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US engages with anti-Taliban group as global frustration rises against regime in Afghanistan

At an event in Tajikistan, a senior US official spoke about the country's commitment to stability in Afghanistan in the presence of an anti-Taliban resistance group.

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New Delhi: Engaging in public with anti-Taliban resistance leaders for the first time since the fall of Kabul, a senior United States diplomat has said that the superpower intends to remain committed to the stabilisation of Afghanistan, regional media reported. Karen Decker, the head of the United States embassy to Afghanistan — which is based in Doha — spoke at a conference in Tajikistan on Tuesday.

The conference — the tenth round of a series organised by the Afghan Institute of Security Studies, and the first held since the fall of the Afghan republic last year — was attended by several senior members of the Tajikistan-based National Resistance Front (NRF), a group resisting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan through armed insurgency.

Former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani was among several prominent figures from Pakistan to attend the conference, together with experts and scholars from across the world.

Ahmad Massoud — head of the National Resistance Front and son of slain Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud — spoke at the conference, calling for elections to be held in the country. “Let the people decide for themselves which kind of government they want,” he said.

Two former foreign ministers who served under former president Hamid Karzai – Rangin Spanta and Zalmay Rassoul – and former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil, were among the important Afghan figures who spoke at the conference.

Following her comments in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, an Indian official said that Decker left for Delhi to attend the latest in a series of meetings being held across the region.

“ After having let loose the Taliban and affiliated radical forces in Afghanistan,” an Indian participant suggested, “the United States wants to support opposition to contain, may be reverse the mistake.”

The United States remains the largest single provider of foreign aid to Afghanistan, contributing some $450 million to the poverty-torn country even though it has not recognised the Taliban regime.

Also read: Taliban court lashes 14 people, including 3 women, at a football stadium for ‘sins’

Cooling ties between Taliban & its allies

The conference comes amid an NRF push for global diplomatic recognition, in the midst of cooling relations between the Taliban and its allies. Last month, Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan, Muhammad Sadiq, assailed the Taliban at a multilateral conference in Moscow.

“The international community has consistently urged the interim Afghan government to promote greater political inclusivity,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is little to show on this count.”

Kremlin envoy Zamir Kabulov was also critical of the Taliban, saying it would be recognised only when they “start fulfilling the expectations of the international community on human rights and inclusion”.

Insurgents owing allegiance to Massoud have carried out multiple insurgent attacks against the Taliban, most of them in the mountainous district of Panjshir.

However,  a study by the United States Congressional Research Service assessed earlier this year that the NRF “does not appear to have either the military capabilities or the broad-based public support that would likely be necessary to seriously threaten the Taliban’s position.”

Few countries have been enthused by the prospect of financing an insurgency against the Taliban regime, fearing it could empower the Islamic State, and plunge the country into chaos.

Earlier this year, a similar conference of anti-Taliban leaders held in Vienna — including several of those who spoke in Tajikistan — did not draw officials from the United States. The NRF has, however, engaged lobbyists in the United States, as part of a push to secure diplomatic recognition.

Islamabad has been hoping Taliban would shut down sanctuaries and logistics that sustain the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, a jihadist group seeking to create a Sharia-governed state in the country’s north-west. This week, though, the TTP called off a ceasefire brokered with the ISI, and threatened to unleash nationwide terror strikes.

Also read: Pakistan Army has two loves – flag of Islam and land. Gen Bajwa’s loot isn’t new


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