The evolution of the Taliban can give a change for Afghanistan

The leaders of the Pashtun radical organization have achieved some success in the diplomatic sector, particularly in Central Asia.

There have been notable changes to the social and economic policies of the Taliban. The leaders of the Pashtun radical organization have achieved some success in the diplomatic sector, particularly in Central Asia. Moreover, the criticism of the Taliban’s domestic policies by leading world powers and international organizations has been reduced. However, there are still significant issues concerning security, human rights, women, and national minorities. There is some concern about the connection between the Taliban’s extremist wing and certain international terrorist organizations. The founder of the Taliban, the military leadership of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, may have a vital role in this matter. However, Pakistan’s military elite and army still do not pursue a rational policy to put pressure on the most radical Islamist elements within the Taliban.

Regional policy in Central Asia has recently become more active. The Taliban is engaging in diplomatic negotiations with neighboring countries to discuss important infrastructure and logistics projects, demonstrating a capacity for rational decision-making and contractual agreements. Just yesterday, Uzbekistan expressed interest in Afghanistan’s potential use of the Amu Darya River and offered technical assistance with canal projects and modern irrigation systems. On March 12th, the foreign ministers of two Muslim countries held negotiations, with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also attending the meeting on behalf of the Taliban.

During a meeting with a representative delegation from Uzbekistan led by Bakhtiyor Saidov, the discussions mainly focused on political, economic, and trade cooperation as well as regional relations. One of the topics discussed was water resource management and agricultural development. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund highlighted the Qosh Tepa Canal in northern Afghanistan as a longstanding goal of the Afghan people. However, he also mentioned that the ongoing conflicts and instability in the region have hindered the project’s progress. The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan stated its support for the fair use of the Amu Darya River, just as other countries in the river basin do. They also mentioned that work has already begun on this channel to ensure the rights of Afghans without creating concerns for neighboring countries since the establishment of the Islamic Emirate.

According to reports, Uzbekistan has pledged its support for Afghan transit and energy projects. Additionally, Uzbekistan plans to invest in coal-powered electricity generation. During the talks, Mullah Baradar emphasized on the significance of regional cooperation, specifically with Uzbekistan. He stressed the need to increase transit through Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, develop trade relations, expand the railway network, and invest in Afghanistan. He also highlighted the importance of resolving transportation and customs issues, as well as providing support for Afghans living in Uzbekistan.

There has been some positive progress in the relationship between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Recently, diplomats from both countries met and agreed to send Turkmen experts to Afghanistan. The experts will explore the possibility of completing the infrastructure for the TAPI energy project.

At the same time, global powers and international organizations have expressed concern about the negative trends in Taliban politics. However, there has been a shift in their rhetoric towards a more tolerant approach towards the leaders of Afghanistan. Moscow’s special representative of the Russian President for Afghanistan and the director of the Second Asian Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov, has stated that the Taliban is not a terrorist organization “in essence”. According to him, the Taliban has evolved into a national movement and is no longer considered terrorists per se. Although the Taliban movement is banned in Russia, Kabulov believes that it might be possible to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the future. However, he also mentioned that the Taliban still have to “earn” recognition from Russia and it is still too early to officially recognize them as a government of Afghanistan.

A revival of Taliban-ordered public executions by gunfire, taking place in sports stadiums in several cities in Afghanistan, “must cease immediately,” the UN human rights office has said. “We are appalled by the public executions of three people at the sports stadiums in Afghanistan in the last week,” said Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “Public executions are cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishments that violate the right to life guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Such executions also violate the principle of arbitrariness and must be stopped immediately.”

It is possible to observe an active foreign policy of the Taliban towards neighboring countries in the region. This suggests that there are some groups in the Taliban which could be called rational and have desire to improve the economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Only time will tell if their efforts will be successful. At the same time, it is important to remember that reducing and limiting the influence of the most extreme elements within the Taliban is crucial for normalizing the situation in Afghanistan and establishing the Afghan government’s position on the international stage. The most radical elements within the Taliban, influenced by the Pakistani military, must realize that their vector is irrational and harmful to the interests of Afghanistan.

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.