Since its withdrawal from the country in August 2021 and the return of the Taliban, the US has lacked a comprehensive foreign policy strategy for Afghanistan. This sentiment has been made especially clear in the meeting that State Department representatives attended in Doha to negotiate with Taliban representatives. This was the first known meeting between the US and Taliban officials following the Taliban military takeover of the government in Afghanistan.
The official statement of the State Department indicated that the goal was to address key issues with senior Taliban representatives and technocratic professionals such as the humanitarian crisis, economic challenges, and the treatment of women. Additionally, the statement praised the Taliban for its work on issues such as terrorism, reduced inflation or prospering economy, and poppy production.
Clearly, the statement does not fully represent the suffering of the Afghan people under the Taliban’s brutal leadership. It makes little mention of the repression of women’s rights, economic crises, and humanitarian challenges that the Taliban have been directly responsible for. Additionally, it misrepresents the growing terrorist threats in the region that has been caused, not helped, by the Taliban’s control.
Not only does the statement fail to accurately represent the situation in Afghanistan and mark a concerning shift toward normalizing certain behavior and leadership of the Taliban, it also demonstrates a lack of US strategy for Afghanistan.
Although the US does not recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, this meeting signals a growing desire to cooperate with them. Furthermore, it is unclear what tangible effects will result from these discussions in any of the various areas covered. These inconsistencies further threaten the stability of Afghanistan as women and girls struggle in their resistance against the Taliban oppression and terrorist groups thrive.
Afghanistan is in need of global support for its humanitarian crisis, the preservation of its democracy, the upholding of basic human rights, and the ability to stand up to the Taliban and other terrorist and oppressive groups that treat women as less than second class citizens. When countries like the US, who still maintain an obligation to a country it abandoned, lack a clear strategy, it is the people in need who suffer the most.
Going forward, it remains to be seen what the US’s priorities in Afghanistan will be. What is apparent, however, is that the US must not continue collaborating with the Taliban as it works toward developing a strategy for Afghanistan. Trusting the Taliban with any of the issues concerning our domestic and foreign interests, would amount to undermining our credibility and endangering our interests. Doing so will also further legitimize the Taliban regime and the horrors it has inflicted in Afghanistan.
State Department July/31/2023