© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A flag from Afghanistan is seen flying outside of the Afghan Embassy in Washington on August 15, 2021, the same day that Taliban insurgents invaded Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo
By Rupam Jain
(Reuters) – The Taliban’s abrupt return to power has left hundreds of Afghan diplomats overseas in limbo: running out of money to keep missions operating, fearful for families back home and desperate to secure refuge abroad.
According to the Islamist militant organization, that quickly overthrew Afghanistan’s Western-backed government last August 15, it said Tuesday that messages were sent to embassies asking them to carry on their work.
But eight embassy staff who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, in countries including Canada, Germany and Japan, described dysfunction and despair at their missions.
An Afghan diplomat living in Berlin said that his colleagues in Afghanistan and many other countries have been pleading for host nation acceptance. He also said that he was worried about his four children, his wife, and the fate of his family who now live in Kabul.
“I literally am begging. He said that diplomats were willing to be refugees, but it would mean selling everything including his large Kabul house and having to “start over.”
Afzal Ashraf is an expert in international relations and visiting fellow at the University of Nottingham. He said that Afghanistan’s overseas missions face “prolonged uncertainty” while countries make decisions about whether or not to recognize the Taliban.
“What are those embassies supposed to do?” They are not a government. “They don’t know how to make a government work,” he explained, noting that diplomatic staff will likely be granted political asylum if they go back to Afghanistan.
After imposing a strict Islamic interpretation with punishments like stonings or amputations under their former rule, the Taliban are now trying to present a more conciliatory side.
Spokespeople assured Afghans they were not seeking revenge and would respect all rights.
However, there have been reports about house-to–house searches as well as reprisals against ex-officials and minorities. Taliban officials have pledged to investigate allegations of abuses.
A joint statement by Reuters and the Taliban’s deposed government’s envoys was issued Wednesday. The release came before its public release.
‘THERE IS NO MONEY’
Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that the Taliban had sent messages to all Afghan embassies telling them to continue work.
He said, “Afghanistan invested a lot in you a few years ago. You are now assewts to Afghanistan.”
A senior Afghan diplomat estimates that there are around 3,000 persons who either work at the embassies of Afghanistan or depend on them.
On Sept. 8, the toppled government of Ashraf Ghani also wrote a letter to foreign missions calling the Taliban’s current government “illegitimate” while urging them to “continue with their normal functions, duties.”
The embassy staff stated that these demands for consistency do not reflect chaos on the ground.
There is not enough money. Under such circumstances, it’s impossible for you to work. According to a source from the Afghan Embassy in Ottawa, I’m not getting paid right now.
New Delhi, two Afghan staffers at the embassy said they also ran out cash to support a mission that serves thousands of Afghans trying to return home with their families and apply for asylum elsewhere.
The staffers stated they were not going to return to Afghanistan due to fears of being attacked by the current government. They also said they could struggle to seek asylum in India, where many Afghans have fled for refugee status over the years.
The other stated, “I need to simply sit still for now inside the embassy premises. I will wait to leave to any nation willing to receive me and my family.”
GOVERNMENT IN EXILE
Some of Afghanistan’s envoys have openly criticised the Taliban.
Manizha Bakhtari, the country’s Austria ambassador, regularly posts allegations of human rights abuses by the Taliban on Twitter (NYSE:) https://twitter.com/BakhtariManizha, while China envoy Javid Ahmad Qaem warned against believing Taliban promises https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/beware-taliban-promises-afghanistan-envoy-china-warns-2021-08-06 on extremist groups.
Other diplomats are lowly hoping their hosts won’t rush to recognize the group, and place them at risk.
Several Afghan diplomats said they would be closely watching the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week where there is uncertainty https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-faces-rival-claims-myanmar-seat-doubts-over-afghanistan-2021-09-13 over who will fill Afghanistan’s seat.
The United Nations gives weight to governments, but no government has claimed Afghanistan’s seat. The diplomats suggested that any act seen to legitimize Taliban may give them the power to replace staff at embassy offices with their own.
Some embassy staff in Tajikistan managed to get their families over the border recently and the diplomats are looking into converting the building to a residential space to accommodate them.
They are not planning to go home, as their peers scattered around the world.
A senior Afghan diplomat living in Japan stated that “it’s clear that not one Afghan diplomat overseas wants to return.” “We’re all determined to stay put and may many countries accept that we’re part of exiled governments.”