The international community wields the powerful card of isolating or recognising the Taliban regime; a delicate balance that will affect average Afghans and regional stability alike.
President Joe Biden in his recent interview with ABC News appeared confused as to whether the Taliban cared for international legitimacy.
International recognition of the Taliban government appears to be conditioned on two short term factors — the non-monopolisation of power and granting women and minority rights; and one long term factor — preventing the use of Afghanistan's soil against the interests of the US and its allies.
Yet there is much to be said with regards to the movement’s earnestness and available tools to possibly meet these conditions. The Taliban had stated that it would form an inclusive government; it has maintained the same stance following its military takeover. The question then is, what does an inclusive government look like when the Taliban holds all the cards?
The Taliban cannot actualise its preferred way of establishing the emirate in its old form; the isolation that would follow such a move would take the Taliban back to their time in the1990s, when, despite their attempts at being recognised by the United Nations and the US, they were considered pariahs on the international stage.
This means that the Taliban has to devise a government that includes the political elite of the country. A theocratic democracy could be one way forward for the movement; the Afghan Republic had already initiated a conversation regarding the formation of a Supreme State Council, but differences of opinion over its structure stalled the process long enough for the eventual Taliban takeover.
The Taliban’s previous rejection of early elections proposed by former President Ashraf Ghani demonstrates that it does not plan on using elections to govern. Instead, a Supreme State Council that includes political elites from Afghanistan could meet the inclusivity criterion.
The council would serve under the Emir (Head of State) and advise him on matters of the state. The council would have members from the Taliban that overlook the religious aspect of the state. US Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, had previously recommended the formation of a jurisprudence council in his proposal. The Supreme State Council could execute the tasks of such a jurisprudence council as well.
The Taliban could also take it a step further and let democratic institutions like the parliament and the senate exist within their governmental structure, though it is highly likely that the powers of such structures would be limited, as seen in Iran. The Emir and the council would ratify the bills passed by the houses.
Maintaining the facade of the will of the people being reflected in government would strengthen the Taliban case for legitimacy. This would be a compromise on the Taliban’s part that increases the likelihood of attaining international legitimacy.
Women and minorities
The Taliban should not use the delay in the formation of a government as an excuse for their inconsistency towards women and minority groups.
Amnesty International's report about nine Hazara men being executed in Ghazni province goes against all the statements given by the Taliban. Insubordination is not an excuse; Taliban leadership should take immediate action to address such killings if it goes against party politics.
Despite statements by Taliban officials declaring their support for women’s rights, we have seen women barred from entering their workplaces, and the Taliban’s position on female education has been precarious to say the least.
After the fall of Herat, the Taliban sent back girls that attempted to attend their class on the first day. This has been followed now by a three-hour meeting between the administration of the Herat University and the education commission of the Taliban. The Taliban informed the administration that classes would be segregated and only female lecturers were allowed to teach female students. Upon protests by the administration, the commission has asked the university for a proposal for consideration.
The reason Afghans clung onto the tires planes and fell to their death was the fear of Taliban retribution. If the Taliban is to have any hope of establishing trust with the Afghans who grew up under the Republic, it has to do better to ensure their physical security.
President Biden also underplayed the possible threat of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in his interview. But it is too early to expect the Taliban movement to take conclusive measures to guarantee the non-existence of Al Qaeda fighters in the country.
International legitimacy and foreign aid would lessen any dependency the Taliban movement might have on funding from such groups. The international community owes it to the Afghans and to its own security to ensure that Afghanistan is not a failed state.
A fragile Afghan state would create an environment in which militant groups would thrive and this puts the US and its allies in a difficult situation. On one hand, if the US chooses to isolate the Taliban regime, it would risk instability in the region and a threat to its security. On the other hand, the US would have to be cautious with recognising the Taliban regime without enforcing conditions regarding the political and social structure of the new Afghanistan.
The international community currently is roping in the Taliban with the hopes of international recognition. If that hope is taken away, average Afghans can fear the worst with regards to the backlash.
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