Afghanistan: Unexpected offer to Azerbaijan
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  18 September 2023 - 15:32

    Samir Ibrahimov

    The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ready to ensure the work of the Azerbaijani embassy in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an interview with CBC.

    “We are one hundred percent ready for the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Afghanistan. We are ready, so to speak, to level the ground and carry out the appropriate work. We, in turn, would also like to have our representatives in Azerbaijan,” the Taliban spokesperson emphasized.

    The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan also stated that it supports Azerbaijan on the issue of territorial integrity. “First of all, I want to say that we have always advocated and advocate that all countries respect each other’s borders and territorial integrity. As you know, the issue of territorial integrity is extremely important for Afghanistan. I think that it is just as important for Azerbaijan,” Zabihullah Mujahid emphasized.

    He added that it is still better to resolve all issues peacefully: “We do not want war to break out between any countries.”

    To what extent would it be correct and in the interests of Azerbaijan to establish diplomatic relations with the de facto Taliban regime ruling in Afghanistan? Could this cause a negative reaction from major world powers and international organizations? Should we rush into this matter?

    Well-known regional experts answered these questions from Caliber.Az.

    The head of the Russian Center for the Study of Afghan Policy, Andrei Serenko, notes that the Taliban have been de facto in power in Afghanistan for more than two years, however, during this time, they have not been able to solve the problem of their international recognition.

    “Despite all the efforts of the Taliban, not a single state in the world has recognized their regime. Obviously, the problem of external non-recognition is one of the main ones for the Taliban; the leadership of this terrorist group is still trying to solve it and hopes that they will be able to break through the ring of international isolation and achieve external legitimation of the regime in Kabul. Therefore, the Taliban make similar offers both to Azerbaijan and other countries. However, efforts in this regard have so far been in vain. We can say that for now there is an informal international consensus on non-recognition of the Taliban government,” the expert said.

    As for security guarantees for diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital, things are not going too smoothly, he says.

    “Last year in Kabul there were terrorist attacks on diplomatic missions and citizens of Russia, Pakistan and China. In all cases, the Afghan affiliate of ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. As a result of these attacks, two Russian embassy employees were killed, the Pakistani ambassador was wounded, as well as Chinese citizens. It should be noted that nothing like this happened for the entire 20 years while the republican government was in power in Kabul, and US and NATO troops were present in the country. So, we can say that with the Taliban coming to power, security conditions for diplomatic missions in Kabul have deteriorated significantly,” explains Serenko.

    In his opinion, it is difficult to seriously talk about any achievements of the Taliban over the past two years. Afghanistan is confidently sliding into the abyss of a systemic socio-economic and humanitarian crisis. And if it has not yet arrived, it is only because the world community, primarily the United States and the EU, are providing extensive humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

    “However, this does not save millions of Afghans from poverty and hunger: currently, more than 80 percent of the Afghan population lives below the poverty line, and about 70 percent are malnourished. There are no serious economic projects in the country, there is no investment, and the banking system is paralyzed. The Taliban have created a regime of religious-military dictatorship that mercilessly suppresses the slightest manifestations of opposition and actively uses ethnic cleansing against the non-Pashtun part of the population. The Taliban created a regime of gender apartheid, reducing women to the status of second-class citizens, depriving them of real rights to education, work, and quality medical care.

    In Afghanistan, despite the public promises of the Taliban, various international terrorist organizations, in particular ISIS, are strengthening their positions: the real number of militants of the Afghan branch of the Islamic State increased from 4,500 in 2021 to more than 20,000 in 2023. The Taliban are successfully developing the drug economy, supplementing the heroin segment with synthetic drugs,” said the head of the center.

    Perhaps, the only achievement of the Taliban in two years, he believes, is that they stopped large-scale military and terrorist operations against the Afghan people, which they had been waging for more than 20 years.

    “As soon as the Taliban stopped bombing cities and attacking government agencies, it became possible to talk about improving the security situation. But this did not happen because the murderers, who had been committing all these crimes for many years, suddenly turned into political vegetarians - the murderers simply stopped killing for now. But that doesn't mean they won't do it again one day. Moreover, the practice of extrajudicial killings, torture and murder of former Afghan military, police and security service employees of the republican government, despite the promises of the Taliban, has continued over the past two years. The promises of the Taliban, like other terrorists, should never be trusted,” Serenko is sure.

    Deputy Director of the Kyiv Center for Middle Eastern Studies Sergei Danilov also immediately noted that on August 15, the Taliban celebrated the second anniversary of their return to power. He recalled that the Taliban government is still not officially recognized by any country.

    “The international community continues to debate whether to cooperate with the Taliban. On the one hand, peace has been established in Afghanistan, which has not been seen for decades. On the other hand, hopes that, having come to power, the Taliban would be able to modernize their doctrine, turned out to be in vain. The Taliban, which says it respects rights under its interpretation of Islam, has banned most Afghan women from working with aid agencies, closed beauty salons, banned women from parks and restricted their travel without male guardians. Girls over 12 years of age were predominantly excluded from the educational process. For Western governments, this ban is the main obstacle to official recognition of the Taliban administration,” the expert said.

    By the way, he added, Muslim-majority countries, as well as virtually all Islamic scholars, have rejected the Taliban's position on women's rights.

    “Besides a much safer Afghanistan, the Taliban have had some other successes. Corruption that raged as Western money flowed in for years has diminished since the Taliban returned in 2022, according to a UN special envoy. There are also signs that the Taliban's ban on drug cultivation has sharply reduced poppy production.

    The Taliban hopes that its ability to provide security at home and guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used for aggressive actions against neighboring states will help achieve foreign recognition and the lifting of sanctions, as well as unlocking about $7 billion in Central Bank assets frozen in US Federal Reserve Bank. However, it is precisely the absence of a threat from the Taliban to their neighbors that deprives them of one of their few trump cards for blackmailing other states. A poor Afghanistan that does not pose a threat, cannot offer any opportunities, is of no interest to anyone, and can simply be ignored,” Danilov concludes.

    Caliber.Az

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