Prospects of Taliban’s International Identification

Published September 28th, 2021 - 08:29 GMT
Today it is more difficult to recognize an state in the international system, or approve or accept a new state as an international member.
Zabihullah Mujahid, Chief spokesman for the Taliban, speaks during a press conference with the members of the media in Kabul on September 21, 2021. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

By Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

In the past, the issue of recognizing the others had rooted in the will of governments, and because of their territory and national sovereignty, governments had absolute authority to recognize each other. But today it is more difficult to recognize a state in the international system, or approve or accept a new state as an international member.



Taliban’s approach and goals of being identified

Taliban has two viewpoints to its international recognition. The extremist spectrum of the Taliban believes that in Islamic thought, gaining international legitimacy to establish an Islamic military has no place or value. The believers are obliged only to obtain the pleasure of God and to satisfy him. Therefore, raising the issue of international legitimacy has led to the integration of secularism and Islam and prevents the formation of an independent and pure Islamic state.

But, the moderate Spectrum (and even a large part of extremists) and figures such as Mullah baradar are desperately seeking international recognition. But the Taliban will not be recognized by most countries if it adheres to its classic discourse and does not prevent the activities of terrorist groups. Taliban tends to defuse tensions with other actors. But the static identity of Islamic fundamentalism resists great change.

The Taliban knows that a complete severance of ties with many countries in the world such as Japan, European countries and the United States would amount to more sanctions, pressure and more confrontation with the Taliban. Also, the making up for the lack of management in the military and security field and the required technology requires good relations with countries of the world.

The desire to recognize Taliban by more other countries has led the Taliban to hold the most consultations, and in the current situation, it is willing to give more concessions to various actors to make them to recognize it.

The Taliban do not want the refugee crisis to become a security issue for Europe, so it is demanding the return of US diplomats to Kabul. The Taliban hopes that Qatar, along with Pakistan, will play an important role in breaking the Taliban's isolation and recognizing the Taliban.

None of the permanent members of the UN Security Council recognized the Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. The Taliban knows that if China and Russia recognize the Taliban, it will be a great victory for the group. Increasing its legitimacy and domestic authority and lifting international sanctions against the group are other goals of the Taliban in pursuing the recognition process.

The Taliban have also relied on the slogan of changing course since the 1990s, emphasizing and committing to fulfilling their promises. On the other hand, trying to keep the international community satisfied (albeit ostensibly) by reducing its extremism in the field of human rights, its approach to the opposition and minorities and women, the Taliban is making some minimal reforms in its cabinet with the aim of gaining international recognition.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. International aid was more than 40% of GDP by 2020. But most of it is currently suspended and has no guarantee for the rest. The Taliban also do not have access to Central Bank funds.  This crisis could be catastrophic. In addition, there is the risk of a human catastrophe and a shortage of food supplies. At the same time, the Taliban's financial capacity is relatively small compared to Afghanistan's national needs.

In the short term, the new regime will face a possible economic collapse. Therefore, the country is in dire need of foreign aid and investment. This is the only way to support international recognition and increase foreign relations with at least a few major countries.

In terms of diplomacy, Taliban leaders have rapidly expanded their diplomacy from Doha, Qatar. They have had dozens of bilateral and multilateral meetings with officials from China, Pakistan, Russia and so on. In addition, the Taliban want to reduce the accusation of dependence on Pakistan, reduce the scope of their enemies and opponents in the process of consulting with various countries such as India, and to gain international recognition in the international community. The Taliban is eager to deepen the diversity of its foreign relations. The Taliban have also assured that India's concerns will be addressed positively. 

Many countries, are concerned about Afghanistan becoming a 'terrorist hub' and the possibility of the birth and reproduction of international terrorists and their extradition to the region and beyond, and the growth of extremist Islamists. On the other hand, China pays more attention to its cold and hard national interests, not the protection of human rights or the democratic process in Afghanistan.

Therefore, the Taliban is trying to create the least possible grounds for its recognition in the international community by claiming the responsibility for counter-terrorism operations against ISIS and adhering to promises not to link the Taliban with other terrorist groups.

Prospects for identifying the Taliban

The Taliban first seized power 25 years ago in Afghanistan. But it was internationally recognized only by three countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. Iran, Russia, and India, on the other hand, supported the armed resistance of the opposition Northern Alliance, and in practice the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani was recognized by the international community.

Even now, despite the Taliban's efforts, there are various obstacles to identifying the Taliban. Qatar and Pakistan may be quick to recognize the Taliban; encouraging the world leaders to take the lead in liaising with the Taliban. But only a handful of countries have stepped forward to help the Taliban government, and most have suspended or closed their diplomatic missions in Kabul.

There is widespread skepticism about the Taliban's policies, and there are some good reasons for it. The group's past experience in power from 1996 to 2001, including its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, its treatment of women and political opponents, and religious and ethnic minorities also add to the scope of pessimism about the Taliban's future.

On the other hand, the Taliban's approach to non-compliance with human rights standards, dealing with the opposition, and forming an inclusive government add to the problems. Apart from Afghan demonstrations in in different parts of the world. Following the Ahmad Massoud uprising, Afghanistan has been the scene of protests against the Taliban and Pakistani intervention in Kabul, and its other regions. Rising civil protests , continuation of military clashes  and the risk of a civil war in Afghanistan decreases the Taliban’s chance for being identified.

The Taliban have said they will not allow any group in Afghanistan to attack a neighboring country or clash near the border. But despite the Haqqani Network (the Taliban's military backbone) and its close ties to al-Qaeda, it will be much harder to trust the Taliban.

Many actors are also concerned that following the recognition of the Taliban by international community, the leverage to force the group to form an inclusive government and respect for human rights will disappear.

The European Union has committed about €1.2 billion aid to Afghanistan for 2021-24.  The EU also calls for a comprehensive transitional government in Afghanistan.  This is also a tool to control the behavior of the Taliban. However, the alleged presence of international fighters in Panjshir could reduce the likelihood of identifying the Taliban.

Moreover, the National Resistance Front (NRF) in Afghanistan has called on the international community not to recognize the new government announced by the Islamists.  The leaders of Afghanistan's armed resistance against the Taliban are gathering with former senior government figures to form a government in exile.


Three groups of supporters of Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the National Resistance Front and officers and generals of the security forces and the former Afghan Ministry of Defense and Interior; are seeking financial and military support for the official opposition to the Taliban. Meanwhile, support from some EU countries and prominent Republican figures for Massoud could be in the interest of further international recognition of the Afghan government in exile.

In the meantime, holding a summit of Shanghai member states without the presence of the Taliban, the failure of the Taliban to speak at the UN, and the risk of further escalation of new sanctions against the Taliban could reduce the chances of recognizing the Taliban in international forums and countries. However, the continuation of the current economic situation in Afghanistan may also increase the chances of a plan to organize a diplomatic presence in Kabul and testing of the Taliban’s behavior.


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