New Delhi: On the surface, it is business as usual. Embassies of Afghanistan in most parts of the world are functioning just like they did before Kabul fell to the Taliban on 15 August.
But inside, a different story is unfolding.
Not a single country has legitimised the new dispensation in Kabul, but diplomats are operating on their own, offering consular services to Afghans living abroad.
However, with Afghanistan on the brink of an economic collapse following the Taliban takeover, these diplomats who were appointed by the former Ashraf Ghani government, are living a dystopian life.
They haven’t been paid salaries for five months. There is no formal foreign ministry they report to, no minister to run the show, and, apart from salaries, there are no perks or privileges that come with the job, besides vanishing prospects of career growth.
Moreover, while some of them are seeking asylum in the US, Canada and Australia, others are waiting for the resistance movement to start.
At the Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi, consular services are being carried out for the thousands of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers as well as the expat community living here in India for higher studies, according to a former Afghan diplomat who refused to be identified.
The Afghan embassy, located in one of the national capital’s most prime locations, wears a desolate look while people can be seen queuing up at the main gate. The former national flag of Afghanistan, replaced in the country by the Taliban banner, flutters atop the building.
“We are committed to run the embassy as many of our people are here and they need help. We will continue to work and not think about what has happened back in our country but I believe eventually we all will have to leave,” said a Delhi-based Afghan diplomat who didn’t wish to be named.
According to another Afghan diplomat, the embassy in New Delhi, which boasted a nearly 22-strong diplomatic staff, now has around five-seven members as many have left India since the fall of Kabul. Some left for countries such as the UK, Turkey and other European nations, where their families are living, while some have sought asylum in Australia, Canada and the US.
The embassy in India continues to have its own emblem, logo and other stationery while a portrait of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul the day it was overrun by the Taliban, continues to adorn the walls.
After establishing an interim government in Kabul, the Taliban held a video-conference with some of the missions located around the world in September, but the majority of them skipped it, according to Afghan diplomatic sources. While the message was given to them loud and clear, these missions refused to consider the new regime as their government.
The diplomat quoted above said they believe the resistance movement spearheaded by Ahmad Massoud, leader of National Resistance Front of Afghanistan and son of slain legendary Afghan fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, will begin in 2022 and a decision will be taken then.
‘Salaries not a priority, work must go on’
Tahir Qadiry, who still holds the position of Afghanistan’s Ambassador in Poland, told ThePrint that the diplomats’ situation also depends on the host country and how they treat foreign envoys who face such a crisis back home.
Qadiry was posted in India between 2019 and early 2021 and served as Chargé d’affaires at the New Delhi embassy.
“The Afghan Embassy in Poland has been functioning like normal. We did not close down even for a day. The host country has been very supportive throughout and we are delivering all kinds of consular services, working every day to help those Afghans who have been evacuated or those who live in this region with their documentation issues,” said Qadiry.
“Humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is another serious issue. We are concerned at this moment and are advocating to draw more support. As always, our priority is how we can represent the people of Afghanistan, be their voices and help those in dire need of help at this difficult moment,” he added.
Qadiry said while the situation in Afghanistan is unfortunate, diplomats posted abroad owe it to the people back home.
“We are the envoys who have presented our credentials to the host countries. The ongoing situation in Afghanistan is very unfortunate. All of us are indebted to our nation, to that country, to that soil, we owe it to our people. Salaries are not a priority when you have bigger duties to deliver at a critical moment,” he said.
“We own the embassy’s building, and we have taken several cost-cutting measures to keep the mission functioning. Our sole focus remains on providing consular services to our people as they are going through a difficult time,” he added.
Meanwhile, the host countries are also facing a dilemma of sorts. On the one hand, they have not recognised the Taliban, and on the other, they are compelled to have dialogue with them.
India has had a dialogue with the Taliban after Kabul’s fall in Doha as well as in Moscow in order to offer humanitarian aid and assistance. Some of the countries are also tacitly supporting the resistance movement and continue to support the diplomats from the former government posted in their respective countries.
Taliban’s moves with foreign missions
In the absence of international recognition and legitimacy, the Taliban continues to act as if everything is operating normally like before, diplomatic sources told ThePrint. Kabul continues to send memos, press releases, important announcements to all its diplomatic missions but the embassies and consulates continue to reject them.
However, the Taliban government is not paying the salaries to any officials posted abroad, and is not even paying those who are working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, according to sources.
In some countries like Pakistan, the Taliban has posted one of their officials in the embassy in an “unofficial capacity”.
The Taliban in Kabul is also leaving no stone unturned to shore up international support to get recognition as well as access to the $9 billion worth of Afghan Central Bank assets that the US has frozen.
They are meeting heads of missions of the countries that still have their embassies running in Kabul as well as special envoys from other countries that have a focus on Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the Taliban government said, “Security and full conditions have been created for investment in Afghanistan, from Germany and the Netherlands and the rest of the world.”
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)