The Group of 20 (G20) held a video conference on Tuesday at which they agreed the Taliban must be actively involved in distributing humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan. The group insisted this concession should not be construed as formal recognition of the Taliban’s legitimacy.
“Addressing the humanitarian crisis will require contacts with the Taliban, but this does not mean their recognition. We must acknowledge that they will be judged for what they do, not for what they say,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the G20.
“It is very hard to see how you can help people in Afghanistan without involving the Taliban,” Draghi said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued it would be necessary to shore up Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled financial infrastructure to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
“None of us has anything to gain if the entire monetary system in Afghanistan collapses or the financial system collapses. Then humanitarian aid can no longer be provided,” she said.
“Of course it’s never easy to draw the line, so to speak, but to look on as 40 million people descend into chaos because there’s no electricity supply or financial system – that cannot and must not be the goal of the international community,” Merkel said.
Merkel added that the Taliban must earn the trust of the G20 by respecting the rights of women and girls, something the Taliban has resolutely refused to do, aside from a few very limited concessions in certain provinces.
Draghi and the other G20 representatives admitted the Taliban has thus far made “no visible progress on human rights, women’s rights, education or an inclusive government,” as the UK Guardian put it.
This makes the G20 conference the latest international forum to vow that the Taliban will be judged according to standards it shows no sign of meeting, or even recognizing. The new rulers of Afghanistan dismissed the world community’s demand for cooperation on counterterrorism last week, but the G20 participants continued listing such cooperation as a demand the Taliban must comply with.
The Guardian noted a great deal of humanitarian aid money will soon be passing through the Taliban’s hands, even as the U.S. and European governments struggle to keep the extremist regime from tapping into frozen Afghan funds and international financial support:
The European Union kicked off proceedings by announcing an extra €700m in emergency aid to Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The pledge takes the total commitment of new funding to €1bn, after the EU executive’s promise of €300m to help prevent basic services in Afghanistan from collapsing and food from running out.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the country was at a make-or-break moment. He told reporters in New York: “Respecting international law and principles, we have to find ways to inject liquidity into the economy for the economy not to collapse. If we do not act and help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they but all the world will pay a heavy price.”
He said the cash could be injected via UN trust funds, and other instruments. “I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban not being honored,” he added.
The G20 virtual conference was snubbed by Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China, who announced plans to hold their own summit on Afghanistan in Moscow on October 20.
Russia and China have been much more supportive of the Taliban than the rest of the G20, coming up just short of formally recognizing the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” as a legitimate government.
The Russians and Chinese have their own specific concerns about terrorist threats leaking across the borders of Afghanistan and expect the Taliban to take their concerns more seriously than those of America or the European Union. Russia is holding joint military exercises with its allies in Tajikistan and warning the Taliban to restrain Tajik extremists lurking on Afghan soil, while China is particularly worried about Uyghur militants.
“Countries that still impose unilateral sanctions should lift them, and international financial organizations should increase financial support for Afghanistan’s poverty alleviation and infrastructure construction,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who attended the G20 conference in Xi’s place, said after the meeting.
Wang urged the rest of the G20 to respect Afghanistan’s “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.”