Duties and functions

Afghan envoys stranded abroad after sudden Taliban return

  • Hundreds of Afghan diplomats still living abroad
  • Many will not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government
  • The Taliban urged them to continue their tasks
  • Some say money is running out, worry about family safety

September 16 (Reuters) – The Taliban’s brutal return to power has left hundreds of Afghan diplomats abroad in limbo: strapped for cash to keep missions running, fearing for families back home and desperate to find refuge abroad.

The militant Islamist movement, which quickly toppled the West-backed Afghan government on August 15, said on Tuesday it had sent messages to all of its embassies telling diplomats to continue their work.

But eight embassy staff who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, in countries like Canada, Germany and Japan, described dysfunction and desperation in their missions.

“My colleagues here and in many countries are begging host countries to accept them,” said an Afghan diplomat in Berlin, who feared what might happen to his wife and four daughters who remain in Kabul if he let his name be used.

“I literally beg. Diplomats are ready to become refugees, ”he said, adding that he should sell everything, including a big house in Kabul, and“ start all over again ”.

Afghanistan’s missions abroad face a period of “prolonged limbo” as countries decide whether or not to recognize the Taliban, said Afzal Ashraf, international relations expert and visiting scholar at the University of Britain. Nottingham.

“What can these embassies do? They don’t represent a government. They don’t have a policy to implement,” he said, adding that embassy staff would likely be granted political asylum. for security reasons if he returned to Afghanistan.

The Taliban, who applied a strict interpretation of Islamic law with punishments such as amputations and stoning during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001, have sought to show a more conciliatory face since their return to power.

Spokespersons assured Afghans that they did not want revenge and that they would respect the rights of people, including those of women.

But reports of house-to-house searches and reprisals against former officials and ethnic minorities have made people suspicious. The Taliban have pledged to investigate any abuse.

A group of ousted government emissaries on Wednesday released a one-of-a-kind joint statement, reported by Reuters ahead of publication, calling on world leaders to deny official recognition of the Taliban.


Acting Afghan 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 keep working.

“Afghanistan has invested a lot in you, you are Afghanistan’s assets,” he said.

A senior Afghan diplomat estimated that there were around 3,000 people working in the country’s embassies or directly reporting to them.

The overthrown administration of ousted President Ashraf Ghani also wrote a letter to foreign missions on September 8 calling the new Taliban government “illegitimate” and urging embassies to “continue their normal functions and duties”.

But these calls for continuity do not reflect the chaos on the ground, embassy staff said.

“There is no money. It is not possible to operate under such circumstances. I am not paid now,” said a source at the Afghan embassy in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Two staff at the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi said they were also short of money for a mission serving thousands of Afghans who are trying to find ways to reunite with their families or need help with seek asylum in other countries.

The two staff members said they would not return to Afghanistan for fear of being targeted because of their ties to the previous government, but that they would also find it difficult to obtain asylum in India, where thousands of Afghans have spent years claiming refugee status.

“For now, I have to stay seated in the embassy premises and wait to go out to any country willing to accept me and my family,” one said.


Some Afghan envoys have openly criticized the Taliban.

Manizha Bakhtari, the country’s ambassador to Austria, regularly publishes allegations of human rights abuses by the Taliban on Twitter, while Chinese envoy Javid Ahmad Qaem warned of Taliban promises to extremist groups.

Others keep a low profile, hoping their host countries won’t rush to recognize the group and put them in danger.

Several Afghan diplomats have said they will closely follow the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week, where it is unclear who will occupy the seat of Afghanistan.

The powers of the United Nations give weight to a government, and no one has yet formally claimed the siege of Afghanistan. Any move seen as legitimizing the Taliban could empower the group to replace embassy staff with their own, diplomats said.

In Tajikistan, some embassy staff have managed to get their families across the border in recent weeks and are considering converting the embassy into residential premises to house them, a senior diplomat said there.

And, like their peers scattered across the globe, they have no intention of returning home with the Taliban returning to power.

“It is very clear that no Afghan diplomat posted abroad wishes to return,” said a senior Afghan diplomat in Japan. “We are all determined to stay where we are and perhaps many countries will accept that we are part of a government in exile.”

Reporting by Rupam Jain; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Mike Collett-White

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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