Ever since the Taliban had taken over the Afghan government after the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, October 12, 2021, was a day to remember. It was the first time the Taliban had a face-to-face encounter with a US-EU delegation to discuss the future of Afghanistan and a crippling financial crisis that is rampaging through the country. The talks were held in Doha, Qatar with the aid of the Qatari government, the Taliban’s most vocal international supporter. The hardline Islamists have been struggling to gain international recognition as an official government body and seek international support financially for a poverty-stricken economy that is spiraling downwards with unemployment rates on the rise and rising food prices.
With the rise of the Taliban in the government, many foreign services and countries had frozen their assets to the Afghan people which has been the major reason for the economic downtrend. Between $7 to $8 billion of the reserved $9 billion of Afghan assets have been frozen in the US.
The EU had opened the virtual G20 summit held for talks about Afghanistan with the official statement that it would pledge $1.2 billion in aid for Afghanistan and the neighboring countries who are helping Afghans flee the new extremist government. The president of the EU commission Ursula von der Leyen had given an official statement stating that “We must do all we can to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse in Afghanistan. We need to do it fast. We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights. So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions. This is why the Afghan support package is for the Afghan people and the country´s neighbors who have been the first in providing them with help.”
The EU had also stated that the talks held in Qatar would allow the US and the European sides to address issues on Afghanistan including the free passage of citizens wanting to leave, human rights, and preventing the nation from becoming a terrorist haven. “This is an informal exchange at a technical level. It does not constitute recognition of the ‘interim government,” said the spokeswoman for the EU Nabila Massrali.
The UN chief Antonio Guterres had also stressed that the world needs to donate to the drought-hit and impoverished Afghanistan to escape a complete economic collapse whilst criticizing the Taliban’s broken promises to Afghanistan’s female population. The EU had also informed that the funds would be channeled via third-party humanitarian organizations with boots on the ground and not via the interim Taliban government which remains unrecognized in the eyes of Brussels. The Taliban had also urged the US to follow suit with the EU and release the frozen funds.
Interestingly, the White House has appeared silent and is still waiting to make an official statement on the release of the funds. A senior administration official was quoted saying that the funds could not be released “with the snap of a finger” due to several reasons. These reasons include- the US has not yet officially recognized the Taliban as the official government, the existing terrorism claims against the groups and its leaders, and various legal cases in which “several groups of plaintiffs are seeking to attach the funds.”
This current predicament may lead the extremist Islamist group to take a moderate approach and work with world governments. The Taliban’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was stated earlier saying that “We believe in balanced international relations.”