EDITORIAL: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s idea of inviting Afghanistan to the next conference of its neighbours, to discuss the fallout of the latest developments there, was a very good one. Afghanistan is the biggest thing happening in the region at the moment, which is precisely why foreign ministers of all its neighbours just held a virtual conference, chaired by FM Qureshi, to talk about it. And, surely, it makes a lot of sense for Afghanistan to be there as well. Perhaps the only reason they weren’t invited so far was that they do not have a foreign minister at the moment. Like it or not though, and some countries don’t like it, the Taliban are the new reality of the country. And they have to their credit the fact that they have just beaten the fiercest, most powerful military machine the world has ever seen to reclaim the capital. And this wasn’t an army, or even a properly trained militia, that just sent the Americans back with their tail between their legs, this was just a very big bunch of potato sellers, carpet weavers, and plain old labourers that just humbled a truly mighty fighting machine.
So, whether or not some countries, especially in the region, are comfortable with them, everybody will still have to deal with them. And time has proven often enough that peace in Afghanistan is very important for the region’s commerce to flourish. It goes very much to the credit of Islamabad that countries like the UK and US have softened their tone a lot when it comes to the newest reality of this land. The British foreign secretary, after talks with his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad just the other day, admitted that they would have to work with the Taliban in the larger interest, even though London isn’t yet willing to recognise the government in Kabul. He also pointed out that usually the UK government recognises states not governments, but it was making an exception in this case.
The Americans, too, are now willing to “work with” Kabul as long as the Taliban form an inclusive government, respect minority rights, and all that. Pakistan is also right to stress not to cut aid to Afghanistan, as the Americans have done. It would, instead, be a much better idea to incentivise aid to the country. That way the West gets a little bit of face saving and the Afghans get a lot of money; something they just can’t do without for a while to come. That is all the more reason to keep the Afghans on board when discussing important things about them. This process should gather some pace now that Afghanistan’s caretaker government has been announced.
The Afghans must also understand that they must play ball if things are to work out. It’s a very big thing that they’ve won, and the speed with which they have done it has shocked the whole world. But these are not the old days and Afghanistan will not be able to survive in isolation, especially now that it’s been battered and bruised by 40 years of war and the treasury is empty. So far an internecine civil war that everybody was expecting has not happened. Nor has a flood of refugees headed for the borders. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that things can work out fine as long as all stakeholders keep their eye on the ball.
Since all these changes are taking place because of all the changes in Afghanistan, and the Taliban need a lot of outside help to manage the country, all countries must make sure that Kabul is part of all important forums that will play a part in deciding its fate.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021