Changing Perception of Taliban in the UAE’s Afghanistan Policy

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is following the developments in Afghanistan closely. As a reflection, Abu Dhabi administration has developed connections with Taliban lately and carried to a new level of Afghanistan politics. In that sense, it is needed to analyze the UAE’s Afghanistan policy.

As it is known, the UAE was one of the three countries that are recognized Taliban at the first period. In that period, Abu Dhabi administration has developed positive relations with Taliban and change its policy towards Afghanistan due to radicalism and increasing activities of terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Thus, to act in accordance with the international community, UAE supported “Endless Freedom Operation” of the United States of America (USA) started on 7 October 2001. Therefore, Abu Dhabi administration became the first Gulf Country that supported American interruption to Afghanistan.

It can be understood that the UAE’s policy on Afghanistan has shaped accordingly with the international community. Therefore, Abu Dhabi administration has never hesitated to help Afghan people and built good relations with the government’s established in the period of occupation for 20 years. The two elements affected the UAE’s policy. The first one is reflecting Abu Dhabi administration’s general foreign policy understanding. Because the UAE has focused on establishing economic relations, based on non-interruption to the domestic politics and mutual benefits. Secondly, the UAE has followed public diplomacy regardless of administration in Afghanistan, to make Afghanistan a livable country. In that sense, in 2013, two countries have signed “Strategic and Security Cooperation Agreement.”[1] Therefore the UAE, has showed that she is ready to be in accordance with Afghanistan on organized crimes, dealing with drugs, terrorism, human trafficking and illegal migration.[2]

Shortly the UAE has built good relations with Taliban administration in the 1990s and with Afghanistan governments in 2000s. That approach can be analyzed as the UAE’s effort to establish positive relations with Afghan people and Afghan State regardless of who ruled Afghanistan. In other words, Abu Dhabi administration does not care about who is the hegemon in Kabul and evaluate that issue as Afghanistan’s internal issue.

The issues that led UAE’s Afghanistan policies are observed on the Second Taliban period as well. Therefore, while Abu Dhabi administration gives Ashraf Ghani the right to asylum, also she developed de facto cooperation with Taliban. But Abu Dhabi explained that she limited the political activities of Ghani, Former Advisor of Afghanistan National Security Hamdullah Muhip, and former Balkh Governor Ata Muhammed Nur, as confirming Abu Dhabi is not interrupting Afghanistan’s domestic issues.[3]

Moreover, the UAE, has announced that Kabul Embassy, which was closed in the period of insecurity in Afghanistan, opened again in 2021.[4] After that development, Taliban’s spokesmen Zabihullah Mucahid has told that:[5]

“The UAE has opened her Embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. An important step was taken to the more positive developments. We think that the UAE and Afghanistan has good relations. Moreover, it is needed to make the relations to move forward.”

After the embassy opened, with the order of the UAE’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian Organization have sent 60 tons of basic food and humanitarian aid packages to Afghanistan.[6] That will also showed that Abu Dhabi government is implementing an effective public policy and being sensitive towards humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

It is obvious that Afghanistan is facing a vast humanitarian crisis. In such an athmosphere, every aid and investment are quite important. Thus, the UAE has focused on giving aids and making investments to Afghanistan by developing de facto cooperation with Taliban. In accordance with that aim, Ali Mohammed bin Hammad Al Shamsi, UAE Federal Minister of Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports has visited Afghanistan on 29 December 2021. During his visit, he met with Hasan Ahund, the Prime Minister of Permanent Government by Taliban, Deputy of Prime Minister Mollah Abdulghani Birader and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, and he claimed that they are ready to invest in solar energy, and railway systems.[7] In addition, Shamsi has specified that they can cooperate on education and agriculture.[8] Besides, it was claimed that the UAE is ready to give technical support to Taliban to the operation of different airports.[9]

Abu Dhabi has increased connections with Taliban, even she did not officially recognize Taliban government. It is obvious that this situation was affected by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Because between Abu Dhabi and Doha and Riyadh, there is a rivalry. Qatar stands out as a hosting state of Taliban’s political office, and the basic address to the connection with foreign states. It is clear that Doha, who followed intermediatory diplomacy, has gained international prestige. In the last period, Saudi Arabia has improved her connection with Taliban and led the extraordinary meeting of Islamic Cooperation Organization (ICO) held in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.[10]

While those developments are happening, it cannot be expected that the UAE cannot be excluded from Afghanistan equity. Therefore, Abu Dhabi is focused on increasing soft power in Afghanistan with outstanding diplomacy and economic relations.

As a conclusion the UAE has increased its attention on developments in Afghanistan and has started de facto cooperation process with Taliban. It can be observed that those relations will be more intense in future. However, when we look at Abu Dhabi’s change of Taliban perception, from 1990s, it can be said that it is not an independent actor. That’s why, the UAE would not recognize Taliban unless international community has an incentive to recognize it.

[1] Ahmad Shah Ghani Zada, “Afghanistan-UAE Sign Long Term Strategic and Security Agreement”, Khaama Press Agency,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2022).

[2] Aynı yer.

[3] “Islamic Emirate: ‘UAE Restricting Political Activity of Ghani’”, Tolo News,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2022).

[4] “UAE Reopens Its Embassy in Kabul”, Ani News,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2021).

[5] Zaini Majeed, “‘A Positive Step’: UAE Reopens Embassy in Afghanistan”, Republic World,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Afghan PM Discusses Bilateral Relations with UAE Minister in Kabul”, Ani News,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2022).

[8] Ibid.

[9] “سخنگوی طالبان: مذاکره با ترکیه و قطر ادامه دارد و پروازهای خارجی آغاز خواهد شد”, Afintl,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2021).

[10] “Saudi Arabia to Convene Extraordinary OIC Meeting to Discuss Afghanistan”, Saudi Gazetta,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.