Ottawa rejects Taliban bid for Afghanistan’s Canadian embassy

Ottawa has turned down the Taliban’s effort to assume control of Afghanistan’s embassy and consulates in Canada, a federal official stated as quoted by Canadian media on Monday.

The Trudeau administration did not acknowledge the Taliban’s 2022 letter, according to Global Affairs Canada spokesman Jason Kung as quoted by the National Post.

“Canada does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and will never do so,” Marilyne Guèvremont, another Global Affairs official, said as quoted by the National Post. “Canada will not receive or accredit any foreign representative appointed by the Taliban or engage in formal relations with the Taliban de facto authorities.”

This firm response highlights Canada’s refusal to acknowledge the regime that forcibly took power in 2021 and the unique situation of Afghanistan’s Canadian embassy and consulates in Toronto and Vancouver.

Since August 2021, the Afghan Republic government’s diplomats still operate Canada’s missions.

An embassy spokesperson, requesting anonymity, mentioned via email that since August 2021, the diplomats have had no communication with the current Afghan administration. Without funding from the Taliban, they have cut staff and depend on fees from consular services for the expanding Afghan diaspora in Canada. This includes issuing driver’s licenses required for Canadian licenses.

The Taliban’s request for other nations to accept its diplomats has largely been denied, the spokesperson noted, citing Canadian media.

“The Taliban lack national and international legitimacy. Their power grab was unconstitutional. Moreover, their stance on critical issues like inclusion, women’s rights, education, and international relations starkly contrasts with our values and international standards,” the spokesperson added.

Experts are divided on whether Ottawa should maintain its distance from the Taliban government. Some argue engagement is the only way Canada might influence Afghanistan’s situation, while others believe the new rulers’ oppressive and misogynistic practices are unchangeable, warning that any formal recognition could inadvertently legitimize them.

Not widely known is the Taliban’s outreach to Canada after overthrowing Afghanistan’s government, despite Canada being an opponent in a prolonged and deadly insurgency that resulted in 165 Canadian and numerous Taliban fatalities. The group remains officially designated as a terrorist organization in Canada.

On Nov. 21, 2022, the Taliban-appointed charge d’affaires in Qatar’s Afghan embassy requested Canada accept new personnel for its diplomatic missions, Kung revealed in response to inquiries from the National Post.

Canada was a significant ally of the elected Afghan government, deploying troops from 2001 and particularly in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold, from 2006 to 2011 at an estimated cost of $18 billion, in addition to over $2 billion in development aid.