Doha-III and the IEA

Inam Ul Haque July 11, 2024
The writer is a retired major general and has an interest in International Relations and Political Sociology. He can be reached at and tweets @20_Inam


The third round of Doha parleys was held in Doha on June 30 and July 1, 2024. In the run-up to the meeting, IEA representative Abdul Manan Omari, the special representative of the venerated Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada and IEA Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, during his May visit, had met representatives from the UN and the US, and Ali bin Samikh, Qatar’s Minister of Labour.

In other developments Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister, on June 4 met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi. The UN sanctions committee permitted Hajj travel for Siraj Haqqani, Deputy PM Mawlawi Kabir, Intelligence Chief Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Hajj Minister Noor Saqib. Haqqani had reportedly also met key American and other Western officials, after critical talks between Qatar, the UN and EU officials, and key Taliban ministers in Kabul during last week of May 2024.

During the June 2 meeting between EU Special Representative for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson and IEA Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Niklasson underlined the importance of IEA’s presence at the 3rd Doha meeting. After his meeting with UN Deputy Secretary General Mrs Rosemary Anne DiCarlo, Muttaqi indicated IEA undertaking “its research on the framework” of talks. During diplomatic interactions in Islamabad, my sense was that the EU, the US, Qatar/UAE and Afghanistan’s neighbours were keen to put IEA onboard the parleys meant for their country, and were willing to put nagging issues like women rights to work, education and inclusivity of Kabul regime, on the backburner, to focus on issues critical to Afghanistan like poverty, climate change etc.

The 15-point UN agenda included four broad categories, as I see it. In the ‘Governance’ category, Doha discussions were to review human rights situation; evaluate the status of freedom of expression; assess IEA stance towards women, girls and media; evaluate demands of exiled politicians, Afghan women and civil society representatives; and debate inclusive government in Afghanistan.

In the ‘Afghan Economy’ category, decreasing job opportunities and increasing economic problems; challenges facing the private sector; and problems of the financial and banking sectors and their solutions were to be discussed.

In the third and most relevant category to Pakistan, discussion was to focus on ‘terrorism’ in the backdrop of latest report from the UNSC Special Representative detailing security threats emanating from IEA-controlled Afghanistan to the region and the world; highlighting perspectives of regional countries and the US on Taliban rule; and assessing the fight against ISIS and drug trafficking.

The fourth category of ‘Drug and Climate Change’ entailed discussions on provision of alternative crop options to Afghan farmers to discourage poppy cultivation; ascertain the impact of climate change on Afghanistan and its reversal/protective strategies.

There were additional agenda points including appointment of special UN representative for Afghanistan; and challenges facing UNAMA.

IEA’s counter proposals included nine points. Points directed at the UN included: granting the Afghanistan seat at UN to the IEA; ‘non appointment’ of any UN special representative; UNSC to stop issuing anti-Taliban statements; UN permitting its agencies to operate in Afghanistan as per IEA guidelines; UN cooperation in education (including higher education) not be one-sided and focused on modern education only; international/UN attention to humanitarian aid and climate change in Afghanistan, and provision of unconditional and continuous humanitarian aid.

Kabul also demanded lifting sanction on IEA ministers and leaders; asked the West to avoid meeting expat Afghans on women rights and education issues; and demanded of the US and the UN not to unnecessary pressurise the IEA.

The IEA delegation was led by IEA chief spokesman Zabeehullah Mujahid. Possible IEA delegates, as speculated earlier, were Interim FM Amir Khan Muttaqi, Deputy PM for Economic Affairs Abdul Ghani Baradar, Minister of Higher Education Din Mohammad Hanif, special envoy Abdul Manan Omari, IEA nominee for UN Suhail Shaheen, and IEA ambassador in Qatar Mohammad Naeem Wardak. Photos released showed some of these leaders, however, IEA and UNAMA are tight-lipped on outcome details.

Contrary to the reports in Pakistani press about the UN in some kind of bind to meet the IEA, there was agreement among the major stakeholders including the UN, the US and the EU to engage IEA, the Emirate being a reality that needs to be realised. UK’s Special Afghan representative spoke to me about this as early as in Ramazan (April). Pakistan and Qatar’s interlocution were critical and the UAE facilitation helpful. Absence of Saudi Arabia raises some questions.

Russian decision to reach out to the IEA and considering taking Taliban off the terror list were major developments, creating a sense of urgency in the West Plus, where there was already a feeling that China was rapidly filling the Afghan space left by Western powers. This ‘ostensibly’ was the driver behind putting the oft-repeated women rights and inclusivity chants on the backburner and barring Afghanistan’s activist diaspora from the parleys. The EU as a bloc was eager to engage IEA without formal recognition. For the West Plus, IEA’s Afghanistan remains a scenario of “unwilling cohabitation”, as wishing the Afghan reality remains impractical, counter-productive and oblivious to the geo-strategic realties. The situation somehow is anchored ‘again’ around a modicum of geopolitical competition.

For the UN, the critical and ‘banner’ issue was helping the poor in Afghanistan. There is also zero appetite for sustaining armed conflict in Afghanistan given that there is no opposition to the IEA domestically. This also plays favourably for IEA.

From the IEA point of view, it was the most significant endorsement of its Interim government globally and regionally. Its leadership has lately been keen on international engagement, having realised its value, as can be gleaned from some of its agenda points. The parleys went well for them except for the Working Groups, where IEA faced resistance and difficulties, and were bailed out by regional countries like China, Russia and Pakistan in the lead, against Western representatives, still hostile on account of the normative sticking points of women rights, empowerment and inclusivity. Although willing to concede on some issues to ease up trade and financial transactions, Kabul apparently got away with its positions taken, without budging on internal matters.

From Pakistan’s point of view, dinner diplomacy under Ambassador Asif Durrani, his delegation and Ambassador Aejaz was culturally sensitive, timely and focused to ‘re-sensitise’ the Afghan side about Pakistan’s uncompromising position on TTP variable in Pak-Afghan bilateralism.

Diplomacy, in all forms, should never be abandoned. Doha was an appetiser.


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