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Once-bustling Afghan Embassy in US down to few diplomats

Senior Afghan diplomat in US implores world not to recognize Taliban

Published: Updated:

One of the last diplomats representing Kabul’s toppled government in Washington has implored the US not to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, pointing to the radical group’s suppression of women and human rights violations.

The Afghan government, led by deposed President Ashraf Ghani, collapsed on August 15 after Ghani fled the country and the Afghan security forces failed to prevent the Taliban from taking over.

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But the diplomats at the Afghan Embassy in the US refuse to acknowledge the Taliban and have rebuffed all of the group’s attempts of opening lines of communication, Deputy Chief of Mission Abdul Hadi Nejrabi told Al Arabiya English in a recent interview.

“We are definitely not in contact with Kabul, with the Taliban. We are also not interested in maintaining any relations with the Taliban; we don’t recognize them,” Nejrabi said from an near to empty embassy in Washington.

Nejrabi pointed to the members of the “so-called acting cabinet,” which includes several individuals blacklisted by the United States.

After turning down a Zoom invite with the Taliban’s acting foreign minister following the takeover, Nejrabi said he and his colleagues continue to receive emails from Taliban officials trying to establish contact.

“Sanctions are imposed on most of them … that are now holding high-ranking positions in Taliban government,” he said.

Counterterrorism sanctions on the Taliban continue to make engaging in financial transactions with them illegal.

The UN has also sanctioned multiple members of the Taliban. Earlier this week, the group’s attempts to occupy Afghanistan’s seat at the UN failed.

This was their second attempt, but the UN deferred the decision, and diplomats have said another vote on the matter may not take place until the 2022 General Assembly.

No US recognition of Taliban, yet

As for the US, Nejrabi said he does not believe any recognition of the Taliban is imminent.

“We don’t expect that the US government would recognize the Taliban very soon because the US government and [the] international community have their conditions for recognition,” he said, pointing out women’s rights, access to education, and not going after former members of the collapsed Afghan security forces.

Despite the Taliban vowing to change its behavior, based on the group’s own interpretation of Islam and Sharia, Nejrabi said the proof already showed the truth. Over the weekend, the US and other Western nations blasted the Taliban after Human Rights Watch and other organizations said “summary killings and enforced disappearances of former members of the Afghan security forces” had been documented.

Paris Sharifie, an Afghan-American immigrant originally from Herat, displays a placard reading Stand With Afghans at a rally against the Taliban in Los Angeles, Aug. 21, 2021. (Reuters)
Paris Sharifie, an Afghan-American immigrant originally from Herat, displays a placard reading Stand With Afghans at a rally against the Taliban in Los Angeles, Aug. 21, 2021. (Reuters)

In the last month alone, the Taliban has ordered television channels to stop airing shows with women actors while also demanding that female TV journalists wear a hijab while on air.

“They are not responsible people, and their actions are different… than whatever they are saying the media. And whatever they are doing currently in Afghanistan is very different,” Nejrabi said.

Taliban is Pakistan’s proxy

Nejrabi was clear about his views when asked if diplomats from Pakistan, China or Russia had reached out to him or other diplomats to push the premise that the Taliban be recognized as the Afghan government.

The three countries have been at the fore of trying to convince the international community to recognize the Taliban as the new government.

The three countries have not tried to contact diplomats of the former government.

“But, yes, they are advocating for the Taliban. And, you know, the Taliban is a proxy of Pakistan,” Nejrabi said, blaming the current situation in Afghanistan on Pakistan and its intelligence services.

Taliban fighters in front of protesters during the anti-Pakistan protest in Kabul, Sept. 7, 2021. (Reuters)
Taliban fighters in front of protesters during the anti-Pakistan protest in Kabul, Sept. 7, 2021. (Reuters)

Nejrabi also hit out at Qatar for its support of the Taliban.

Washington will be diplomatically represented by Qatar in Afghanistan after a deal between the US and Doha last month.

Moving forward with no budget

So, what can the Afghan diplomats in Washington do without a government and how much longer do they have?

“Providing consular services to Afghan refugees,” he said. “They need consular services and a lot of documentation so they can file with immigration authorities [in the US],” Nejrabi said.
Nejrabi and only a handful of diplomats remain at the embassy.

Adela Raz was appointed to become Afghanistan’s next ambassador to the US. Shortly after she arrived in Washington, Kabul fell to the Taliban, and she was unable to present her credentials to US President Joe Biden.

Having no budget and no government to report back to, the remaining diplomats at the embassy are working for free and paying their own bills. They haven’t been paid in over two months, Nejrabi said.

“The thing is, it’s not about the budget… And I don’t have any financial resources to keep paying our diplomats. So, we are just here to serve those people that are really in support and of consular services, which are very important for the resettlement.”

He estimates that more than 85,000 Afghan refugees have fled to the United States since the chaotic withdrawal ordered by the White House ended a 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.

US officials have not delivered any messages that would force Nejrabi and his colleagues to vacate the embassy.

But as the already crippling financial situation gets worse, it is unclear how long they will be able to keep the doors open.

Ghani is a traitor

Asked about Ghani, the former president who popped up in the United Arab Emirates after fleeing, Nejrabi said there hadn’t been any contact since the fall of Kabul.

“And he will be treated like the Taliban [if any contact takes place]; a traitor of the Afghan people,” Nejrabi said.

A military helicopter carrying Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prepares to land near the parliament in Kabul, August 2, 2021. (Reuters)
A military helicopter carrying Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prepares to land near the parliament in Kabul, August 2, 2021. (Reuters)

Nejrabi had one final message for the Biden administration and the international community.

“Do not recognize the Taliban, a terrorist group. They are not representatives of the Afghan people. … How can you trust a terrorist group to be recognized as a legitimate government of a country?”

Read more: Taliban strike journalists covering women’s rights protest in Kabul

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