Afghanistan remains without a government more than three weeks after the Taliban captured Kabul and nearly a week after the United States ended 20 years of military intervention. But it may not be a bad thing that the Taliban has delayed the announcement of a government. A rush to install the group's secretive and hardline chieftains would be a mistake in a fragile country that needs healing in so many places that it is difficult to know where to start. It is clear, however, that the new government must incorporate values that have hardly been associated with the ideologically driven Taliban: restraint and balance.
The goals for the government are no secret. The United Nations Security Council spelled them out last week: combat terrorism, respect human rights and form an inclusive government with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women. These are the principles on which Afghanistan can expect to then rejoin the international community which is itself grappling with ways to engage Kabul. Qatar and Turkey have provided initial assistance, mainly to get the Kabul airport functioning. Among its closest neighbours, Pakistan has sent its intelligence chief to the capital. India, the country's largest trading partner, and which had long shunned the Taliban, has held its first formal talks. China and Russia have kept their embassies in Kabul intact and will likely beef up relations in short order. The US is holding back while the European Union says it is prepared to re-establish a diplomatic presence to support the population while not fully recognising the government. The need to be circumspect is prudent: The Taliban has been linked with violent terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda which launched the 9/11 attacks on the US.