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Amid Fear, Criticism, Taliban Want International Recognition of 'Representative' Rule

FILE - Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.
FILE - Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.

The Taliban said Tuesday they hope to win international recognition for their “legitimate representative” rule over Afghanistan, arguing the diplomatic engagement would help promote global security and ease the suffering of Afghans during decades of relentless wars.

A senior member of the Islamist group’s Cultural Commission shared the remarks with VOA, saying consultations with all Afghan stakeholders on forming what the Taliban promise will be an “inclusive Islamic government” are ongoing and “an announcement will be made soon.”

“We believe the world has a unique opportunity of rapprochement and coming together to tackle the challenges not only facing us but the entire humanity, and these challenges ranging from world security to climate change need the collective efforts of all, and cannot be achieved if we exclude or ignore an entire people,” said Abdul Qahar Balkhi.

He spoke a week after the Taliban marched into the Afghan capital, Kabul, seizing control of the 33 of country’s 34 provinces without facing any significant resistance from security forces of the ousted government.

Critics remain skeptical about the Taliban’s recent pledges, citing United Nations reports that talked of the group’s continued links with al-Qaida and other extremist groups. U.N. officials have also cited reports of “summary executions” and restrictions on women in areas under Taliban control.

“We hope to be recognized by world countries as the legitimate representative government of the people of Afghanistan who have gained their right to self-determination from a foreign occupation with the backing and support of entire nation after a prolonged struggle and immense sacrifices despite all odds being stacked against our people,” Balkhi said.

He reiterated that his group has “made it unequivocally clear” it will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of other countries nor will the Taliban allow others to interfere in internal affairs of their country.

“Rights of minorities were and will continue all protected,” Balkhi said, attributing criticism of the Taliban’s controversial human rights record and extremist policies during their past government to what he called “vitriolic propaganda” against the group.

The Taliban had enforced their own strict interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia when they ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, barring women from leaving homes without a male relative and girls from receiving an education.

“It is past time we move forward, look towards the future and not dwell on what may or may not have happened in the past,” Balkhi said.

Anti-Taliban Afghan leaders have dismissed the group’s assertions it has softened its policies.

Kahlid Noor, the son of ethnic Tajik Afghan commander Atta Muhammad Noor, said the Taliban would not survive as rulers of the country if they don’t ensure respect for human rights and cultures of Afghanistan.

"Whatever they are saying now is more of words. We have not seen it in action so we will have to see if they have really changed. I doubt it. I still don’t believe they have changed. What they are doing is more of a promissory than a policy,” Noor told reporters in Pakistan this week.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw troops and those of Western allied nations from the nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

But Washington and the rest of the global community has since warned that they will not extend legitimacy to any government in Kabul formed by force.

U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad, in an interview with VOA just days before the Taliban captured Kabul, had warned that if the Taliban take over the country by force, they will not win international recognition and “they will become a pariah state.”

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, including Pakistan, China, Iran, and Russia through its Central Asian allied nations, have all been pressing the Taliban to form an inclusive government, where all Afghan ethnicities and religious minorities are adequately represented. These countries have maintained close contacts with the Taliban but they warned that any attempt to govern the conflict-torn South Asian nation exclusively would only prolong the Afghan civil war and threaten the security of neighbors.

Beijing, Islamabad, Moscow and Tehran, however, have indicated they may be willing to work with the Taliban provided the fundamentalist group adherents to its pledges.

“We hope that Afghanistan will form an open, inclusive, and broadly representative government, adopt moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies and conform to the aspiration of its people and the common expectation of the international community,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday.

Wang told a regular news conference that Beijing hopes to see an early end to turbulence and restoration of economic as well as financial order in Afghanistan.

“China stands ready to continue to play an active role in promoting peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan and helping the nation to enhance the ability to achieve self-development and improve people's livelihood,” Wang said.

The last time it was in power, the Taliban tolerated the presence of the al-Qaida terrorist network, which U.S. officials say plotted the September 2001 attacks on the United States from Afghan sanctuaries at the time. The carnage prompted Washington and its Western allies to invade Afghanistan nearly a month later, ousting the Taliban from power.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate were the only three countries at the time that recognized the Taliban’s government in Kabul after the group emerged victories from the then Afghan civil war and established control over most of the country.