The U.N. Held a Conference on Afghanistan, but the Taliban Refused to Attend

DOHA, Qatar — The Taliban sent a defiant message to Western nations, donors and Afghan women’s groups this week, refusing to attend a conference hosted by the United Nations to discuss humanitarian crises facing Afghanistan and cooperation on human rights issues.

The two-day conference, which began on Sunday, was the second of its kind. It was held to try to chart a course forward for international engagement with the country. But the Taliban took issue with the inclusion of some groups at the meeting. Attended by special envoys from 25 countries and regional organizations, the conference is aimed at increasing international engagement with Afghanistan and developing a more coordinated response to the problems afflicting the war-torn nation.

The Taliban, the de facto rulers of Afghanistan since 2021, had been invited to the conference but at the last minute the group said it would not attend. In a statement, the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it should be the sole official representative of Afghanistan for talks with the international community and only then could engage in frank discussions. Inclusion of others would hinder progress, the statement added.

“This government of Afghanistan cannot be coerced by anyone,” it stated.

Representatives from Afghan civil society, women’s groups, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were present at the conference. Afghan political opposition parties, including the National Resistance Front, which has a small armed wing, were not invited, although they had asked to be included.

The Taliban’s decision, announced on the eve of the conference, appeared to have been made to avoid awkward conversations with Afghans living outside the country who oppose the Taliban’s exclusion of women, and political opponents inside Afghanistan, several delegates said.

“The Taliban’s refusal to participate in the Doha Conference and engage in a meaningful dialogue with all sides, especially the brave women of Afghanistan, shows the group’s lack of interest in seeking a durable political settlement,” Fawzia Koofi, a former member of the Afghan parliament, said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

“I was hopeful until last night,” said Mahbouba Seraj, a women’s rights advocate. “We are divided into two halves. it is impossible to have half of Afghanistan here and half over in Afghanistan.”

She criticized the Taliban for complaining that it was “unreasonable” to have Afghans who were not members of the Taliban included in the conference.

Human rights groups and political opponents of the Taliban, which has declared the country an Islamic Emirate, say the Afghan government should allow a pluralistic political system and include women and ethnic minorities in its government.

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