Mid-level Taliban delegation visits Indonesia to ‘boost ties’

A mid-level Taliban delegation visited Indonesia this month in a bid to boost relations and gain support for international recognition.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah confirmed that the Taliban were in Jakarta for “internal activities with their mission.” They did not meet with the foreign ministry, Faizasyah told Nikkei Asia.

Deputy director and head of the South Asia terrorism desk at the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism, Faran Jeffery, said the Taliban believe there are Islamic groups in Muslim countries — including Indonesia and Malaysia — who could be persuaded to hear its side of the story and “perhaps be convinced” to lobby their respective government in favor of it.

He said: “This [trip] not only includes pushing for recognition of the Taliban regime but also encouraging these countries to invest in Afghanistan and provide aid to the Afghan people.”

To date, no countries have officially recognized the Taliban regime. Faizasyah meanwhile told Nikkei Asia that Jakarta is not in a position to fully recognize the Taliban at the moment, adding that there are “certain expectations” to be met.

“We anticipate a process for internal reconciliation, a process of more democratization, and better access to education for women,” said Faizasyah.

Nishank Motwani, Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School meanwhile said the Taliban leadership considers international legitimacy as “nice to have but not a must-have.”

“That distinction is vital for understanding their motives for their international outreach, which is to shore up a failing economy to protect their economic interests as opposed to helping Afghans,” he said.

Nishank noted that the Taliban’s overtures were driven by the need to “circumvent international sanctions” and pressure “host nations and the former Afghan government’s diplomats operating overseas missions to take Taliban representatives, or replace them entirely with Taliban officials.”

To this end, the Taliban believe they can influence Muslim nations in various ways. “The Taliban can exploit religious fault lines in Indonesia and Malaysia and other Muslim nations… meaning they can host, recruit or train fighters contesting these governments, as well as provide access to an industry of violent extremists and their radicalized beliefs.” Nishank told Nikkei.

The Taliban has however repeatedly declared it will not allow any terror organizations to operate in Afghanistan.