The six countries that share borders with Afghanistan have reasons to be most concerned about developments under the Taliban. Pakistan and China have worries about the terrorist networks operating from Afghanistan. Iran fears that sectarian preferences could lead the Taliban to neglect or even persecute the Shia community in Afghanistan. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan feel concerned about the future of the non-Pashtun ethnic communities living in Afghanistan. After a virtual meeting of their foreign ministers, the six Afghan neighbours unanimously called on the Taliban to speed up an inclusive and broadly representative government that resolutely combats all forms of terrorist forces.
China and Pakistan also announced humanitarian assistance for the hard-pressed Afghans. None of the six countries was however willing to recognize the Afghan government at this stage which, besides elevating some of the internationally sanctioned Taliban leaders to the rank of cabinet ministers, also remained non-inclusive. Pakistan’s call to make Afghanistan a part of the group of six went unheeded.
The Taliban leadership is reportedly divided into rival groups which explains why forming the interim cabinet took more time than expected. There is reportedly more flexibility among some of the Taliban leaders than most of the Taliban commanders. It is for the Taliban leadership to resolve these differences at the earliest so as to be able tackle the grave economic situation in Afghanistan. Even before the Taliban took over the war-torn country, its economy was demand-driven and supply-constrained, with an enormous fiscal gap and very weak government revenues. With its assets frozen by the USA and the World Bank and IMF discontinuing their programmes, Afghanistan is staring down the abyss of complete economic and financial collapse. The end of development activities, the closure of several private sector concerns, a ban on women working and the failure of the government to make payments to its employees can lead to unprecedented urban unrest which can go out of control if ethnic and sectarian fault lines also get activated.
The Taliban have to put their act together, pronto. With an inclusive government in place following a moderate policy and taking out terrorist networks, it would be easier for the international community and international financial institutions to help out the country.