Taliban officials “expect” President Joe Biden to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul despite U.S. insistence that future diplomatic relations will depend on Taliban behavior.
“America should have only a diplomatic presence in Kabul,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday, per an Afghan media outlet. “We have communication channels with them, and we expect them to reopen their embassy in Kabul, and we also want to have trade relations with them.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken hopes that the Taliban will be induced to allow safe passage for Americans still in the country and curtail their abuses of human rights, but the administration maintains that it is not taking the militants’ promises at face value. The withdrawal and relocation of American diplomats from Kabul to Qatar, the Gulf Arab state that also hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command forces who orchestrated the evacuation from the Kabul airport, was offered as the most visible sign of that distrust.
“Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take,” Blinken said Tuesday evening. “For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban.”
Taliban officials have struck an expectant note throughout the evacuation effort, as the evacuation of the Kabul airport forced U.S. forces to coordinate security with the enemy they had fought for the past two decades.
“The Taliban is already noting the ‘different’ response from most of the international community as compared to the first time,” an Indo-Pacific intelligence official said. “I get a feeling that the Taliban senses that recognition in some form or other is inevitable. I would be happy to be proven wrong.”
The collapse of the Afghan central government in the face of a Taliban onslaught has raised fears in neighboring states and Europe that Afghanistan will give rise to a refugee crisis and a new surge in terrorist threats.
“The Taliban say all the right words for now: They will not allow the use of their territory for terrorist activities toward the east, in Xinjiang, or toward the north, in Central Asia,” Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov told the Wall Street Journal. “But so far these are just words… There are a lot more questions than answers.”
Blinken pledged that any formal diplomatic recognition would depend on the Taliban’s behavior going forward.
“Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests,” he said. “If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests, including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year, and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: Taliban demand US diplomats return to Kabul