Future engagement with Taliban ‘must be pragmatic and judged by actions’

·4-min read

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and other officials are set to focus on future engagement with the Taliban in a bid to find an international consensus on how to deal with Afghanistan’s new regime.

A series of diplomatic meetings are planned for the coming days, after the UK pulled its final troops and diplomatic staff out of Afghanistan on Saturday.

Diplomatic sources suggested Mr Raab would be setting out how the response to the Taliban must be pragmatic and based on the group’s actions.

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
UK military personnel arrive from Afghanistan at RAF Brize Norton (SAC Samantha Holden RAF/MoD/PA)

The Government has previously insisted that how the new regime in Afghanistan would be received and engaged with was a decision that had to be made in agreement with international partners.

Mr Raab will on Monday take part in a meeting with G7 counterparts, Nato, Qatar and Turkey.

He is expected to underline how Afghanistan must not become a haven for terrorists, and that stability in the region must be a priority.

He will also stress the need to hold the Taliban to account on their human rights promises.

Top of the agenda is expected to be the Taliban’s promise to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans authorised to enter third countries.

It follows a statement from the UK and more than 90 other countries and organisations that said assurances had been received to this effect from the Taliban.

The Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghan transition, Sir Simon Gass, will also push the same messages in Doha.

The pledge is particularly important amid fears that the numbers of Afghans left behind who may be eligible for resettling was far higher than Government estimates.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy wrote to Mr Raab on Sunday to explain how Labour MPs alone had 5,000 potential cases in their inboxes.

She warned the Government was working with a “serious underestimate”.

Labour leadership contest
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy. (Jane Barlow/PA)

She said: “My office is currently tracking cases related to 5,000 people from Labour MPs alone, including British nationals, high-profile public figures, people with serious disabilities and children separated from their families, which may give a sense of the complexity of evacuation.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s UN ambassador will discuss the situation with her counterparts from the four other permanent member countries of the UN Security Council, China, France, Russia, and the United States.

It is understood the influence that especially Russia and China could have over the new Afghan government could be key to countering terrorism and narcotics, preventing a refugee crisis and averting further economic collapse.

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Prime Minister Boris Johnson observes the operations room for the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy. (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday: “Though we now leave with the United States, we will remain represented in the region.

“Together with our allies in America and Europe and around the world, we will engage with the Taliban not on the basis of what they say but what they do.

“If the new regime in Kabul wants diplomatic recognition, or to unlock the billions that are currently frozen, they will have to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave the country, to respect the rights of women and girls, to prevent Afghanistan from, again, becoming an incubator for global terror, because that would be disastrous for Afghanistan.”

It comes after the Government faced criticism for its response to the Afghanistan crisis.

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
The final UK troops and diplomatic staff were airlifted from Kabul on Saturday (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Labour has accused ministers of being “missing in action”.

On Saturday, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee and Tory MP Tom Tugendhat described the UK’s efforts to withdraw people from Afghanistan as a “sprint finish after a not exactly sprint start”.

On Sunday former head of the British Army General Lord Richard Dannatt said it was “unfathomable why it would appear that the Government was asleep on watch”.

“We should have done better, we could have done better. It absolutely behoves us to find out why the Government didn’t spark up faster,” he told Times Radio.

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