Afghanistan dispatch: parties to Doha discussions should push Taliban on women’s rights, humanitarian aid access and inclusive governance Dispatches
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Afghanistan dispatch: parties to Doha discussions should push Taliban on women’s rights, humanitarian aid access and inclusive governance

Law students and young lawyers in Afghanistan are reporting for JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding the name of  our correspondent filing this dispatch. 

The international community has begun two days of high-level meetings in Doha, Qatar focusing on the situation in Afghanistan. This gathering brings together representatives from various member states, as well as a delegation from the Taliban that currently holds de facto control over the country. The decision to include Taliban representation signals the international community’s recognition of the group’s dominant political position, even though their government has not been formally recognized.

The meeting in Doha reflects the continued efforts of the global powers to engage diplomatically with the Taliban and other Afghan stakeholders, rather than adopt a strategy of complete isolation. This diplomatic engagement is aimed at addressing the multifaceted challenges facing Afghanistan, including the fragile security environment, dire humanitarian crisis, and concerns over human rights and political inclusivity under Taliban rule. Navigating these complex issues will require careful negotiation and compromise, as the participants seek to balance their competing interests and priorities. Ultimately, the outcomes of this Doha meeting will be closely watched as an indicator of the international community’s ability to influence the trajectory of events in Afghanistan through continued diplomatic outreach and pressure on the Taliban.

The meeting in Doha represents the latest in a series of international gatherings convened to address the complex and evolving situation in Afghanistan. Over the past year, various multilateral forums have brought together diplomats, policymakers, and Afghan stakeholders to discuss the political transition, security challenges, and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country. These meetings have included high-level discussions at the United Nations, as well as regional dialogues facilitated by powers like Russia, China, and Iran that have vested interests in Afghanistan’s stability.

Through these diplomatic channels, the international community has sought to engage with the Taliban government, while also maintaining pressure to uphold human rights, form an inclusive political structure, and allow unimpeded humanitarian access. While tangible progress has been limited, the continued convening of these meetings signals an ongoing commitment to finding negotiated solutions, rather than resorting to isolation or unilateral interventions. Expectations for the Doha gathering are cautiously optimistic, with hopes that it can build upon previous discussions to identify pathways for the Taliban to receive greater international legitimacy and support, in exchange for demonstrating meaningful reforms and a willingness to compromise. However, the deep-seated mistrust and competing agendas of the various stakeholders involved will make achieving consensus on the way forward an immense challenge. Nonetheless, the international community appears resolved to persevere with this diplomatic track, recognizing that Afghanistan’s stability and humanitarian crisis require a coordinated global response.

Here is an overview of the key international meetings and diplomatic efforts related to the situation in Afghanistan in the years following the U.S. and NATO withdrawal in 2021:

2021-2022: Immediate Aftermath of U.S. Withdrawal

  • Emergency meetings of the UN Security Council and G7 countries to discuss the humanitarian crisis and evacuation efforts.
  • Bilateral talks between the Taliban and various countries, including China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran, to establish initial diplomatic contacts.
  • Pledges of humanitarian aid, but concerns about working with the Taliban government.

2023: Seeking a Political Settlement

  • Moscow Format Talks in March 2023 – Regional powers like Russia, China, and Iran met with the Taliban and Afghan political figures to chart a path forward.
  • Doha Meeting in May 2023 – More comprehensive international conference hosted by Qatar to discuss a potential political settlement. Resulted in a tentative agreement.
  • Ongoing tensions between the Taliban, Afghan government, and regional players over the scope of power-sharing.

2024: Implementing the Doha Accord

  • Follow-up Doha Meeting in May 2024 to review progress on the political roadmap and security arrangements.
  • Concerns about human rights, especially for women and minorities, under Taliban rule.
  • Continued need for economic assistance and humanitarian aid to address the crisis.

Throughout this period, the international community has played a central coordinating role, hosting various meetings and serving as a mediator between the different factions. However, the path to stability in Afghanistan remains fragile and uncertain, given the deep-seated divisions and mistrust between the stakeholders involved.

There are several key expectations one might have of Doha discussions.

Firstly, the participants should be looking for tangible progress from the Taliban government in upholding human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls to education and political participation. The international community has made it clear that any normalization of relations or provision of aid is contingent on the Taliban demonstrating a willingness to be more inclusive and respectful of fundamental freedoms.

Secondly, the meetings should extract firm commitments from the Taliban to allow unimpeded humanitarian access throughout the country, in order to address the dire food insecurity and economic collapse affecting millions of Afghans. Securing Taliban cooperation on this front is seen as vital to staving off a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

Thirdly, international players should push the Taliban to take concrete steps towards forming a more inclusive and representative political structure, moving beyond the current interim government dominated by hardline elements.

Finally, the meetings should explore mechanisms to channel international aid into Afghanistan in a manner that supports economic recovery and stability, without directly empowering the Taliban. Overall, the overarching expectation is that through sustained diplomatic engagement, the international community can leverage its influence to nudge the Taliban towards more moderate and pragmatic policies that address the country’s pressing challenges.