Taliban Guarding Humanitarian Workers in Afghanistan

The Taliban ensures the UN written deed on the safe passage and freedom of movement for social and humanitarian workers operating in Afghanistan, the UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, has told a UN fundraising conference in Geneva.

Speaking at a special session of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) peer review meeting on co-operation between the United Nations and Afghanistan, Griffiths said: “We hope very much to be back – not simultaneously – but we hope as soon as possible with our staff out there where we belong.”

Last week, the Taliban denied they had attacked a UN convoy in Afghanistan and claimed responsibility for an attack on an aid agency security guard who was killed and two other guards injured.

The insurgents claimed the shooting in Herat province was perpetrated by “enemies of peace” and promised to review arrangements with humanitarian organisations working in Afghanistan.

Responding to Griffiths’ claim that the Taliban had given assurances about their respect for humanitarian workers, a spokesman told Al Jazeera: “It’s news to us that such a letter has been sent.”

Considering this recent development between the UN and The Taliban, what do you think will happen next? What are some future possibilities? What might be a future outcome of this Taliban-UN agreement?

Possible future possibilities: The UN will resume their aid work in Afghanistan. This will lead to more funding for The Taliban from the UN, resulting in a further strengthening of The Taliban’s power and influence. More civilians may become displaced or caught up in violence that had previously been avoided due to the UN aid workers’ presence there. The US may have to withdraw troops from Afghanistan more quickly than they are already planning. The UN will be able to convince the Taliban to hold peace talks with the Afghan government, resulting in some sort of power-sharing agreement that ensures both sides are represented fairly.

Future outcome:  I think that future negotiations between The Taliban and the Afghan government will result in some kind of interim power sharing arrangement, but I don’t know if it would last very long or accomplish anything substantial for either side.

What is your response to this recent development? Do you feel optimistic about the prospect of a better relationship between The Taliban and other regional actors? What factors might be at play here?

overall impression is one of deep suspicion on all sides, but also of improved communication between the Taliban & the UN. maybe some serious negotiations are happening behind-the-scenes that will result in substantial progress towards peace.

The situation is extremely uncertain right now, since there is no clear power structure within either The Taliban or the Afghan government. Other regional actors have more leverage here…but they have to be careful not to overplay their hand and push Afghanistan into complete chaos. To some degree, everyone has an incentive for peace between Afghanistan and The Taliban because it would open up economic possibilities, reduce refugee populations, etc., but nobody knows for sure what will happen until they sit down at the negotiating table.