UN Rejects Taliban Government Recognition After Multilateral Talks

A recent United Nations meeting held in Qatar with the Taliban to discuss increased engagement in Afghanistan does not signify recognition of the Taliban government, a U.N. official said on Monday.

The gathering on Sunday and Monday in Doha, Qatar, with representatives from about two dozen countries was the first time that members of the Afghan Taliban administration attended such a U.N.-sponsored event.

The Taliban were not invited to the first meeting, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said they set unacceptable conditions for attending the second meeting, in February, including demands that Afghan civil society members be excluded from the talks and that the Taliban be treated as the country’s legitimate rulers.

Prior to the Doha meeting, Afghan women representatives were excluded from attending, allowing the Taliban to send their envoys. However, the organizers insisted that demands for women’s rights would be addressed.

“I would like to emphasize that this meeting and this process of engagement does not mean normalization or recognition,” Rosemary A. DiCarlo, a U.N. official for political and peacebuilding affairs, said on Monday.

“My hope is that the constructive exchanges on the various issues over the last two days have moved us a little closer to resolving some of the problems that are having such a devastating impact on the country,” she added.

Zabihullah Mujahid, chief Taliban government spokesman who led the delegation to Doha, said there was an opportunity for them to meet with representatives of various countries on the sidelines of the gathering.

He added that the messages from the Taliban “reached all participating” countries at the meeting. Afghanistan needs cooperation with the private sector and in the fight against drugs, he also said. “Most countries expressed their willingness to cooperate in these areas.”

The Taliban seized power in August 2021 as United States and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war. No country officially recognizes the Taliban, and the U.N. has stated that recognition remains practically impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place.

However, some participants, including Canada, expressed disappointment over the exclusion of women and civil society representatives.

“Canada is extremely disappointed that the U.N. organizers have excluded non-Taliban Afghan participants, including women’s advocates, religious and ethnic minorities, and human rights groups from participating in the meeting’s main sessions,” David Sproule, Canada’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

DiCarlo, the U.N. official, said that “while women and civil society were not sitting across the table from the de facto (Taliban) authorities in the last two days, we made their voices heard … civil society has a rightful role to play in shaping Afghanistan’s future.”