The United Nations’ review of its operations in Afghanistan is anticipated to be finished on Friday.
The UN-organised conference on Afghanistan in Doha has been described by the Taliban administration as “ineffective” due to their absence, the group said.
The meeting is centred around the dire humanitarian situation in the South Asian nation and the ruling Taliban party’s exclusion from international relations, however recognition of the group was not on the table, a UN source told Al Jazeera on Monday.
Representatives from approximately 25 nations and groups, including ambassadors from the United States, China and Russia, as well as significant European aid donors and neighbours such as Iran and Pakistan, were invited to the private negotiations in the Qatari capital, Doha.
However, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric confirmed the UN secretary-general has not extended an invitation to the de facto authorities.
“Any meeting about Afghanistan without the participation of the Afghan government is ineffective and counterproductive,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban foreign ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
Speculation over a possible recognition of the acting government emerged on Monday after the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed hinted towards “baby steps” in recognising the Taliban.
The remarks forced the UN to clarify that the meeting would not be centred on international recognition of the Taliban administration.
Dujarric said the meeting in Doha is instead geared towards a focus on reigniting “the international engagement around common objectives for a durable way forward on the situation in Afghanistan”.
In a statement on Sunday, the UN said the objective covered in the meeting was focused on achieving “a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban” on issues including “human rights, in particular women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive governance, countering terrorism and drug trafficking.”
Pushback from Afghan women
Prior to the meeting took in Doha, Afghan women took to the streets of Kabul to demonstrate for their fundamental rights to work and education, as well as denounce the UN for holding discussions that, in their opinion, could result in the Taliban receiving new levels of recognition.
The demonstrators chanted, “we will fight, we will die to get back our basic rights,” throughout the protest. Similar gatherings emerged in Pakistan, the United States and other European countries.
One such frustrated protestor directly addressed Guterres, saying: “Antonio Guterres, stop supporting the Taliban. The Doha meeting is a repeated mistake. Recognising the Taliban is equal to murdering women in Afghanistan,” as per clips shared with CBS News of the protest in Kabul.
“Women are being erased from all social and political process in Afghanistan,” Fawzia Koofi, who served as the first female deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament and worked a peace negotiator with the Taliban told CBS News.
“We have always campaigned to international agencies to include women meaningfully in all the process, because we believe meaningful inclusion of women will send a strong signal to the Taliban that the world is serious about women and human rights in Afghanistan.”
A coalition of Afghan women groups stated in an open letter on Sunday that they were “outraged” that any country would explore official ties in light of the government’s track record on women’s rights.
To date, the Taliban-led administration has not been recognised by any country since it seized power in 2021.
Last year, the UN General Assembly approved a postponement of Kabul’s request to appoint an ambassador at the intergovernmental organisation for the second time.
The exclusion of the unrecognised government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) representatives, according to Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s designated UN envoy, was “discriminatory and unjustified.”
The IEA, the key party involved in the matter, must attend the UN meeting, according to Shaheen, in order to tackle the problems the country is currently suffering.
“How a decision taken at such meetings can be acceptable or implemented while we are not part of the process?” he asked.
For the international community to interact with Afghanistan, the Doha meeting is essential.
The meeting is being held as the UN is anticipated to review its crucial relief effort in Afghanistan following the denial of employment to Afghan women by the international organisation.
The UN has stated that it must make an “appalling choice” regarding whether to continue running its sizeable operation in the country or not. The review is anticipated to be finished on Friday.
Pressure on the Taliban
In recent years, Doha has doubled down on its calls on the interim Afghan administration to allow Afghan women and girls to pursue education following the Taliban’s introduction of oppressive measures.
Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister said in January that Doha has been in contact with the interim government to understand the rationale behind the restrictive policies towards women and girls.
The top diplomat told CNBC at the time that Doha cannot see such policies rationalised from either a religious or cultural perspective, and confirmed his country was involved in consultations with other Muslim nations to “deal” with the situation.
“It’s just more and more provoking and making the situation much worse for them and for the Afghan people, we’ve been trying to reach out recently after these decisions take place. We’ve been trying also through other means jointly with other Muslim countries to talk to them and to go together,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.
The Qatari official also vowed that Doha will stand with and support the women in Afghanistan.
“We will not exert any effort in order to make sure that we are helpful for them and to make sure that these kinds of decisions are not happening,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Qatar’s engagement in Afghanistan
Qatar has hosted the Taliban’s political office in Doha since 2012 and has served as a key mediator between the group and the former Afghan administration as well as the west.
The Gulf state has become a platform for dialogue between the international community and the Taliban, especially in the aftermath of the group’s 2021 takeover of Kabul.
Since, Doha has repeatedly called on the international community to avoid isolating Afghanistan, urging them to prioritise the need to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.
Most notably, the Gulf state managed to bring the former Afghan government and the Taliban to the table of negotiations in 2020 in an effort to reach a peaceful settlement.
During the same year, Qatar brought officials from Washington and the Taliban together following more than a decade of war to produce the Doha Agreement.
Following the military takeover of the nation, the Taliban was accused of breaking the terms of the Doha Agreement, but the group has defended its action.
It claims that the Doha Agreement’s spirit is being violated by international sanctions and its isolation while upholding its commitment to prevent armed organisations like ISIL (ISIS) from using Afghanistan as a base of operations.