The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021. On the 15 th of August they walked into Kabul with little resistance. The then President Ashraf Ghani fled via plane, as tens of thousands of others tried to do the same. It’s very likely you remember the images that were shown across the world at the time.
Since then, the Taliban has taken over effective control of almost the entire country. Reportedly there are still a few small areas holding out, but for all intents and purposes the Taliban is now the government of Afghanistan.
To make things confusing there are currently two governments claiming to be the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. The first is the Taliban, known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, who controls almost all of the country. The second is the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which currently doesn’t control any of Afghanistan but does still control most diplomatic missions and is recognised by every country in the world as the legitimate government.
Yes, you read that correctly. Despite no longer being in control of any land, the previous government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is recognised by every country in the world, while no one currently recognises the Taliban.
This is where things get even more complicated. Despite not a single country recognising the Taliban, several have allowed the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) to take over embassies and consulates in their respective countries.
Currently the embassies in Moscow (Russia), Beijing (China), Islamabad (Pakistan), Tehran (Iran) and Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) are controlled by the Taliban government and are recognised as such by their host countries. Furthermore, the Afghanistan embassy in Doha (Qatar) is controlled by the Taliban, but is yet to be recognised by the Qatari authorities. All the consulates in these countries are also controlled by the Taliban government.
On the other hand, 45 other embassies and 20 consulates are controlled by the Islamic Republic, the former government.
This can make getting a visa difficult as most of the government in exile run diplomatic missions refuse to do any dealings with the Taliban, however some have decided to start working with them.
Recognition of new governments is an extremely political consideration. Governments may not recognise a specific government because of ideological reason, human rights reason, historical links, or just pure self-interest. There are many examples of contentious government recognitions. Examples that come to mind include the struggle between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan), or the fact that the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia was the internationally recognised government for years after they were deposed. Israel is another example with dozens of countries not recognising its existence.
The United Nations in February 2022 began the process of removing officials of the former government from their list of recognised member state officials indicating that they are moving towards greater recognition of the Islamic Emirate, but it seems that any other nation state recognising the Taliban government is still a while away. During the 90s when Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban the first time around between 1996 and 2001, only three other countries recognised the Taliban government – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Time will tell if the global community accepts the Taliban or continues to shun them.
Because of all this getting a visa for Afghanistan has become a bit trickier and there are only a few embassies issuing them. If you'd like to read more about this, check out our Guide to Getting an Afghanistan Visa in Islamabad blog or our Getting a Visa for Afghanistan destination guide .