There is a popular proverb that in English says: “what cannot be cured must be hardened” (in free translation, “what cannot be cured must be endured”). It is a phrase usually applied to situations in which, given the difficulties imposed by the circumstances, there is nothing left but the pragmatism of the conformed.
This is the case of the international articulation around Afghanistan at that time. First, after having been overcome by fatigue, it was the United States that accepted the end of the war. Now, the G20 is also mobilizing to pick up the pieces that were left around the botched American withdrawal from that country.
The official speech around this week’s extraordinary summit in Italy touts the priority of sending direct aid to the Afghan population. From a humanitarian point of view, the issue is, in fact, pressing: at least half of Afghans have already been impacted by the economic crisis and, according to a survey released by UNICEF, around 1 million children in the country suffer from severe malnutrition.
Since the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan has had international funds blocked, which affects the liquidity of banks. This, added to the supply crisis and the soaring inflation, makes the overall situation, in fact, dramatic. It is, therefore, reasonable that international leaders are attentive to the issue.
Nevertheless, in situations like this, the unsaid cannot be ignored: the G20 agenda makes it clear that the Taliban is the big winner in this game. Western powers did not prioritize direct confrontation with the extremist group. They don’t seem interested in making their meeting a forum for contesting the new Afghan government, nor for making hard-line propositions against its excesses.
It is not enough for European officials to say that “contact with the Taliban does not mean recognition.” Beyond the limited effect of words, the G20 agenda itself does recognize Taliban rule. More than that, it puts the group in front of the need to help finance a collapsing state, without having any guarantees about who will appropriate the resources poured by the international community.
China and Russia’s reservations about the meeting also stand out, highlighting the G20’s internal rift, something we’ve all witnessed since the Taliban took over Kabul. This is another victory for the new government of Afghanistan, which will be able to operate the divergences of positions between the powers as a way of exploring advantages for itself and increasing the bargaining power in the negotiations.
Finally, the G20 meeting also reveals the concern about the strengthening of terrorism in the region and the increase in immigration flows arising from the humanitarian crisis. To address the two issues, which directly affect the domestic interests of these countries, the G20 leaders know they need to liaise with the Taliban.
The G20 did not claim responsibility for the geopolitical future of the region. Instead, he moved to the conduct of: “what cannot be cured must be endured.” Behind the relative lack of responsibility is not only a certain resignation, but also the recognized impotence of several of the richest countries in the world in the face of the magnitude and complexity of the crisis.
In a world of hypocrisy and multiple simultaneous battles to face, the G20 decided, in Afghanistan, to treat cancer with tape.