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Are the Russians really the “bad guys” of all?

4 Giugno 2024
by Beatrice Biliato

It can be traumatic for those who care about the future of Afghanistan, and especially the rights and freedom of Afghan women, to hear Putin’s explicit assertion of the need to recognize that power in Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban. This statement leads directly to the unconditional recognition of the Taliban government, forgetting that this oppressive and fundamentalist regime has abolished all human rights and is bringing only hunger to the population and gender apartheid to women.

But this unscrupulous policy is essentially no different from what all states interested in entering the future of Afghanistan and the region are pursuing in a more veiled manner, whether they are neighboring countries or major and medium world and regional powers, as well as Middle Eastern countries.

In fact, in recent months everyone has had contacts with the Taliban, either in Kabul or in countries supporting them, in preparation for the 3rd Doha Conference organized by the UN (June 30/July 1, 2024) to advance the decision, already made in December 2023, to reintegrate Afghanistan into a network of normalized relations with the rest of the world for its reintegration into the international community.

Contacts aimed at convincing the Taliban to accept the invitation to participate directly this time, considering their presence indispensable for the success of the event, as Guterrez had declared at the end of the 2nd Doha conference, when in his conclusions, acknowledging the failure of the conference due to the Taliban’s absence, he assured that in the future he would do everything to ensure their presence in future international meetings. Months filled with meetings with the Taliban to gather their requests and pave the way for their participation, trying to avoid another missed opportunity.

The true intentions of everyone

Already in March, India had an official meeting between its senior officials and the Taliban, while Turkey claimed it was time to recognize the Taliban government and assured its support in the battle.

Then Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan met with the Taliban in Kabul, focusing their talks on “strengthening and expanding bilateral relations” (pictured is a Taliban delegation in Kazakhstan in August 2023).

In May, meetings explicitly dedicated to this purpose intensified. France sent a chargé d’affaires to Doha to meet with a Taliban representative, as did Uzbekistan and Canada.

Meanwhile, the US special envoy for Afghanistan met with representatives of the United Arab Emirates to assess “common views” on the Doha meeting, as did the EU, sending its representative first to a meeting with Qatar, which officially asked the Taliban to attend the conference, and then directly to the Taliban.

More explicitly, the UN sent a delegation to Kabul to hear the Taliban’s needs to “highlight Afghanistan’s priorities at the UN General Assembly”; UNAMA met with Iran to define a common commitment with the Taliban government ahead of the conference; a UN representative discussed the agenda and composition of the Doha meeting with the Taliban foreign minister; and finally, the UN Deputy Secretary-General traveled to Kabul to discuss the appointment of the UN special representative for Afghanistan, a main UN objective always opposed by the Taliban. And more will follow…

All the actors in the field testify to the reasonableness of dialogue with the Taliban who control Kabul and are directly agreeing with them on the agenda of the Doha conference.

Moreover, the UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Dujarric, perhaps believing he was giving a banal convincing explanation, stated: “We continue our current engagement with the current rulers of Afghanistan because they are the rulers of Afghanistan”…so why be scandalized by Russian statements that merely make explicit the intentions of everyone?

What is being offered to the Taliban in exchange for their participation?

The Taliban demand six conditions for their participation: a seat at the United Nations; that the UN withdraws the appointment of a special representative for Afghanistan; that the agenda and composition of the third Doha meeting be discussed with them; that issues such as women’s education and employment and the formation of an inclusive government are not on the agenda. They want the focus to be solely on eradicating drugs and fighting armed groups, particularly ISIS.

So there is no more talk of women and human rights, neither as an agenda item nor as participation by representatives of women and movements at the meeting, with protests, at least for now, only from HRW and women activists who call for boycotting the meeting.

Moreover, no representatives of civil society or other possible alternative forces have been invited, contradicting the touted invitation to the Taliban to form an inclusive government of all ethnicities and political forces.

The Taliban, invited this time with all the honors of heads of state, have stated that they plan to attend, seeing that the agenda shows positive changes, focused on financial and banking issues, drug control, alternative livelihoods for farmers, private sector development, and climate change.

The contradictions of the UN

The eagerness of the United States and the European Union to officially restore, not only through humanitarian aid, good political relations with Afghanistan is evident, paving the way for the lucrative economic relations that the country’s wealth promises and fearing being cut off in favor of China, Russia, and small and large local powers that do not have the concern of saving face as countries that defend democracy and human rights.

Leading the way is the UN, which on one hand flaunts its vocation to defend the rights of oppressed peoples and women with beautiful reports and statements from its bodies dedicated to defending human rights and monitoring their respect by states, accusing the Afghan regime of gender apartheid, and on the other hand, organizes this great Doha forum to give respectability to the Taliban government, so far defined de facto but eager to make it de jure through a “normalization” of relations that can function as recognition even without an official declaration.