Assistance to Afghanistan

The first face-to-face talks between the US and the Taliban since the troop withdrawal took place this Saturday, during which Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi warned the US to not destabilise the regime. These remarks came on the first two days of talks in Qatar with a US team led by the State Department’s Deputy Special Representative Tom West and top USAID humanitarian official Sarah Charles. Emphasising that good relations and stability in Afghanistan will be good for everyone, and that the country is going through an extremely critical phase, it is evident that the Taliban are pointing towards the sanctions imposed on them and the assets that have been frozen.
While there is of course a lot of underlying tension in those remarks, there were encouraging aspects to the meeting too considering that the US will be helping vaccinate Afghans against Covid19 and will provide human cooperation. The topic of cooperating with the US to contain extremist groups like IS was also touched upon, to which the Taliban explicitly stated that the group is capable of independently tackling the terrorist group on its soil. However, the fact remains that the Taliban’s efforts to consolidate their rule have been undermined by a series of attacks by IS, who claimed a bombing of a Shia mosque that left more than 50 people dead on Friday.
Shiite populations have historically been targeted relentlessly by IS and such violence only adds to the plethora of issues being faced by the people of Afghanistan at the moment. The economy is teetering on the brink of collapse, with international aid cut off, food prices rising and unemployment spiking. On Saturday, the UN Refugee Agency warned that a lack of resources is hampering efforts to avert an economic crisis that could push fresh flows of refugees to its neighbors in Pakistan, Iran and beyond.
The focus at the moment needs to be on engaging with Afghanistan to avoid and avert a humanitarian and refugee crisis. Both regional and international actors—especially the US—will have to play a key role in assisting Afghanistan through this difficult period. However, for such assistance to be more forthcoming, the Taliban will also need to do more to allay the concerns of multiple countries regarding human rights for all minority groups and women in Afghanistan.