The Taliban’s abrupt return to power has left hundreds of Afghan diplomats overseas in limbo: running out of money to keep missions operating, fearful for families back home and desperate to secure refuge abroad.
The group, which swiftly removed Afghanistan’s Western-backed government on August 15, on Tuesday said it had sent messages to all of its embassies telling diplomats to continue their work.
Afghanistan’s missions overseas face a period of “prolonged limbo” as countries decide whether to recognise the Taliban, said Afzal Ashraf, an international relations expert and visiting fellow at Britain’s University of Nottingham.
“What can those embassies do? They don’t represent a government. They don’t have a policy to implement,” he said, adding that embassy staff would likely be granted political asylum due to safety concerns if they returned to Afghanistan.
The Taliban, which enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law with punishments like amputations and stonings during its previous rule from 1996 to 2001, has sought to show a more conciliatory face since coming back to power.
Spokespeople have reassured Afghans that they are not out for revenge and will respect people’s rights, including women’s.
But reports of house-to-house searches and reprisals against former officials and ethnic minorities have made people wary. The Taliban has promised to investigate any abuses.
A group of envoys from the deposed government issued a first-of-its-kind joint statement on Wednesday, calling on world leaders to deny the Taliban formal recognition.
‘There is no money’
Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that the Taliban had sent messages to all Afghan embassies telling them to continue work.
“Afghanistan invested in you a lot, you are assets of Afghanistan,” he said.
One senior Afghan diplomat estimated there were about 3,000 people either working in the country’s embassies or directly dependent on them.
Former President Ashraf Ghani’s toppled administration also penned a letter to foreign missions on September 8, calling the Taliban’s new government “illegitimate” and urging embassies to “continue their normal functions and duties”.