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EU preparing to "normalize" relations with Taliban

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

The “new reality” of Afghanistan seems to be setting in all over the world. When we began our evacuation and the Taliban immediately and forcibly seized power, other world leaders didn’t seem to know how to respond at first. But now that the debacle in Kabul has slowed to a simmer, governments everywhere are wrestling with the subject of how to proceed moving forward. That includes the European Union as a whole. They pulled all of their diplomats out of Afghanistan when the final surge began, but now they are releasing a list of “conditions” that the Taliban will have to meet if they want to reestablish relations and qualify for humanitarian aid. So in less than two weeks, the Taliban have gone from being properly viewed by the world as a terrorist pariah state to having the EU declare that they are “willing to cooperate” with them, provided they behave themselves. (Associated Press)

European Union officials on Friday listed a set of conditions for defining the EU’s level of engagement with the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, including respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Following the Afghan government’s collapse last month, the 27-nation bloc and its member countries have evacuated their diplomats from Afghanistan. But EU officials have said they are willing to cooperate with the Taliban now that they have returned to power.

The EU is focusing on delivering humanitarian aid, guaranteeing the safe passage out of the country of Afghan collaborators and employees who were left behind during the airlifts from Kabul, and trying to prevent a mass exodus of refugees that could prompt another migration crisis in Europe.

The conditions that the EU is setting for future normalization aren’t all that unusual and probably wouldn’t be an issue if we were talking about anyone besides the Taliban. They are looking for assurances that Afghanistan won’t be allowed to turn into a launching point for international terrorist activities. That should be a fine trick to pull off since they already brought in one known terrorist to a hero’s welcome who will hold a position of power.

The EU also wants the Taliban to ensure that human rights, including those for women, are respected as will be the rule of law. I’d love to know who is going to be monitoring those parameters going forward. You would probably have better luck trying to assure human rights in western China these days. In fact, you could argue that the Taliban’s track record is even worse.

They are also calling for the creation of “an inclusive transition government.” I’m not sure how they plan on defining that, but the Taliban are already appointing leaders, provincial governors and brute squads to monitor the population. But in return, assuming the Taliban does all of these things, the EU is still earmarking more than a billion euros for them over the next three years. What are the odds that the money won’t be delivered anyway as long as the Taliban’s new public relations wing offers some assurances that everything is going to work out just fine?

Also mentioned by the EU was the Taliban’s promise to let anyone who is in fear for their lives leave the country peacefully. Of course, they don’t even know if or when they’ll be able to fully reopen the airport and the roads to all of the border crossings are death traps. But don’t let a little thing like that slow you down, right? And we keep hearing reports of Taliban fighters going door to door with “lists” of people who cooperated with the Americans, but perhaps that’s just so they know where to send all of the thank you cards.

One of the more disgusting results of this botched evacuation will be the “normalization” of the Taliban as some form of legitimate government and the European Union appears prepared to lead the way toward that outcome. Even if the Taliban were to go through the motions of holding some sort of election, I wouldn’t trust the results as far as I could throw one of the helicopters we left behind for them. But the sad reality is that you may be looking at what will become the new status quo in that part of the world. It’s too depressing for words.