Taliban's 'Luxury' Visit to Norway Blasted as 'Disrespectful to Taxpayers', 'Mockery of the Fallen'
Criticising her government's ongoing talks with the Taliban* on human rights and humanitarian crises, Norwegian Progress Party leader Sylvi Listhaug said it was as naïve as "believing in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny at the same time".
The arrival of a Taliban delegation at Oslo Gardermoen for three-day talks with diplomats from Norway and other countries at the high-end conference hotel Soria Moria in the Norwegian capital has sparked a backlash both at home and abroad.
Progress Party leader Sylvi Listhaug argued it made no sense for the Norwegian government to spend taxpayers' money on the Taliban's visit to the country.
"This is a meaningless use of taxpayers' money, to invite the extremist terrorist organisation Taliban on a luxury trip to Norway. It is a glaring example of how the government wastes our tax money", Listhaug noted in a written comment, demanding an answer from the government on how much the visit would cost the state.
A few hours later, the Foreign Ministry replied that the visit, including the rental of a private jet, is estimated at NOK 7 million (nearly $800,000).
"Even though this is not a lot of money for the Foreign Ministry, which manages a whopping budget of NOK 40 billion ($4.5 billion) in development assistance, it is still disrespectful to taxpayers", Listhaug concluded.
She furthermore argued that it was naïve of the authorities to believe that this effort would somehow help to establish a dialogue with the Taliban.
"The fact that the Norwegian authorities think it is useful to talk to extreme Islamists about human rights and women's rights is as naïve as believing in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny at the same time. The Taliban came with 15 men and zero women. That, in itself, says it all", Listhaug noted to the newspaper Nettavisen, adding that it was "embarrassing" for Norway.
While Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt emphasised that the visit is neither a legitimation nor a recognition of the Taliban regime and the talks are focused on human rights and the severe humanitarian crisis that Afghanistan is currently facing, the visit sparked harsh criticism even from Norway's allies.
Danish liberal-conservative party Venstre's foreign spokesman, Michael Aastrup Jensen, called it "completely wrong" and likened it to a "grenade shock".
"It sends the worst signal ever. It is a huge PR victory for the Taliban who want recognition from different countries", Aastrup Jensen told Danish Radio.
He furthermore ventured that taking steps toward cooperation with and recognition of a "terrorist regime" is tantamount to "breaking the musketeer's oath" on Norway's part and mocking the numerous victims of the Afghanistan war.
"It is a direct mockery that a NATO country goes in and negotiates with those who have killed so many Afghan civilians and not least is the cause of the many fallen NATO soldiers. The government mocks the many victims and fallen who have been in this conflict", Aastrup Jensen told Danish Radio.
The Taliban took full control of Afghanistan following the abrupt withdrawal of US and allied forces that marked the end of the 20-year war there, the longest and the costliest in modern American history and that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead from both sides.
*The Taliban is an organisation sanctioned by the UN for terrorist activities.