Potentially Important Summits Held This Week Will Address Afghanistan
July 12, 2021 (EIRNS)—A July 11 Opinion column in the Wall Street Journal by officials of the American Foreign Policy Institute and the Hudson Institute cautioned that United States should pay attention to the Tashkent meeting this week (July 15-16), of the foreign ministers of that country, China, Russia, Iran, India and Turkey, and Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan and President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, and by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities.” As of last week, the U.S. State Department was sending a representative, but below the level of Secretary of State.
In addition, TASS reported that “Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar will take part in the meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)/Afghanistan Contact Group on July 14,” citing Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov. The SCO meeting of foreign ministers is July 13-14 takes place in Dushanbe, which will among other things prepare for the SCO Heads of State Council meeting on Sept. 16-17 in Dushanbe, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the organization; the SCO/Afghanistan Contact Group meeting will take place on July 14 with the Afghan foreign minister. It will discuss “promoting regional security and stability, advancing the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and deepening cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at his July 9 briefing.
As for the Journal piece, it is pure geopolitics—development of the region is in U.S. interest only because it will supposedly counter the power and influence of Russia, particularly, but also China, even though China is “best placed to shape the region’s destiny”—as an anti-American region, of course, in the authors’ view.
Therefore, to balance China and Russia:
“The U.S. should throw its weight behind reopening transport and trade to Pakistan, India and all Southeast Asia. This entails the construction of railways from Uzbekistan, a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, hydroelectric lines and telecommunication links. These initiatives would help build a broad economic constituency that crosses the traditional cultural divides within Afghanistan. It would simultaneously benefit the Central Asian states, the Afghan government, and the impoverished Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan that gave rise to the Taliban. The Tashkent conference thus offers the U.S.—as well as Europe, India and Japan—the best available option for a post-military strategy for Afghanistan and the region, one based on trade, commerce and diplomacy.”
These meetings can take an entirely different orientation, that of bringing the Belt and Road economic infrastructure into and through Afghanistan, while military and other engineers work to build modern healthcare facilities there and the surrounding nations help to foster Afghan industrial development.
If the United States participates cooperatively, to accelerate these benefits for this region, it will not be to “throw its weight” (now diminished there) against China and Russia. It could rather be finally to redeem, at least with hope for the future, the vast blood and treasure which America and its soldiers have spent there, thus far wasted.