UN contact group on Afghanistan stalled

Central to proposal was appointment of UN special envoy for Afghanistan, a move rejected by Taliban authorities

Kamran Yousaf April 13, 2024
The UniteNations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS


The proposal to establish a regional contact group on Afghanistan has hit a roadblock due to differences among participating nations regarding the inclusion of certain countries.

The initiative for forming a regional contact group stemmed from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's proposal in February, following a two-day conference in Doha aimed at charting a roadmap for Afghanistan's future.

The United Nations-hosted conference brought together special representatives from 25 countries and Afghan civil society activists to discuss strategies for engaging with the Taliban-led government in Kabul while ensuring its compliance with international commitments.

Central to the proposal was the appointment of a UN special envoy for Afghanistan, a move rejected by the Taliban authorities. Concurrently, the UN secretary-general proposed the formation of a contact group specifically focused on Afghanistan.

This group was envisioned to include Afghanistan's immediate neighbors and other relevant stakeholders. However, Pakistan's objection to India's participation in the proposed regional group has led to a deadlock, according to diplomatic sources.

The sources indicated that progress on the proposal has stalled due to the lack of consensus on which countries should be part of the regional group. "The proposal appears to be a non-starter," remarked another source.

Historically, Pakistan and India have viewed each other's roles in Afghanistan with suspicion. Islamabad's resistance to New Delhi's inclusion in the regional contact group stems from its longstanding concerns that India undermines stability in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, while Pakistan's relations with the Taliban government remain strained, India has intensified its engagement with Kabul in recent months.

The proposal to establish a regional group was part of broader UN efforts to enhance coordination in dealing with the Taliban-led government. A UN delegation is scheduled to visit Kabul soon as a follow-up to the Doha conference, aiming to urge the Taliban government to fulfill its international commitments.

Despite initial expectations, the interim Taliban government has adopted hardline policies, challenging perceptions of moderation. "Many anticipated that Taliban 2.0 would be more moderate, but it's becoming increasingly evident that these expectations were misplaced," commented a Western diplomat.

This poses a dilemma for the international community, as sidelining the Taliban government would only exacerbate the humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan.

The upcoming UN delegation's visit seeks to convey to the Taliban government the adverse consequences of its hardline stance. Sources warn that the lack of international recognition for the Taliban administration would diminish humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, further exacerbating the plight of ordinary Afghans.


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