WASHINGTON: The Afghan embassy in Washington, under severe financial pressure and cut off from the new Taliban government in Kabul, will close down in the coming week, a senior State Department official confirmed Saturday.
Its diplomats, holdovers from the old government, now have a month to apply for US visas before being deported — though not back to Afghanistan, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Around 100 diplomats currently work at the embassy in Washington or at Afghan consulates in Los Angeles and in New York, according to The New York Times.
Roughly one-fourth have yet to apply to remain in the US, the American official said.
“The Afghan Embassy and consulates are under severe financial pressure. Their bank accounts are not available to them,” the official told AFP.
He added, “We have no intention of accrediting diplomats who are appointed by the Taliban at this time.” The group will retain its current diplomatic status for 30 days.
The official said the State Department had “now made arrangements in cooperation with the Afghan Embassy to facilitate an orderly shutdown of operations in a way that would protect and preserve all diplomatic mission property in the United States until operations are able to resume.”
The Taliban, who seized power in Kabul last August, are not recognised by the international community and they have not fully gained control of diplomatic missions set up under the previous government.
Many of the diplomats remain loyal to the old pro-Western government.
Meantime, Afghan diplomats no longer have access to several hundred thousand dollars in funding after banks — not the US government — froze their accounts, the US official said.
The accrediting of Taliban-appointed diplomats, were it to happen, is “something that would happen much further down the road, if we were moving toward recognition of them officially as the government of Afghanistan,” the official said.
He said the US side had had no discussions with the Taliban about the decision to close the embassy.
In January, the Afghan ambassador in Beijing resigned after months without any financing from Kabul.
In early February, following the visit of a Taliban delegation to Norway for talks with several Western diplomats, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told AFP that his government was getting closer to achieving recognition, saying, “This is our right.”
He said the international community wanted to interact with his government.