The Contours Of Taliban Foreign Policy – OpEd


The Afghan Taliban have been in a constant struggle to have international legitimacy—despite the fact that—the Islamic fundamentalist has fought for two decades against the US-backed government. The most thrilling and intricate phenomenon for the Taliban is effective foreign policy. The regime has been fustigated for not taking the international norms into due consideration to have the international status of a legitimate government. 

Foreign policy to a state is what a soul is to the human body. The state’s external affairs determine the country’s sovereignty and national interest. It is, therefore, viewed that foreign policy is the way to engage the international community in such a cacophonic vicinity that is based on anarchy. The state approach is to secure and mitigate the national interest in the best way possible. 

Historically, the Taliban had been a torpid approach by bulwarking from global affairs which lead to the defunctive state. The past had been odious due to the harsh ideological interpretation of Sharia, prohibiting girls from education, burgeon production of opium, and linkage and support for Al-Qaeda. However, the Taliban government had the leverage to be recognized by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan while the other states were reluctant to have the legitimacy card for the Taliban.  

After the collapse of the Taliban, the US-backed government and NATO fought against the insurgents and Al—Qaeda and started reconstruction and developmental projects in Afghanistan. The regime has been involved in mass corruption and an unprofessional military. Hence, it has allowed the rebirth of the Taliban.  Consequently, the United States shift its approach to peace talks with the Taliban. 

The history of the contours that affected the regime shift from the US.-backed to the Taliban traceback to the idea of Hamid Karzai, Afghan president, to have talks with the Taliban representative in a foreign country, but this has been fustigated by the Bush administration. However, the Obama approach altered the table to peace negotiations with the Taliban. In 2010, talks begin between the Taliban leadership, the UN and Germany, and Norway. This is viewed as a good gesture.  

In 2012, Qatar emerged as a host due to its two unique characteristics; neutrality and Islam. Pakistan played a crucial part in the negotiation process. In 2015, in the Muree, Pakistan had the leverage to successfully bring the Taliban leadership and Afghan government official to a single table while the United States of America and China an observer states. However, the important stage entered in 2018. The US administration became directly involved in negotiations with the Taliban leadership in Doha, Qatar. The United States assigned envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to have terms with the Taliban. The trust-building became vivid when the Taliban announced a ceasefire for three days during Eid. The peace process ended with the Doha deal between the Taliban and the United States of America. 

 The core interest and objectives of the Taliban foreign policy revolve around three main core arenas: the survival of the Taliban regime, the international legitimacy of the regime, and prosperity in terms of economy. These areas are pivotal to the de facto ruler of the Taliban. 

  • Survival of the Taliban regime is the primary goal of the Taliban’s foreign policy. As the international system is self-service based then it becomes the core objective to survive in it. The Taliban faces the issue of existence on two fronts. The issue of survival is at external and internal levels. Internally, the Taliban are dealing with the IS-KP and NRF. Externally, the Taliban needs to focus on the international community’s engagement, lobbying in global politics, and presenting an acceptable narrative. 

NRF is a resisting force formed soon after the fall of Kabul. NRF is a first-hand threat to the Taliban, Lynne O’Donnell a journalist and author wrote to Foreign Policy that the resistance leaders see ‘No Option’ but war. Additionally, IS-KP is a major threat. IS-KP seems very concerned because of the cross-border activities. As it is viewed as per Doha deal, this is a serious concern for the international community that Afghan soil should not be used for terrorist activities in the posterity. 

  • The challenging aspect for the Taliban is the legitimacy of the government. Since the Taliban are the de facto ruler and are facing severe existing issues. The legitimacy needs a moderate approach from the Taliban. The global political actors demand an inclusive political structure while the Taliban are reluctant for a while. Women’s rights are very highlighted, and girls’ education is anxious as well. Recently, the targeting and killing of ex-military personnel and journalists are considering a bulwark as well for legitimacy.  
  • Another challenge the Taliban are facing is prosperity. The financial market is the downfall and the poverty ratio is ascending with each passing day. The bulk of the youth needs job and unemployed since the fall of Kabul. In a recent report by the UN News Agency, 500,000 people are jobless. Since legitimacy is the barrier to not having bilateral trade with the world. 

In a nutshell, the core objective of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s foreign policy—to become the de-jury ruler—needs to reform the political order. The global actors have some international norms and values, and the Taliban has to observe them to be at an international forum. The Taliban while keeping in mind the broader interests of the survival of the regime internally, the legitimacy from the world and prosperity has to come up with a brush-up version of the political structure otherwise it will again become the relic of the past to have a sustainable regime in Afghanistan.  

Mujeeb Ullah is studying M. Phil in American Studies at Area Study Centre at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

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