Representatives of Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government met with U.S. and European Union representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, to discuss ways to aid Afghan civilians amid a growing humanitarian crisis.
The Afghan delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, ultimately held discussions with officials from the United States and sixteen European countries. A statement released by the Taliban indicated that “all participants pledged to make all possible efforts for the overall well-being of the Afghan people.” The Taliban also claimed that it was prepared to pursue “effective steps in the field of humanitarian assistance.” No details were provided by the group.
At the meeting, Thomas Niklasson, the EU’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, indicated that the international organization remained committed to providing 500 million euros, or roughly $570 million, in humanitarian aid.
Although the Taliban has now been in power for six months, the group has not been recognized by any country, and many of its leaders remain subject to international sanctions and even active bounties.
The government’s international isolation has weakened its economy; hard currency is scarce in Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s inability to pay for food imports has led to an acute risk of starvation for many of the country’s poorest citizens. The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that as many as 97 percent of Afghans live below, or are at risk of sinking below, the poverty line.
To address these problems, the Taliban government has requested that the United States and European Union release the assets of the previous government, which were stored abroad and frozen by local authorities after the Taliban came to power.
Because Western leaders have often rhetorically linked the release of the funds to the maintenance of human rights in Afghanistan, the Taliban government has offered several symbolic concessions to the West, including its promise to reopen the country’s schools for both boys and girls by March, a major change for a group that banned girls’ education during its first period of rule from 1996 until 2001.
Despite this concession, however, President Joe Biden issued an executive order last week setting aside half of the Afghan central bank’s reserves to be claimed by the families of 9/11 victims. Many Afghans, both affiliated with the Taliban and opposed to it, decried the decision.
The Taliban delegation also met with officials representing the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Gulf leaders reiterated Western requests to strengthen the human rights situation within Afghanistan.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.