Would you recognize the Taliban?

Would you recognize the Taliban?

The Taliban have returned to power in Afghanistan after two decades. Over the next few weeks and months, a host of foreign nations with a stake in the country's future will have to make a very tough choice: grant legitimacy to a regime that has committed atrocities against its own people, or risk the potential fallout of turning Afghanistan into the isolated, drug-running state sponsor of terror it was prior to US occupation. For some, the decision will depend on how the Taliban behave, while others seem to have already made up their mind.

Here are a few arguments on both sides of the international recognition debate.


A fundamentalist, violent regime that writes off women and girls is unacceptable to those who value human rights. For democratic governments, doing business with the Taliban is an absolute non-starter because they know that whatever they say now, they'll keep women and girls at home, take them out of school, and beat them if necessary to preserve their ultra-conservative brand of political Islam. Afghan women already fear the worst is yet to come once the foreigners leave.

The Taliban hosted the terrorists who planned 9/11, and will do it again given the chance. Al-Qaeda may not be as militarily strong as it was in 2001, but its leaders and fighters are still being protected by the Taliban. After all, the whole point of the US staying in Afghanistan so long was precisely to prevent the Taliban from allowing terrorists to use Afghan territory as a base from which to attack America and other Western countries.

They can't be trusted. The Taliban repeatedly violated the terms of the 2020 peace agreement brokered by the Trump administration by attacking US troops. Who'll believe them now when the Taliban insist they'll respect women's rights — albeit under their own interpretation of sharia law — and renounce all support for terrorism?

Can the Taliban even run Afghanistan without US cash? Actually governing an entire country is way more complicated and expensive than holding territory at gunpoint, which is all the group has achieved so far. If America delays recognition and keeps US-held Afghan government assets frozen, the Taliban will struggle to just keep the lights on. With the value of local currency in freefall and the head of the central bank gone, it's hard to imagine how the Taliban will stay in power for long if they can't pay the bills.

In favor

Mutual self-interest. For some outside players, there is much more to gain than to lose from Taliban recognition: pragmatist China seeks to make money building infrastructure and extracting minerals, while Pakistan is happy to have the US out, despite some big domestic risks. In exchange, the Taliban would ensure access and security for Chinese projects, and keep tabs on the resurgent Pakistani Taliban on their porous border.

If you don't antagonize them, the Taliban can stop terrorists from attacking you. Former enemy Russia is already engaging the Taliban to ensure they don't give safe haven to militants targeting Russia and the Muslim-majority former Soviet republics in Central Asia. China too is worried about instability on its own borders, and about Uighur separatists who used to be friendly with the Taliban.

No one wants a refugee crisis. Among neighboring countries, Iran for instance may offer recognition if the Sunni Taliban agree to not go after Shia ethnic minorities the Iranians can't take in. If you're the EU, doing everything in your power to stabilize Afghanistan might lessen — however slightly — the odds that countless Afghans will want to seek asylum in Europe, where they're also not wanted.

On the other hand, starving the Taliban could make them (even) more dangerous. For 20 years, the group funded its insurgency against the Afghan government mainly through the lucrative drug trade and illegal mining. The flip side of putting economic pressure on the Taliban is that if state coffers run dry, Afghanistan could become a narco-state run from the very top that already corners the global market for heroin.

What do you think? Let us know here.
People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
More Show less
The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever default on its sovereign debt. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: Deep in the red with China

The pandemic has thrown many already-indebted countries further into the red. The problem is two-pronged for many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. They have taken on huge amounts of debt from the IMF to weather pandemic-related economic uncertainty, while also being caught up in a debt trap set by China, which funds large infrastructure projects in developing states but often with complex or misleading fine print. We take a look at which countries out of a group of 24 surveyed states owe China the most compared to their respective IMF debts.

Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he walks to address supporters upon arrival at Zhulyany airport in Kyiv, Ukraine January 17, 2022.

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko – who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 – has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression.

More Show less
The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

More Show less
A newborn baby is seen being cared for in the ward of the hospital neonatal care center. The results of the seventh national census of China will be released soon, and some institutions predict that the birth rate will be lower than the death rate for the first time.

7.52: Birth rates in China dropped to a record low 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, down from 10.41 in 2019. This comes as the Chinese Communist Party is trying very hard to boost birth rates to revive a slowing economy.

More Show less

China’s homegrown COVID vaccines were once crucial — but they're not as effective against omicron as mRNA jabs.

What's more, with with local cases near zero for the better part of the pandemic, most Chinese have no natural immunity. That could spell disaster for Beijing as omicron surges.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the highly transmissible new variant will make zero COVID harder and harder to sustain.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal