The Taliban will lose the international legitimacy they gained through their negotiations in Doha if the group does not fulfill its obligation to negotiate with the Afghan government for a political settlement to the conflict, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Wednesday in Kabul.
"If there is no movement at the negotiating table, and instead human rights abuses and, worse still, atrocities occur in districts they control, the Taliban will not be seen as a viable partner for the international community," Deborah Lyons said while addressing a meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), created in 2006 for coordination between the Afghan government and the international community.
The Taliban have been officially talking to a team of Afghans that includes government representatives since September last year but there has been little movement in that discussion.
Earlier this month, a high-level delegation of Afghans led by Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), went to Doha to meet the Taliban negotiation team in an effort to boost the process, with little success.
The Taliban promised to negotiate with an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA) team, as the Afghan team is called, in a deal it signed with the United States in February 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
However, only parts of that deal were met. Other parts that included meaningful intra-Afghan negotiations for a political settlement, and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire as a result of that settlement, are yet to materialize.
On the contrary, the level of violence in Afghanistan has surged since the announcement that foreign troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan. In the last several months, the Taliban have made swift territorial gains and surrounded several cities, even if they have not captured a city yet.
Lyons said the Taliban had "inherited responsibility" for the areas they have taken over.
"The world is watching closely how they are acting, especially towards civilian populations, women and minorities," she said.
At the meeting attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah, Lyons also pointed to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of the increased violence.
"Eighteen million Afghans today are facing dire humanitarian needs. That is twice the number of the same category last year. It represents half the country," she said.
The crisis, which includes millions of people internally displaced due to violence, has been exacerbated by waves of COVID-19 and a persistent drought.
According to the U.N., civilian casualties this year are 50% higher, compared to the same period last year. Half of all those killed or wounded are women and children.