Talks with the Taliban: not if but how?

The Taliban's deadline for the Western forces' evacuation operations expired a week ago. Now the 27 EU foreign ministers have agreed on several "benchmarks" which the government in Kabul should fulfil if it wants to receive money from Europe. While some commentators voice astonishment others discuss what exactly the terms should be.

Open/close all quotes
Lost in EUrope (DE) /

First capitulate, then cooperate?

Eric Bonse can only marvel at the Europeans' willingness to negotiate on his blog Lost in EUrope:

“Put that in your pipe and smoke it! The Europeans are chased out of Kabul but just a few days later they want to cooperate with the Islamist victors - and dictate their conditions to boot? Amazing! Not a single foreign minister dared to criticise the party primarily responsible for the defeat - the US. No one so much as mentioned the idea that it was now up to the Americans to pick up the pieces. No - the EU wants to put things right, because it's afraid of the next wave of refugees.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Women at the negotiating table

The condition for talking with the Taliban at all must be unrestricted equal rights for women, the taz insists:

“Firstly, this means that these negotiations must not be between men. The Taliban must accept from the outset what equal rights mean: women sitting at the negotiating table. ... Moreover, women's rights activists - and their relatives - must be classified as needing special protection. ... They require safe routes to leave the country, and reception programmes that allow them to live safely elsewhere. And finally, basic rights and human rights must also apply to Afghan women.”

T24 (TR) /

Don't rush into things

Turkish diplomats and intelligence officers have already held initial talks with the Taliban. Such a rushed approach is highly problematic, says journalist Barçın Yinanç on T24:

“Of course the Taliban are the most important players in the country, and of course you have to keep the channels of communication open. But will the country's other ethnic groups, who have felt close to Turkey for years, now be ignored? Will Turkey now no longer look into the eyes of the women and men who fear the Taliban's repressive regime? ... I also disagree with those who say: 'You have to make peace with the Taliban so as not to miss investment opportunities.' It is not clear whether the country will achieve sufficient stability in the short term. ... Instead, a principled stance based on fundamental values should be adopted towards the Taliban.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

An opportunity for the UN

The United Nations should take on an important role in Afghanistan, says former UN diplomat Victor Ângelo in Diário de Notícias:

“Guterres should take the initiative and start negotiations with the Taliban. These talks must focus on human rights and the obligations that bind Afghanistan to the community of nations. ... The UN is above all a political organisation. It should not pursue a solely humanitarian or development-oriented agenda. True, it should provide a complete and coherent response that encompasses these dimensions. But its driving motivation should be political. And the new Taliban challenge gives the UN an opportunity to rediscover its own history and enhance its image as fundamental protagonist in international relations.”

La Stampa (IT) /

No government without control

Many questions remain open, La Stampa points out:

“First and foremost is the question of whether the Taliban are willing to negotiate with the governments they've been fighting. Are they interested? And what goals are they pursuing? In which areas are they willing to discuss and make concessions, now or in the future? What will they demand in return? How heavily will the new regime's economic needs weigh, or its desire for international legitimacy? Secondly, regardless of formal recognition by other states, we need to get a better idea of whether the Taliban can guarantee a degree of control over territory and essential state institutions which meets the minimum requirements for a government.”

Hromadske Radio (UA) /

Legitimacy by staying in power

Writing on the website of Hromadske Radio, political scientist Ilya Kusa sees a distinct possibility of Western states recognising the Taliban government:

“In the 1990s, three countries officially recognised the 'Taliban' and opened their embassies in Kabul: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In the West, this will be more difficult in view of public opinion, opposition and criticism. ... But if the Taliban retain power and keep the promises they have made so far, that may already be enough for them to be recognised by Western countries and gain at least partial legitimacy abroad.”

Népszava (HU) /

Recognition would be tantamount to surrender

Népszava fears the West will give in with no questions asked:

“Can we recognise the government of a terrorist group we've been fighting for the last two decades and which is building a society in the 21st century that is more lawless than those of the darkest Middle Ages? ... The question now is whether the Taliban will be left sitting in the dark back rooms or whether it will be accepted into the club of the civilised world without further ado. If so, that would be tantamount to the West capitulating to the Islamists.”

The Observer (GB) /

Cooperation unpalatable but unavoidable

There is no alternative to talks with the Taliban, says The Observer:

“It's also urgent that ways be found to talk to a nascent Taliban regime that was good at running an insurgency but has no idea how to run a country. Some form of diplomatic relationship is required, if only to ensure future aid is delivered to those most in need. Taliban co-operation is also needed to suppress the ISKP and to prevent them and foreign terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base for waging international jihad. It's unpalatable but unavoidable.”