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Engaging with the Taliban: How Can the West Do It?



Engaging Taliban

The ongoing debate about how the Engaging Taliban should be perceived seems to be based on their previous method of ruling the masses i.e. With guns and force. But apparently, the Taliban has been showing signs of positive change in their way of governance. They have announced to safeguard women and minority rights, keep the media free, secure its borders, and ensure that no terrorism is conducted within or from the land of Afghanistan, all within the framework of Shariah (Islamic code of conduct).  

Despite such claims in their first press conference after capturing the capital of Kabul, the Taliban represented quite a moderate image to the world, especially the West. However, the Western think tanks still seem to be distrustful of the Taliban’s promises and consider it a “stunt” to show their soft approach towards governance. This can be true to some extent, but the thing to consider is that the Engaging Taliban have never hesitated to show their true stance, no matter how harsh that might seem. So, who are they scared of now? None.

As for the West’s approach towards the Taliban and their proposed model of governance, talks are going on within the political circles and with the Taliban leadership as well. The neighboring countries like China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have offered a helping hand in reconstructing the war-torn country within their capacities. China, in particular, is the first one to not just be willing to recognize the Taliban rule, but also extend immediate help to rebuild the infrastructure for better trade and connectivity prospects for Afghanistan. Iran and Turkey have accepted the Taliban’s request to take care of the Kabul airport, while Pakistan is already hosting thousands of Afghan refugees who have fled the country in the wake of the Taliban occupation. 

In such circumstances, the West cannot just simply ignore the influence and policies of the Engaging Taliban, which now seem to be quite adaptable to the modern values of governance. But the question is how to engage in talks and diplomatic relations with the Taliban under such a scenario and how to ensure that they would not revert to the old ways of violence?The West has been deeply involved in Afghanistan for almost four decades now, but that was only a relation of mistrust, forced occupation, and prolonged animosity. Not the tables have been turned as “after thousands of lives lost and millions of dollars invested and wasted, the Taliban have been replaced with the Taliban” – Julian Lindley-French, a senior think tank at the Institute of the Statecraft, Scotland. However, the West can indulge in talks with the Taliban despite their doubts but they can put a few conditions on grounds that must be followed and protected at all costs:

  1. The Taliban must be asked to secure basic human freedoms i.e. of minorities, the press, and women in particular. The world is much worried about the future of women in Afghanistan which is a genuine concern for everyone.
  2. The West can open diplomatic channels on the conditions for the Taliban to follow the basic diplomatic requirements and safeguarding the embassy of every country.
  3. There can be financial investments for rebuilding the country, but with a strict check on the use of that money as it can again be used for arms making and trade.
  4. Instead of pouring in money to “rebuild” the country which the West has itself destroyed, the better solution would be to help the country become self-sustaining and rather than being dependent on Western aid once again.
  5. The West must also respect the culture and traditions of the Taliban, which they seem to hold steadfast. Terming them barbaric in the modern world and mistrusting their values and ways of governance must also be avoided. This is the only way to show cooperation and build a positive connection with the country. 

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, rich in natural resources. That is one reason that China, Russia, and Turkey are willing to invest in its reconstruction eyeing the long-term benefits. The West, however, has already gained many benefits of such sorts from the decades of occupation, but now it must engage in healthy talks and cooperation instead of seeking economic prospects only. In this way, the region can be peaceful and the threat of global terrorism can be curbed with mutual trust and cooperation.

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