The UN Conference on Afghanistan Sans The Taliban’s Participation

Tue Feb 20 2024
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Haq Nawaz Khan

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The world is looking for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, where it should have at peace internally, and with its next door neighbors. There is a long way to go to achieve that goal.

For the second consecutive year, the virtual rulers of Afghanistan -the Taliban or what it calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, were missing from the UN sponsored conference on Afghanistan. In 2023, the Taliban representatives were not invited, but this time, the Taliban put some conditions to attend the 2-day conference in Doha, Qatar, concluded on last Monday, February 19.

The conference sponsored by the UN was attended by special representatives and officials of 25 countries with an aim to engage the Taliban on issues related to Afghanistan. The conference was focused to move forward on Afghanistan, however, there was no official representation of Afghanistan, except few Afghans from the civil society.

The UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has categorically termed the conditions of the Taliban as unacceptable. However, the UN will consult the Taliban of the issues discussed in the Doha meeting. It was on the agenda to appoint a UN special envoy for Afghanistan, which was opposed by the Taliban.

The Taliban wanted to give official status to its delegation in the conference, claiming it has been governing Afghanistan successfully for the last two years. According to the Afghan Taliban, this conference of the special envoys might have productive and meaningful to discuss all outstanding issues at the highest level with the international community under the UN, but it was missed.

How significant this meeting was for Afghanistan, the region and the International peace stability? Some quarters say the Taliban should have participated in the conference as it was an important opportunity for the war-ravaged country. The only way forward for having lasting peace in Afghanistan and in the region is through meaningful dialogue with the Taliban.

Though it is a reality that none of the countries of the world has not recognized the government of the Taliban as yet, but it has been ruling the country since August 2021. There are issues that need to be addressed like an all-inclusive-government or broad-based government, having representation of all the political and ethnic groups.

The Taliban is so far not ready to accept this as it claims that they are having representation and backing of all segments of Afghanistan. Secondly, the Taliban argues the formation of the government is a domestic and internal issue, and no other country should dictate to us what kind of a government we should have.

The UN chief told a news conference after the conference in Doha, he wants a peaceful Afghanistan to internal peace and stability, and also to have peace with the next door neighbors.

However, peace and stability could only be achieved if there could be a dialogue with the Taliban. The international community needs to move cautiously and follow the policy of engagement. There are some basic issues where the Taliban is having a difference of opinion like the broad-based government, girls education, women employment and harassment with human rights, but these issues could be discussed and resolved.

Afghanistan needs world attention and negligence this time may have serious implications for regional and world peace. The situation in Afghanistan is not usual and reports are coming that the militant groups have been taking refuge in Afghanistan. In recent reports, it was alleged that global jihadists have been regrouping in Afghanistan. The Taliban as usual denied the reports and dubbed them as mere propaganda to destabilize Afghanistan.

The bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan soared mainly due to the cross border terrorist attacks inside Pakistan during the last two years. Pakistan alleged that the Pakistani militant outfits like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and many other similar groups have been active inside Afghanistan.

The planners and leadership of the militant groups have been carrying attacks on Pakistani security forces, and government installations. There was an unprecedented rise in terrorist attacks during the last two years. But the Taliban denied the misuse of the Afghan soil against any other country.

This was an important part of the Doha peace agreement to stop using the Afghan soil to be used against the US, its allies and also other countries. The Taliban assured the world that there would be no threat from Afghanistan to others. However, the situation is different than what it was pledged.

The world is also asking the Taliban to have peace with itself and also with the neighbors. Some critics see today’s mess in Afghanistan is the leftover of the International community as they signed a peace deal in Doha in 2020, and left Afghanistan without encouraging the Afghan factions to have a stable government, acceptable to all the Afghans and the world as well. It is the incomplete and unfinished agenda of peace in Afghanistan.

The international community called upon the Taliban to reopen schools, colleges and universities for the Afghan girls. There is no word on the subject, except that it is under process. By and large, there is no immediate chance to reopen the schools for girls above grade 6. This is an important issue, and hundreds of thousands of girls and their families are looking to the world to use their influence on Kabul to provide them opportunities to continue their studies.

There are differences over a number of the issues, but the Taliban wants to lift ban and ease restrictions on its leaders, unfreeze the 7 billions dollars of funds and recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

No, seems in hurry to resolve the issues as there is a mistrust between the world leaders and the Taliban. This gap should be narrowed down, and work should be begun on the minimum agreed points to move forward.

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