Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Governance, violence, and aid: the donor–Taliban dilemma

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ODI, 11 December 2020

The authors, Rahmatullah Amiri and Ashley Jackson, write as an intro to thi short paper:

In the lead up to last month’s Geneva Conference, the EU ambassador to Afghanistan, Andreas von Brandt, lamented that the Taliban had failed to lower violence levels, and in doing so lost the opportunity to attend the donor gathering to ‘present themselves to the world.’ This was but the latest in various western donor attempts to use aid and recognition as an incentive with the Taliban. Once considered beyond the pale, many donors are now seeing the Taliban as a potential partner in a post-war Afghan state – so long as they agree to play by certain rules. 

The international community’s openness could be a rare opportunity for a maligned political actor like the Taliban to rehabilitate its reputation and standing. For this to work, however, both sides must rethink their posture and strategy. 

At present, the Taliban seems unaware of or uninterested in the opportunity laid at its feet, or unable to figure out how to exploit it fully. Despite agreeing to intra-Afghan dialogue, the Taliban has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unwilling to abandon the military path to achieving its objectives. Further, they have not elaborated their positions on critical issues such as human rights or inclusivity, which will determine any future international recognition or financial support.

Donors, by contrast, have not sent the right signals to the Taliban about what is expected of them. In the process, they have also unwittingly undermined the Afghan team in talks, fueling resentment and resistance from Kabul. This has enabled a series of harmful misperceptions to flourish inside the insurgency which, if left unchecked, could upend any hope for a diplomatic end to the war.