Amid international isolation, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has so far taken control of 14 diplomatic missions abroad.
While no country has so far recognised the Taliban regime, there are countries working with it and which have supported it since inception, such as Pakistan, China, and Russia, and these three feature among the 14 countries where Afghan diplomatic missions have been taken over by the Taliban regime.
The Taliban continues to face international isolation as countries and international organisation refuse to recognise its regime over its unlawful takeover of the country and its suppression of basic human rights of girls and women in Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021 after overthrowing the internationally-recognised government, diplomats of the former government have continued to run missions abroad in coordination with the Taliban's foreign ministry.
Taliban's international isolation
The Taliban initially promised a more moderate rule after their takeover in August 2021, but instead imposed sweeping bans and other measures curtailing basic freedoms.
Girls and women are banned from higher education. In public, girls and women have to be dressed from head to toe. They are also banned from gyms and parks. Sports activities have also been banned. Employment opportunities have also been restricted as women are not allowed to work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In short, women have been reduced to household veiled creatures in the Taliban regime.
The United Nations (UN) and foreign governments have fiercely condemned the restrictions on female education and employment, and the international community remains wary of officially recognising the Taliban, although some countries retain an active diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, including Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar, and China.
Taliban seeks control of more missions
After taking over 14 Afghan diplomatic missions, the Taliban regime is seeking more control.
"The Islamic Emirate has sent diplomats to at least 14 countries and efforts are underway to take charge of other diplomatic missions abroad...Diplomats of the former government are continuing their activities in coordination with the Foreign Ministry," said Taliban regime's main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
The Taliban regime has sent its diplomats to Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, China, Kazakhstan and other Arab and African countries, according to Mujahid. He gave no further details.
In February, authorities handed over control of Afghanistan's embassy in Tehran to envoys of the Taliban regime. It was previously staffed by envoys from the former US-backed Afghan government.
The deputy spokesman for the Taliban regime, Bilal Karimi, was unable to immediately provide figures on how many Afghan diplomatic missions are active overseas or how many the administration has taken charge of since August 2021.
He told AP, "There are many embassies abroad. The Islamic Emirate wants to have diplomatic relations with all countries and move forward with good interactions. It is our hope that embassies will be opened in all countries as soon as official relations begin with the Islamic Emirate."
The Foreign Ministry spokesman did not respond to the AP's questions on embassies.
We should hold recognition leverage: Top UN woman official
In January, the highest-ranking woman at the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, said the Taliban wants international recognition and Afghanistan's UN seat, which is currently held by the former government led by Ashraf Ghani.
"Recognition is one leverage that we have and we should hold on to," she said, after meeting Taliban ministers in Kabul and Kandahar to try to reverse their crackdowns on women and girls.
The Taliban has banned girls from middle school, high school and university and banned women from most fields of employment, including at non-governmental groups. Women have also been ordered to wear head-to-toe clothing in public and are barred from parks and gyms.
Schools reopened for the new academic year last week without teenage girls, more than 18 months after the ban on secondary education came into effect.
Universities reopened after the winter break in early March without their female students, and the ban on NGO work is still in place, although some aid agencies have partially resumed their activities through exemptions.
Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said Friday that more than three months have passed since the “intolerable ban” on female aid workers in Afghanistan. “We have made some local progress, allowing women's return to work, but still await national permits”.
(With AP inputs)