In a development that is likely to create a delicate diplomatic situation, the Afghanistan embassy in New Delhi released a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan condemning the announcement by the Taliban of its so-called cabinet as “illegitimate and unjustifiable”.
Taliban, which has taken control of all Afghan territory, with Panjshir falling into its hands, announced its new interim government on Wednesday morning. The government will be headed by Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund as the prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
“The decision [of the Taliban] goes against the will of the absolute majority of the people of Afghanistan, international agreements, relevant United Nations Security Council and United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions and undermines the national interests of Afghanistan, including security, stability, unity and prosperity of the country and its people,'' said the statement, which is not signed by any person, but is on the official letterhead of the “erstwhile” ministry. It goes on to say that the the “so called cabinet” comprises individuals who are not only against the national security and stability of Afghanistan but also pose a serious threat to the security and stability of the region and global community at large.
“All missions of the IR of Afghanistan will continue the normal functions and duties based on the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ,'' says the statement.
Some countries like Pakistan and China have openly accepted the new Taliban regime. Most others, like India, have adopted the wait and watch stance. However, by now, almost every country that has even a teeny weeny bit of involvement with Afghanistan has engaged with the Taliban representatives. India's ambassador in Doha, Deepak Mittal, too, had finally met with Sher Mumahhad Abbas Stanekzai, an alumus of the Indian Military Academy, who is appointed deputy foreign minister in the new government. India had shared two concerns – safety of Indians in Afghanistan and that Afghan soil should not be used for terror, specially terror targeted against India. This, in a way, was acceptance of the new reality in Afghanistan.
With the old regime having issued this statement today, the question will be, which Afghan government will countries, specially India, recognise. When Ashraf Ghani, who was president of Afghanistan, fled the country on August 15 during the fall of Kabul, his government, in effect, was dissolved. Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who sought refuge in his native Panjshir, had announced that he was the de facto leader after the President's flight out of the country. Saleh pointed out that he was very much on Afghan soil. Over the last few days, however, the battle of Panjshir was lost and Saleh has reportedly escaped to Tajikistan. Leader of the Resistance Front Ahmad Massoud is in hiding.
Taliban's announcement today was followed by the US expressing “concern” over the composition of the cabinet on two counts—the terror track record of some members, and the absence of any woman in the cabinet. However, the US said nothing about not recognising this cabinet.
How will countries now deal with the diplomatic staff from Afghanistan in their countries? In the days to come it is likely Taliban will make its own appointments. Will the present staff be made to serve the Taliban government, or will there be fresh appointments? The statement today makes it evident that those sworn in to the previous regime insist on staying loyal to it.
The Afghan Embassy in New Delhi is covered with heavy security ever since August 15. India not only hosts a large diplomatic corps from Afghanistan, it is also training several Afghan army men at its various academies. These were soldiers appointed by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. What will their status be now? And how will nations deal with two Afghan governments? The previous one is headless, there is not even a talk of it being a government in exile.
With the new regime, countries will have to decide at some point whether they will recognise the leaders, or whether it will be like the previous time, when only three countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan, had diplomatic ties with the Taliban government. Given the way countries have engaged with Taliban, it does seem that this regime might not be in diplomatic isolation. And they will want space in their embassies. Which means, will countries have to ease out the present staffs?