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The Azadi Briefing: Blacklisted Taliban Minister's Foreign Visit Triggers Outrage


U.A.E. President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received a delegation led by the Taliban's Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani on June 3.
U.A.E. President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received a delegation led by the Taliban's Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani on June 3.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, a U.S.-designated terrorist who has a $10 million bounty on his head, visited the United Arab Emirates on June 4.

Haqqani, accompanied by the Taliban's intelligence chief, met the U.A.E. president in Abu Dhabi.

The foreign visit, Haqqani's first since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, sparked widespread outrage among Afghans.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that "hosting UN-sanctioned Taliban members must seek permission for travel through an exemption process as outlined by the UN 1988 sanctions committee, and it's important that member states follow these procedures."

"We understand the complex relationship countries have with the Taliban, particularly those in the region," said a State Department statement later sent to the Associated Press.

It is unclear whether Haqqani or the U.A.E. government had obtained such permission. But on June 5, the UN Security Council allowed Haqqani and several other Taliban officials to travel to Saudi Arabia later this month to perform the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage.

Why It's Important: Haqqani's trip is a public relations win for the Taliban, whose government is not recognized by any country.

Despite its lack of international recognition and limited engagement with the West, the Taliban has established diplomatic ties with around a dozen countries in the region.

Ishaq Atmar, an Afghan political analyst, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi that Haqqani's trip can "open a new door" for greater international engagement with the Taliban.

Ghous Janbaz, an Afghan political analyst, told Radio Azadi that Haqqani's trip came weeks before a key UN meeting on Afghanistan in Qatar during which the group will look to allay international fears over the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan.

But Haqqani's trip has triggered online condemnation, with some Afghans asking how one of the FBI's most-wanted men was able to visit the U.A.E., a U.S. ally.

What's Next: International engagement with the Taliban has not moderated its extremist policies.

The militant group has refused to budge on key issues, including establishing an inclusive government, ensuring women's rights, and breaking ties with extremist groups.

The Taliban is likely to use its engagement with the international community to win concessions and present itself as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

What To Keep An Eye On

A new survey by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified "widespread shocks" in Afghanistan, where many live in severe food poverty.

"Much higher food prices and drought are affecting 60 and 58 percent of Afghan households, respectively," the organization said in a briefing on June 3.

The survey found that despite the decrease in the prices of some food items, poor "households remained vulnerable to intrahousehold and economic shocks," which reflected "broader macroeconomic vulnerabilities in Afghanistan."

More than two-thirds of households reported a decrease in their primary source of income, the survey said, while another 10 percent lived on savings and debt.

Why It's Important: The survey highlights the effects of the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the world's largest.

Shortfalls in international funding, the Taliban's inability to address the crisis, and a series of deadly natural disasters have exacerbated the humanitarian situation.

That's all from me for now.

Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at azadi.english@rferl.org

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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