ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Afghan embassies around the world that have refused to recognize the new Taliban administration are struggling to stay afloat and facing increasing pressure from Kabul to accept loyalist replacements.
None of the country’s 60 or so ambassadors, consuls or heads of diplomatic missions who were appointed by Western-backed former president Ashraf Ghani have agreed to serve the Taliban since it seized power in August last year.
The Taliban administration has yet to be formally recognized by any nation, and the international community is grappling with how to deal with the country’s new rulers while also helping Afghans face an economic and humanitarian crisis.
“We are in a very unfortunate ... situation, but we still have to continue to operate in these difficult circumstances,” said Youssof Ghafoorzai, the ambassador to Norway.
“The embassies still have a very important role to play in terms of trying to increase whatever humanitarian support is possible. But also (to help) discussions on the political track... to stabilize the situation.”
Aid and cash reserves, frozen by the United States and the international community after the Taliban seized control, are trickling back into the country, which has long depended almost entirely on donors.
But Ghafoorzai and his colleagues have had no contact with the new administration, and staff have not been paid for months.
The Afghan embassy and its consulates in the United States are being shut in the coming week.
“The Afghan Embassy and consulates are under severe financial pressure. Their bank accounts are not available to them,” a U.S. State Department official told AFP.
Across the world, Afghan ambassadors have been forced to dramatically scale down their activities, reduce energy bills and food costs, and even move into smaller premises.
They have also increased consular fees to generate revenue.
“The embassy is not receiving any funding or financial assistance from Kabul,” Farid Mamundzay, the ambassador in New Delhi, told AFP.
“In the absence of the required financial support and depletion of resources, we have not been able to pay the staff salaries for months and had to downsize the strength and reduce the expenditure of the mission to the lowest.”
New passports issued in Kabul now refer to the country by the Taliban’s name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, while officials have warned foreign journalists arriving with visas issued independently by the Dubai embassy that they may not be honored in future.
In a handful of countries near Afghanistan, some ambassadors have left their posts or been pushed out by the Taliban, who have inserted their own representatives -- but even the replacements face hardship.
In Pakistan, salaries have not been paid since September. Employees live on income from visa and passport renewal fees and marriage certificates, said a source at the consulate in Peshawar, near the Afghan border.
The new consul general appointed by the Taliban receives just 50,000 rupees ($280) a month compared with the nearly $5,000 his predecessor made, the source added.