Eight Taliban officials embark on foreign trips over 12 days

In the past twelve days, and ahead of the third Doha talks scheduled for June 30, eight senior Taliban officials have embarked on a series of foreign trips.

These travels have spanned five countries: two trips to Russia, one to Qatar, one to Saudi Arabia, and one to the United Arab Emirates.

On May 29, Abdul Manan Omari, the brother of the late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, traveled to Qatar. His visit, aimed at meeting Qatari officials to address labor issues, coincided with preparations for the third Doha meeting on Afghanistan, according to informed sources.

Following his trip to Qatar, Omari attended the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in Russia on June 5 at Moscow’s invitation.

This visit occurred as Taliban-Russia relations warmed ahead of the Doha talks. Russia’s foreign minister previously stated that Moscow plans to follow Kazakhstan’s lead in removing the Taliban from its list of terrorist organizations.

In another significant move, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s acting interior minister who is wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation with a $10 million bounty on his head, visited Abu Dhabi with his brother Anas Haqqani and Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s intelligence chief. They met with the president of the United Arab Emirates.

Subsequently, four Taliban officials, including Abdul Kabir, the Taliban’s deputy prime minister for political affairs, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noor Mohammad Saqib, the Taliban’s acting minister for Hajj and Religious Affairs, traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. The United Nations’ sanctions committee temporarily lifted travel bans on these officials to allow their participation.

The fifth trip that drew attention occurred when Taliban ministers for education and higher education attended a conference in Kazan, Russia, despite schools and universities for girls remaining closed in Afghanistan.

A number of activists warned that any engagement with the Taliban should not come at the cost of ignoring the plight of the Afghan people, especially women and girls.

“Inviting Taliban officials while women’s and girls’ rights are being violated, and ethnic and religious minorities are oppressed, demonstrates a conflict between human rights values and political and economic interests,” Women’s rights activist Seema Noori said.

Taliban view these trips as signs of international engagement with them. However, many citizens urge the global community not to forget the dire situation of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls.

One Kabul resident said, “Hosting the Taliban for personal interests should not overshadow the increasing poverty in Afghanistan. Efforts should be made to address poverty, reopen schools, and universities.”

Another Kabul resident remarked, “The world should pressure the Taliban to lift restrictions, but some countries are ignoring these issues by inviting the Taliban.”

These travels come ahead of the third round of Doha talks on Afghanistan scheduled for June 30. Some believe these trips are preparations for the Doha meeting, while others see them as political concessions the Taliban have gained from regional and Western rivalries.