Kabul has decided to withdraw its diplomatic staff in Islamabad after its ambassador's daughter was kidnapped

Afghanistan: between Taliban advance and conflict with Pakistan

REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (left) and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah (right)

Afghanistan's government is at its most critical moment. The Taliban offensive continues and is in full swing. In recent weeks, the insurgents have taken control of key border posts with neighbouring Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and even Pakistan. Faced with this situation, the Kabul government returned to the negotiating table with the Taliban in Doha, in a scenario that was quite unfavourable for the Afghan authorities

Since the United States announced last April the total withdrawal of its troops from the Central Asian country, Afghanistan has experienced an increase in violence throughout its territory. Last May, the Taliban launched an offensive and have captured more than 130 centres in different districts, mostly in the north of the country. With Afghanistan in a maelstrom of violence and instability, the Afghan government and the Taliban have reconvened in the Qatari capital to revive peace negotiations that have been completely blocked since January.


The talks in Doha have again remained "inconclusive" and, according to the Qatari mediator Mutlaq al-Qahtani, the two sides have "barely agreed" to try to "avoid civilian casualties". For his part, the head of the Afghan government's High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, wrote on his Twitter account, after the talks had ended, that both sides had agreed to "continue talks, seek a political solution to the current crisis, avoid civilian casualties, facilitate humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to deal with the pandemic caused by COVID-19".

Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, for his part, stated that his group remains committed to finding a solution to end the war, but criticised his opponents for "wasting their time". The Taliban leader made no mention of any ceasefire agreement, as had been speculated for days, on the occasion of Eid al Adha or the Celebration of Sacrifice. Once again, talks in Doha between the government in Kabul and the Taliban have reached a stalemate, while the insurgents are gaining more and more ground every day, with the Taliban claiming to control 85% of the country.


The Kabul government, in addition to having to deal with the Taliban offensive, has to deal with a new diplomatic crisis with Pakistan, which it has accused on several occasions of supporting the insurgents. A few days ago, Kabul accused Islamabad of torpedoing an offensive by Afghan forces to regain control of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan. For its part, the government in Islamabad denied these accusations and stressed "the right of the Afghan government to take action in its sovereign territory".

However, in view of the delicate situation in the Central Asian country, which is spilling over into the neighbouring country, the Kabul government has decided to withdraw its diplomatic staff in Islamabad after the daughter of its ambassador was briefly kidnapped and tortured. Afghanistan's foreign ministry has said that the ambassador and the rest of its diplomatic staff will remain in Kabul until the perpetrators of the kidnapping "are punished by the Pakistani government and the Afghan ambassador and the safety of diplomatic staff in Pakistan is ensured". Pakistan's envoy in Kabul, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, has also been summoned by the ministry on the matter.

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The Pakistan government has described Kabul's decision to withdraw all its diplomatic personnel from the country as "unfortunate" and said it was doing everything possible to investigate the case. "The security of the ambassador, his family, and the staff of the Afghan embassy and consulates in Pakistan has been tightened," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

The kidnapping of the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan comes amid high tensions between the two countries after Afghanistan's first vice-president, Amrullah Salé, accused Islamabad of providing support to the Taliban.