EU To “Engage” & Coordinate With The Taliban, Short Of Political Recognition: Borrell

The European Union on Friday announced that its foreign ministers will interact and coordinate with the new Taliban government in Kabul, but will stop short of “formally recognizing” it.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell told a news conference in the Slovenia capital of Ljubljana that “In order to support the Afghan population, we will have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, which doesn’t mean recognition. It’s an operational engagement.” He said this is for “the sake of the local population.”

“We have decided to work in a coordinated manner to coordinate our contact with the Taliban – including through a joint European Union presence in Kabul… if the security conditions are met,” he was cited in the Associated Press as saying.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell

This ‘coordination’ could grow deeper depending on the Taliban’s behavior and whether it meets key nonnegotiable conditions, according to the EU foreign policy chief.

Euronews lists the following: “…preventing the export of terrorism, respecting human rights, creating an inclusive government, allowing access to humanitarian aid, and allowing the departures of Afghan and European civilians who wish to leave.” 

Borrell described these as the “benchmarks that we discussed as a basis for the EU engagement with the Afghan powerholder, following the Taliban takeover. We will judge the behavior.” It will be interesting to see how elastic a definition “inclusive” government becomes when applied to the Taliban, however.

Prior to the Taliban takeover of Kabul and subsequent rapid evacuations of diplomatic offices, the EU had some 520 diplomats and supporting staffers stationed at its foreign policy service offices in the Afghan capital. Days ago the EU announced they had all been evacuated in the weeks prior. In mid-August Borrell concluded, “The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them.”

Interestingly, Borrell’s words seemed to suggest that depending on the Taliban’s “behavior” – some level of future political recognition could be forthcoming at some point down the road.

Earlier this week White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan raised eyebrows by saying something similar. He suggested that the Biden administration has not ruled out sending foreign aid direct to the Taliban so that it reaches the people. 

In the televised remarks Sullivan actually used the unsettling phrase “our economic and development assistance relationship” with the Taliban, while underscoring that “It’s going to be up to them” – emphasizing the need for Taliban ‘good behavior’ – or at least as much as one can expect for a group long viewed internationally as a hardline terror organization.