rule of Taliban 1.0 (1996-2001), Afghanistan was a subsistence economy with no reliance on foreign inflows. The scenario is now different. Without economic support, Afghanistan cannot survive. It is foreign funding which pays government salaries. The fear of an economic collapse is the primary reason why every Pakistani leader is requesting the International Community to engage the Taliban.
The Taliban is aware of its precarious financial situation. Pakistan, which is seeking to gain from the Taliban leadership, has no funds, and China never grants doles, though the Taliban hinted at copper exploitation in lieu of financial support from China. In case there are no salaries, Taliban fighters, already mercenaries, will join other terrorist groups, adding to concerns of Pakistan and China.
The Global Community has provided feelers to the Taliban on conditions for future engagement. It has also maintained its hold on the Taliban by refusing to lift global restrictions. Simultaneously, it has displayed a willingness to provide humanitarian assistance. Pakistan’s desperate cries for financially backing the Taliban are being ignored. Now, the ball is in the Taliban’s court. If it seeks to become a member of the Global Community, it must display its intent.
Boundless Ocean of Politics has received this article from Major General (Retired) Harsha Kakar of the Indian Army.
This article was first published in The Statesman on September 7, 2021.
Major General (Retired) Harsha Kakar was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery (of the Indian Army) in June 1979 and superannuated in March 2015. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, he is a graduate of the DSSC, LDMC and the National Securities Studies Course at the Canadian Forces College, Toronto. A prolific writer, Major General (Retired) Kakar writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. Readers can visit his blog http://www.harshakakararticles.com, and contact him at @kakar_harsha.
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