Ambassador (p) Gheorghe SAVUICA*
It is a very clear picture in today Afghanistan that the most important expected development to happen is the formation of the new government, whose international recognition is even more important.
At the time being, the legal status of the Taliban could be classified either as an insurgent movement or a terrorist group, which implies difficulties to be easily and rapidly recognized from the perspective of the international law.
However, in real terms, the Taliban is a winner of Afghanistan, being involved in the last battle to take the control over the Panjshir Valley, the only province known to still resist the Taliban through the „National Resistance Force”. The movement has as well a great advantage of not being confronted by the situation of existing of a claim of a government-in-exile by, on his own decision, departing president of the country.
The unexpected victory of Taliban has created a double quotation – the self interpretation that the withdrawal of the US and NATO is equal with a defeat over the „foreign intervention”, granting to Taliban the opportunity to consider themselves as a liberation movement in parallel with the real feeling by the Afghan people that they are confronted with an imposed setback of the country, by force and terror, to the repugnant status of twenty years ago, without any hope to express its will through a plebiscite.
For the sake of analysing, one could note the statements of the proclaimed leaders that they will apply a different approach to the Afghan people comparing with the past behaviour, the only their aim being to implement an “Islamic government”. To the international community, particularly to the main no regional and regional stakeholders, they are giving assurances not to pose a threat to any other country, to adhere to the US deal and preventing any group from using Afghan soil as a base for attacks against the US and its allies.
From the same angle of judgement one could notice that so far the encouraging statements are far away from reaching the implementing stage. There are a lot of doubts with regard to confidence building, the relations of Taliban with al-Qaeda, departing indeed from the initial hard and strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia, unity of Taliban, cohesion between the central power and the regional commanders, the today perception of Afghanistan of being very close to the possibility of becoming a failed state by persistence of today chaos or by a future internal disturbance as a result of the existing strong rupture among the majority and other ethnic Taliban groups over the power and, a lot of many other important aspects.
All the above factors, unfortunately, serve as a serious question mark on the speed of reaching an agreement to successfully conclude the negotiations to form a stable Afghan government.
The doubts might be diminished if the Taliban will act concretely and with immediate effect, according to all its statements and commitments, including the guaranty to form an “inclusive government” comprising all political groups. Certainly, the political situation in the country could become robust in real terms if the Afghan people might be allowed to exercise its right of self determination.
Under all these hopeful and doubtful circumstances, the international community seems to adhere to the position of wait and see, but the prevailing tendency, with diverse nuances, is the readiness to talk to the Taliban, which might be interpreted that, in spite of the international law perspective, the Taliban government, sooner or later, conditionally or unconditionally, could gain the international recognition. There are already signs of a tacit recognition, particularly from the neighbouring countries.
The explanation of such optimistic and favourable prospects and attitude towards the Taliban government reside from the absolute necessity to achieve peace and stability in this heavily tested country and severely suffered Afghan people.
On the other hand, the resurgence of the Taliban insurgency could once again turn Afghanistan into a terrorist safe haven. Moreover, internal instability in Afghanistan could have large regional security ramifications on Pakistan, Iran, Central Asian Republics, Russia, and China as well on international scale.
While it would be expected for the regional countries to swiftly recognise the Taleban government, in order to secure their national interest (such as border security, migration and deterring the risk of conflict spillover), one should not exclude the possibility that the new leadership in Kabul also poses certain economic opportunities in terms of reconstruction and infrastructure, which may expedite the new government recognition. A secure Afghanistan might, for instance, play a major role within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor further streghtening the China-led initiative, hosting the upstream natural gas infrastructure to link central Asia to the energy hub and port of Gwadar (Pakistan) and providing benefits to Pakistan, China and Central Asia, while capitalizing on the infrastructure investments to occur.
In spite of the prevailing status of the peace, stability and secure life of the Afghan people, it is, however, quite possible that such government recognition might be significantly hampered shall the Taliban – provided they form a government officially presented – choose not to respect international law, particularly jus cogens (or the peremptory norms), the fundamental nucleus of international law accepted by the international community from which no derogation is permitted.
Afghanistan clearly needs a nation building process. The discussion is whether such a process can be entirely sustained from within or it needs the support of external stakeholders. This in turn opens the debate whether the external stakeholders in this process need certain cultural affinities with the Afghan people (Pakistan being one of the best examples in this case) or vested economic interest (as may be the case of Pakistan, China, India, Iran).
Obviously, foreign aid would play a major role in the nation-building process in Afghanistan.
* One of Romania's longest serving career diplomats, former Head of Mission, in his capacity as Charge d’Affaires a.i., with Cabinet Letter, to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cyprus, Finland, Estonia, later as Ambassador to Pakistan and Indonesia, and former Director-General of the Asia-Pacific, Near and Middle East, Africa and Latin America Department of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador (p) Gheorghe Savuica authored multiple edited volumes and op-eds. Following his relentless activity in the Romanian Academia, Ambassador (p) Savuica was awarded the “Grigore Gafencu” Prize by the Academy of Romanian Scientists. Specialist on Southeast Asia, certified speaker of Bahasa Indonesia, Ambassador (p) Savuica is a graduate of Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO).