This month, the Qatari Prime Minister met in secret with the Taliban supreme leader to discuss resolving tension with the international community, according to a source briefed on the meeting.
Reuters reported that this meeting signalled a willingness by Afghanistan’s rulers to discuss ways to end their isolation.
The meeting between Haibatullah Akhunzada and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on May 12 in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar is the first one the reclusive Taliban leader is known to have had with a foreign leader.
During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammad raised with Akhundzada included the need to end a Taliban ban on girls’ education and women’s employment and address the humanitarian crisis, the report said.
Since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, they imposed several decrees that restricted women’s employment and education, hampered humanitarian aid on the one hand and are a major reason why no country has recognized their rule on the other hand.
Meanwhile, a UN report delivered in March at the Human Rights Council in Geneva suggested that the way the Taliban treated women and girls would qualify as a crime against humanity. While the Taliban say, they respect women’s rights in accordance with their view of Islamic law and Afghan traditions.
Akhundzad, the supreme leader of the Taliban, has not shown little willingness to compromise on his edicts.
The Taliban in March 2022 barred girls from high schools and extended the ban to universities in December.
They say they will reopen secondary schools to girls when “conditions” have been met, including devising an Islamic syllabus.
The source said Sheikh Mohammed and Akhunzada also discussed efforts to remedy Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.
According to the UN, nearly 75 per cent of Afghanistan’s 40 million people need assistance, and the organization has warned that financing is running out.
According to the source, Sheikh Mohammed brought up with Akhunzada the “continued efforts on the ground” being made by the Taliban to combat terrorism, which is likely a reference to Kabul’s efforts to annihilate an ISIS offshoot.
In 2013, Qatar let the Taliban establish a political office in Doha. It helped their negotiations with the US, which resulted in the 2020 agreement for the withdrawal of the international force under US leadership that they had opposed for 20 years.
Qatar has long pushed the international community to adopt a “roadmap” outlining the steps the Taliban must take to obtain recognition, claiming that isolating Afghanistan could deteriorate regional security.
However, the US and its allies say the Taliban harbour members of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). The Taliban authorities deny that, Reuters reported.