As West puts Taliban on hold, Kabul eyes future in China, Russia

Monday marks a year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan after almost 20 years of US occupation.

But the Taliban rulers have much work left to do as they struggle to revive the country’s lifeless economy and address the dire humanitarian situation.

Despite repeated appeals and efforts by Taliban leaders, no country in the world has recognised the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), as the country is officially known under Taliban rule.

The West has demanded that the Taliban ease curbs on women’s rights and make the government more representative as a condition for recognition. The Taliban says the United States is violating the 2020 Doha Agreement by not recognising its government.

Last month’s killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a US drone strike in Kabul has led to Western governments accusing the Taliban government of failing to live up to its commitments under the Doha Agreement, which required the Taliban to deny safe haven to al-Qaeda and other armed groups in Afghanistan in exchange for the US withdrawal.

Several deadly attacks attributed to the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) have further raised concerns in the Western capitals about post-US Afghanistan’s security landscape.

Washington will find it hard to trust the Taliban in the wake of al-Zawahiri’s killing, with the West likely taking a hardened stance towards the Taliban government amid growing support for sanctions imposed on it.

The US’s dwindling trust in the Taliban could prove disastrous from a humanitarian standpoint as the negotiations held between the two sides in Doha, the Qatari capital, for the release of funds to Afghanistan have come to a screeching halt.

Nathan Sales, the former US ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, said after al-Zawahiri’s killing that “the risk is substantial that money released to [the Taliban] would find their way inevitably and directly into al-Qaeda’s pockets”.

Although engagement between the West and Afghanistan is “likely to slow down” in the wake of al-Zawahiri’s killing, “so far it is unclear if this development will impact regional engagement with the Taliban’s de facto government”, said Ibraheem Bahiss, an analyst with the International Crisis Group focusing on Afghanistan, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“Al-Qaeda is not a key consideration for many of the regional countries and it is possible they may continue their engagement despite this development.”

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