13 Feb

When the Taliban took power in Kabul in August 2021, many countries in the world expressed grave concern for the citizens of Afghanistan whose fate was sealed under the rule of a terrorist organization. About sixty countries published a joint statement expressing responsibility for human life, and their property, and restoring the Afghan people’s sense of security. After about two decades of the Taliban fighting as an opposition to the Afghan government, which enjoyed the support of NATO and the United States, the organization returned to control the poor country and the war-torn country in South Central Asia. The Taliban, notorious from its previous reign that ended in the 1990s for supporting al-Qaeda, discriminating against women and minorities, and holding a radical Sunni Islamic ideology, tried to fend off the international fire, saying this time would be different. Well, although the ranks of Taliban 2.0 were indeed rumbling, a “peace” agreement in Afghanistan (Doha agreement) was signed between the Taliban and the Americans in May 2020, and time passed Ever since the Taliban ruled Kabul, it seemed from the beginning that there was nothing new under the sun. With the withdrawal of the foreign forces, the Americans and other sources reported that despite the Doha agreement, the Taliban still maintains close relations with al-Qaeda. Supporters of the retired pro-American administration of Ghani were executed, and reports of violence against minorities and the violation of women’s rights were not long in coming. The policies of the terrorist organization resulted in it not being recognized de jure (by law) by any country in the world, which caused the economic situation in the country to worsen, which was already bad before.

Nevertheless, there were those who saw the rise of the Islamist organization to power together with the departure of the foreign forces from Afghanistan, in a positive light. Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighbour to the east, has supported the organization over the years, whether overtly or not, seeing it as having “strategic depth” and ideological-religious similarities. China, another neighbour of Afghanistan, and Russia, drowned in the Afghan mud in its previous form, saw the American Withdrawal as an American strategic failure, and perhaps also as an opportunity to fill its vacuum. But even those, who didn’t recognize the Taliban as sovereign in Kabul and preferred to align themselves with the international position, and as of the beginning of 2023, remain in their position. However, a year and a half after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, it is possible to see the first buds of ties between the organization and certain countries, each of which has a different interest. It seems that formal recognition of the Taliban as the ruler in Kabul doesn’t hesitate countries to recognize it de facto, by emerging economic-diplomatic ties under the guise of humanitarian activity. This article will briefly analyze the emerging relations between the Taliban and India, China, Qatar, and Türkiye in order to understand what stands behind them and conclude how they can change in the future.


On June 2, 2022, for the first time since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Indian diplomats met with their Taliban counterparts in Kabul in order to discuss the relations between the two countries, their trade affairs, and humanitarian aid. Following the meeting, New Delhi announced its intention to reopen its embassy in Kabul for humanitarian purposes, becoming the fourth non-Muslim country to do so, after China, Japan, and Russia.

However, apart from the opening of the embassy, an equally important statement was provided by the spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Taliban, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, after the meeting: “…Stanekzai thanked the Indian government for its humanitarian aid and assured the Indian side that Afghanistan, considering its balanced foreign policy, seeks enhanced political, economic and cultural relations with India as an important regional country.”

Abdul’s statement points to an important policy change in the Taliban government, from a purely religious ideological view to strategic flexibility. It was reasonable to assume that the deep conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir and the reports of Muslim discrimination in India over the past year would cause the Islamist organization to see New Delhi as the enemy of Islam. The Taliban 2.0 decided to change its direction after considering its strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan when on the one hand desperate for trade to revive its moribund economy, and on the other hand, see India as an emerging eastern regional power that maintains close ties with the West while Pakistan faces a deep economic crisis. From the Taliban’s point of view, India can revive and even expand its investments and trades in Afghanistan before the withdrawal, without interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs excessively. As mentioned, the Taliban has proven that it will not compromise on the principles of the Islamic regime and therefore did not rush, despite the economic crisis in the country, to receive non-humanitarian aid from foreign countries. Over the years, India has demonstrated its consistent support for Afghanistan, which was expressed, among other things, in the donation of approximately 3 billion dollars “for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan”, 500 projects of energy, water, roads, agriculture, and education, which makes it perceived by the Taliban as an important and stable long-term partner. Indeed, in early November 2022, the Taliban reported that air trade between Afghanistan and India had been reopened, which should ease the sanctioned Afghan economy.

In this context, it is important to understand that the Indian coin has another side- Pakistan. The country that was perceived as the patron, or closest ally of the Taliban until August 2021, found herself under an unprecedented terrorist attack from the Taliban’s little brother, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). The TTP, which was established in 2007, to make Pakistan a Sharia (Islamic Law) country, holds the same ideology as the Afghan Taliban and has common roots. Following the Taliban’s success in Afghanistan, the TTP gained unprecedented momentum, expanding its ranks by hundreds of percent, and increasing the scope of its attacks by over 50%. Initially, the Afghan Taliban tried to mediate between the TTP and the Pak government, which stopped after several failed negotiations. Pakistan claims that TTP operatives enjoy the freedom of action and assistance from the Taliban, on Afghan soil, claims that the Taliban strongly denied. The TTP attacks, which mostly took place near the Af-Pak border created tensions between the Taliban and Islamabad that led to the exchange of violent statements between the parties. The Taliban sees Islamabad as seeking to challenge the organization’s sovereignty in Afghanistan, as it did when it helped an American drone attack the former leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan (without the Taliban’s permission, of course) in July 2022. In this context, the Taliban, therefore, does not recognize the Durand Line, which separates the countries, given that on both sides lives a Pashtun majority, the same minority that leads the Taliban.

The Taliban-Pakistani conflict is pushing the Taliban to tighten its ties with New Delhi, which benefits from them in several ways:

Strategically – as an ally of the United States and close to the West, India is increasing its importance as an important player in Afghanistan. A great achievement against Pakistan

Security – the possibility of strengthening cooperation with the Taliban facing the increasing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan.

Economically – the return of investments in Afghanistan and the possibility of their expansion. Those benefits are carried out pragmatically on both sides while India does not officially recognize the Taliban and avoids international criticism.


Shortly after the Taliban seized power in Kabul, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said at a press conference, that Beijing is willing to continue developing good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan and play a role in its peace and reconstruction. Some wondered whether China, the Asian power, would step into the American shoes in Afghanistan, and increase its influence in the country. However, Chinese policy on the surface proved otherwise. On the one hand, in recent years China has been increasing its activities in Asia within the framework of The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while considering Afghanistan as a strategic territory for it. Afghanistan has valuable natural resources, such as gas, oil, and copper, which are worth an estimated trillion dollars. On the other hand, China has first of all security interests in Afghanistan. The fact that the Taliban supports the terrorist organization ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) which operates against China, especially in the Xinjiang province bordering Afghanistan, caused Beijing to take a step back in relations with the Taliban. At the same time, China (like many countries) continued to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and kept its embassy open in Kabul. This Chinese presence in Kabul is important, not only for reasons of security within China itself but also in the context of Chinese projects abroad. In Pakistan, for example, China is investing about 62 billion dollars, in the CPEC Corridor, which is supposed to reduce its dependence on the countries of the Middle East and open a land corridor to the Arabian Sea. Pakistani terrorist organizations, some of which originate from Afghanistan, are harming the Chinese works and threatening to cause great damage to the project.

On the other hand, the Taliban which is averse to foreign interference in its internal affairs was in no hurry to reach out to China as it did with India. Nevertheless, in January 2023, China and the Taliban signed the first energy agreement since August 2021, probably in light of the Afghan economic crisis. The agreement for oil drilling in central Afghanistan refers to the next 25 years and symbolizes the first mutual commitment between the parties. The flexibility in the Taliban’s policy that reality dictates will lead to the signing of more agreements later with China, which will continue to put the security interest in Afghanistan at the top of its agenda.


Since 2013, Qatar has played an important role as a mediator between the Taliban and the world. A joint initiative between the Obama administration and the Qatari regime led to the establishment of the Taliban offices in Doha, to find a solution to the political crisis in Afghanistan. Not for nothing, the final agreement between the Taliban and the United States, under which the American withdrawal took place, was signed in Doha in May 2020, which was also signed on the civilian evacuation operation from the Kabul airport (under Taliban rule), in August 2021. The reason for the cooperation between the Taliban and Qatar is the understanding that the Sunni Muslim government in Doha, which supports, among other things, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, can best serve the Taliban’s interests in the world.

 On the one hand, Qatar does not officially recognize the Taliban and has condemned its decision not to allow women to study at universities, and on the other hand, holds meetings urgency with the representatives of the Taliban in its capital regarding security, political, humanitarian, and economic issues. This ambivalent nature of relations generates a double profit for Doha the world depends on it in the context of communication with the Taliban and therefore will not rush to criticize it. This allows Qatar the freedom of action to influence Afghanistan (of course In collaboration with the Taliban) In November 2022 for example, The Telegraph reported that Qatar used the money from the World Cup allegedly to pay senior Taliban officials. To date, any official criticism was heard. 


Since 2001, Türkiye has been involved in what is happening in Afghanistan as part of the activities of NATO forces, but when they left Afghanistan, it remained the only country from the alliance with an open embassy in Kabul. The doctrine of the ruling party in Ankara, the AKP, is to return to the forefront of the Muslim world, like in the Ottoman Empire period and spread its influence outside the borders of the country. Therefore, dealing with the Afghan issue after the void left by the Americans is seen as an excellent opportunity for Ankara.

 On March 13, 2022, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, signalled at the “Antalya Diplomacy Forum” conference that humanitarian aid will not solve the problems in Afghanistan and therefore, the countries of the world should offer diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government. Çavuşoğlu’s words did not come as a thunderbolt on a clear day but came against the background of many meetings between Turkish diplomats and clerics and representatives of the Taliban. One of the most publicized of them was the annual conference of the Islamic Scholars Forum (İTTİHADUL ULEMA) in October 2022, in which Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid took part. During a speech given by Mujahid, he congratulated the Muslim nation on the victory over the enemy in 2021 and called on them to make efforts to get official recognition of the Taliban in their countries. 

Alongside the diplomatic efforts, the Turks continued to trade and invest in Afghanistan, which increased by 23% in the first six months of 2022. One of the prominent projects in the cooperation of the countries is the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Helmand province, with an investment of 160 million dollars. After finishing a certain part of the dam, the Turkish ambassador in Kabul said that the economic relations between the countries are important but more diverse and deeper than that. Türkiye is using its connection with the Taliban to build schools and a cultural centre, in addition to humanitarian NGOs operating in 13 of the country’s 34 provinces, thus deepening Afghanistan’s influence from below as well.


The vacuum left by the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s rise to power in Kabul, is beginning to see the first signs of being filled. Although no country recognizes de jure the Taliban as sovereign in Afghanistan, it seems that India, China, Türkiye, and Qatar are recognizing it de facto by strengthening their relations with the terrorist regime to gain strategic, economic, and security benefits. Using the cards of “Non-Recognition” of the Taliban and humanitarian aid, those countries manage to cooperate with the Taliban away from international criticism. If the Taliban won’t change its extreme policy of human rights violation, only the de facto recognition will likely remain. The Taliban is still worried about internal interference in its regime and therefore opens up cautiously, only to countries that will not harm its interests. Apparently, the growing economic crisis in Afghanistan will oblige the Taliban to continue and expand cooperation with India, China, Türkiye, Qatar as well as other countries.

Ido Gadi Raz

Ido Gadi Raz is Researcher from the Middle Eastern Studies Department at Bar Ilan University. Ido’s research focuses on Geopolitics, Terrorism, and Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He previously was an intern at the INSS focusing on Terror in Asia as well as Suicide Attacks. Ido also finished studying “Migration Studies in South Asia” at OP Jindal University, India, and North South University, Bangladesh. He tweets as @idoraz11