Taliban invite 6 nations for Afghan govt formation event. What role do they play?
While the Taliban are yet to announce the new government in Kabul, they have already extended invitations to their six international partners to attend the inauguration ceremony.
According to reports, the Taliban have invited Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Qatar to attend the inaugural ceremony, paving way for the first steps into foreign policy formulation for a nation that is yet again brought to a nascent stage.
Old Friends and New Allies
While Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE were the only three nations to have recognised the Taliban regime of the 1990s, complete isolation of this new regime is unlikely.
Today, the Taliban have forged new ties and made allies although most nations are adopting a "wait and watch" policy before recognising this new administration in Afghanistan.
The new additions have been a part of the negotiations with the earlier Afghan government to ensure a peaceful resolution to the Afghanistan question. For most countries like Iran, Turkey, Russia and China, the reason was to bring a strategic rebalance in the region vis-à-vis the US exit and the vacuum created since.
Pakistan has been the sole supporter of Afghanistan for the past 20 years when the West waged war on the Taliban. The US now accepts that if not for the Taliban headquarters in Pakistan, the foreign forces would not have ended in such a defeat.
The Taliban have called Pakistan their 'second home'. Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson of the Taliban, in an interview to India Today TV emphasised the importance Islamabad holds for the new administration and said many of the Taliban have their families there and have children studying across the border.
Pakistani Minister Sheikh Rashid said on a TV show said that the Pakistan government has always been the "custodian" of the Taliban leaders, alluding to the fact that they owe allegiance to Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
"We are the custodians of Taliban leaders. We have taken care of them for long. They got shelter, education and a home in Pakistan. We have done everything for them," declared Rashid while speaking to a Pakistani news channel.
The symbiotic relationship would always ensure a cushy position for the Pakistan military within the Taliban leadership. Pakistan could be one of the first countries to recognise the new Taliban government as they had done in the past as well.
In public, China has crowed over the exit of US forces from Afghanistan. However, when it comes to recognising the government in Kabul, Beijing like many others, will wait and watch before officially according to the Taliban "government" status.
Beijing, sees an opportunity in expanding its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of which Afghanistan is a key link, but security and stability still remain a concern. How China engages in Afghanistan will be closely watched by the US and other countries.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday did not respond to a media report claiming that the Taliban have invited China, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Qatar to attend the new government formation ceremony in Afghanistan.
When asked about the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, "I have no information to offer at this moment".
He reiterated that China supports "Afghanistan forming an open, inclusive, broadly-based government upholding moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies and live in good terms with the neighbouring countries".
China started engaging with the Taliban for a while now, including having a Beijing format of talks between the Ghani administration and the Taliban leadership. The Taliban leadership had been travelling to Beijing regularly for consultations before the collapse of Kabul.
But, for Beijing, the considerations are beyond regional. It may also have to face the fact that it has to now face the US, which is freer to focus on its main rival: China.
Russia is another country that has engaged the Taliban for a while and also initiated negotiations through the 'Moscow Format'.
The term 'Moscow Format' was coined in 2017 on the basis of the six-party mechanism for consultations among special representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and India.
In November 2018, Russia hosted a "high-level" delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan's 'High Peace Council', along with 12 countries.
The meeting's main objective is to facilitate the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and secure peace in the country as soon as possible. The 2018 meeting in Moscow was second in this format and was co-chaired by both Russia and Afghanistan.
Russia's stakes are huge but today, Moscow, like Beijing, is most focused on the US exit saying 'foreign occupation' of any country should end.
However, for Russia, security concerns also ride large and therefore, it will wait and watch for an all "inclusive" Afghanistan before according it an official status.
Iran has welcomed the departure of US forces and pledged to work with the Taliban administration. New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said, "America's military defeat must become an opportunity to restore life, security, and durable peace in Afghanistan."
But Tehran has had frayed ties with the Taliban in the past, only to be mended through the years of isolation by the United States of America.
The Shia-Sunni sectarian strife was a major cause of the friction. The two sides nearly went to war in 1998 during the previous Taliban regime in Afghanistan over the murder of Iranian diplomats.
But post-9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by the hardening of US position against Iran, it served Tehran to keep America busy with the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Tehran built a track to hold conversations and become a player in the peace talks, separate from the Doha arrangement between the Taliban and the US.
As a neighbour, Afghanistan is an important country for Iran. One that might allow it breathing room on trade and connectivity even if the west continues its isolationist policies towards Tehran.
Turkey sees an opportunity in a vacuum created by the United States and NATO, although it was also involved in the NATO operations of 2001.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan has stated that he is open to cooperation with the Taliban regime, despite criticising them earlier.
Turkey remained engaged with the Taliban through the years, to the extent that today, Turkey is likely to provide logistical support to resuming operations at the Kabul airport with the Taliban maintaining the airport's security.
The two sides want to make the most of ensuring they benefit from each other. For Ankara, the concerns about security, stability, refugee crisis ride large.
They are also looking to gain via trade and allow Turkish goods to flood the Afghan market while providing opportunities for AKP (Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party) aligned Turkish construction firms to rebuild the war-torn country.
While Qatar did not recognise the Taliban regime of 1996-2001, they maintained "cordial" relationships with the militant group.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey were seen as too aligned with the Afghan government to be impartial. Therefore, the US was amenable to the decision to make Qatar the home for peace negotiations.
Qatar was not only central to providing the Taliban with a base in Doha when President Barack Obama's administration sought to end the war in 2011, it also turned into a central transit hub, for evacuations that were taking place from Afghanistan after Kabul fell on August 15.
Qatar's role as a mediator began a decade ago. The Taliban opened its permanent political office there in 2013 and negotiations continued until 2020, culminating in an agreement with the Trump administration to pull out US troops this year.
Today, Qatar is providing technical support at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Recognition of a Taliban Administration
China and Pakistan are the only two counties that have maintained their diplomatic missions in Kabul since the Taliban captured the country. All other nations have evacuated their officials and shut down missions temporarily.
Most nations have adopted a wait and watch policy. The six countries above, including Saudi Arabia and UAE, could be the first ones to recognise the regime. But even that will take time.
Most countries are apprehensive to recognise the new Taliban administration for lack of clarity on the latter's part on what their policies are going to look like and how inclusive the government is going to be.
Non-Interference in Afghanistan
It does not bode well for the Taliban to have Pakistan's ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed stationed in Kabul and engaging all sides whilst the group is involved in government formation.
It is said that Pakistan provided support in bringing down the Panjshir resistance as well. While the international community is watching Islamabad and Rawalpindi's involvement in the country, the Taliban have said that they will not allow any country, including Pakistan, to interfere in their internal affairs.
The Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said on Monday that the group will not allow any country, including Pakistan, to interfere in Afghanistan's affairs, Afghanistan's Khaama news reported.
Lt Gen Hameed was one of the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital in mid-August.