The U.S. should indicate its desire to return diplomatic personnel to Kabul and negotiate security arrangements with the Taliban. Washington should start small with minimal staff and few expectations but establish regular communication with the new regime. The Taliban’s treatment of America’s representatives would be a good test of its interest in joining the larger international order.
Over time, the U.S. should pursue a broader agenda, if practicable. An official presence might help Americans and friendly Afghans who missed the recent airlift to leave. A dialogue might reinforce pressure from other nations, such as China, to eschew support for terrorist groups. Engagement would help assess the possibility of providing humanitarian assistance to a population in such great need.
A diplomatic presence also would enhance intelligence efforts. Washington lost its eyes on the ground and contact with friendly sources. Simple observations about the regime’s behavior in Kabul would be useful. Depending on security, U.S. personnel could venture outside of the capital and, hopefully, cooperate with a larger allied contingent over time.
Most important, however, would be having an established channel for discussing important issues in an emergency. It is a sign of American arrogance that the U.S. routinely treats recognition as a reward. This view is belied by history.