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The Taliban's Unrecognized Government Is Expanding Its Diplomatic Reach

  • Russia, China, and several other countries have accepted Taliban-appointed diplomats without officially recognizing the Taliban government.
  • Afghanistan's neighbors are engaging with the Taliban to address security, trade, migration, and drug trafficking concerns.
  • The Taliban continues to face significant hurdles in gaining broader international legitimacy.
Taliban

No country in the world formally recognizes the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, where the extremist group seized power in 2021.

But some countries operate embassies in Kabul and have accepted diplomats appointed by the Taliban, which controls Afghan missions in some 14 nations in the region.

Russia is the latest country that is set to expand diplomatic ties with the militants. Moscow appears poised to delist the Taliban from its list of terrorist groups."This could be a step toward the Taliban gaining regional legitimacy," said Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Many countries have tied recognition to the Taliban establishing an inclusive government, ensuring women's rights, and breaking ties with extremist groups -- issues that the militants have refused to budge on.

But Afghanistan's neighbors, concerned about security, trade, migration, and drug trafficking, have been more open to establishing ties with the Taliban, said Smith.

The militants face major hurdles in gaining international legitimacy, and many Afghan missions around the world are still run by diplomats appointed by the former internationally recognized Afghan government.

But the hard-line Islamist group appears to be making headway in its strategy to gain recognition from countries in Afghanistan's backyard.

Russia

Russia is one of the few countries that has maintained its embassy in Kabul. In April 2022, Russia handed over the Afghan Embassy in Moscow to the militants, becoming the latest country to accredit Taliban-appointed diplomats without officially recognizing the Taliban-led government. Commenting on removing the Taliban from Russia's list of terrorist organizations, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 28 that Moscow should "build relations" with the group.

China

In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping formally accepted the credentials of a Taliban-appointed ambassador, becoming the first head of state to do so. The Chinese Foreign Ministry clarified the move did not mean Beijing officially recognized the Taliban-led government. But the militants celebrated the move as a major diplomatic victory.

Pakistan

The Taliban gained control of the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad in October 2021. It was one of the first Afghan missions the group took over after regaining power. Pakistan is a longtime ally of the Taliban, although the sides have fallen out recently over the militants' alleged support for the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan extremist group.

Iran

Tehran also kept its embassy in Kabul open after the Taliban seized control of the capital. Iran formally handed over the Afghan Embassy to the Taliban in February 2023. Former foes, Iran and the Taliban have forged close ties despite sporadic border clashes.

India

New Delhi reopened its embassy in Kabul last year. But Afghan diplomatic missions in India are in limbo as diplomats appointed by the former Afghan government have tried to stave off Taliban attempts to take over the embassy and two consulates.

In December, Astana removed the Taliban from its list of terrorist groups. That came months after Kazakhstan accepted a new Afghan ambassador appointed by the Taliban.

Uzbekistan

Tashkent engaged the Taliban soon after the militants returned to power. In February, the Taliban appointed a diplomat to take charge of the Afghan Embassy in the Uzbek capital.

Turkmenistan

Ashgabat accepted a Taliban ambassador in March 2022. The sides have worked closely on regional energy and transport projects. But there have been sporadic tensions and border clashes.

Tajikistan

The Taliban controls the Afghan consulate in the eastern Tajik city of Khorog. But the embassy is run by the ambassador appointed by the ex-Afghan government. Tajikistan is the only neighboring country to publicly oppose the Taliban's return to power, and Dushanbe has hosted some of the leaders of the National Resistance Front, an anti-Taliban resistance group.

Azerbaijan

Baku officially reopened its embassy in Kabul in March, following through on a pledge made last year. But it is not clear if there are any Taliban diplomats present in Azerbaijan.

Turkey

The Afghan Embassy in Ankara is controlled by the ambassador appointed by the ex-Afghan government. But the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, is run by the Taliban. Several exiled Afghan political leaders are believed to reside in Turkey, including former Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Qatar

Doha has hosted a Taliban political office since 2013. The Qatari capital was the scene of negotiations between Taliban and U.S. officials that paved the way for the complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2021. Qatar has engaged with the Taliban at the highest level and remains a key international interlocutor for its government, which controls the Afghan Embassy in Doha.Saudi Arabia

Riyadh maintains an embassy in Kabul and continues to offer consular services for Afghans, thousands of whom work in the kingdom as laborers. After the Taliban takeover, Riyadh helped establish an Organization of Islamic Countries mission in Kabul. It is unclear if the Taliban controls all Afghan diplomatic missions in the oil-rich country.

United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi also maintains an embassy in Kabul. The Taliban has appointed diplomats to the Afghan Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai.

By RFE/RL

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