U.S. Joins with Russia and China in Discussions To Stabilize Afghanistan
Nov. 11, 2021 (EIRNS)—The United States, Russia, and China—the Troika—all met together today in Islamabad, hosted by Pakistan, hence, the “Troika Plus.” The three were each represented by their special envoys on Afghanistan, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi opened the affair: “The engagement with Afghanistan must not only continue but should be enhanced for multiple reasons. Nobody wishes to see a relapse into civil war, no one wants an economic collapse that will spur instability; everyone wants terrorist elements operating inside Afghanistan to be tackled effectively and we all want to prevent a new refugee crisis.”
He continued that, “Today, Afghanistan stands at the brink of an economic collapse.” Any further economic deterioration would “severely limit” the Taliban government’s ability to run the country. “It is, therefore, imperative for the international community to buttress provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis.” Resumption of funding “will dovetail into our efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability.” Generally, the Pakistani position has been that the U.S. should return to Afghanistan the $9 billion it’s been holding, that development aid be allowed, and Afghanistan be folded into China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship portion of the Belt and Road Initiative.
A key question is whether the new U.S. Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West and the Biden administration will listen to reason: That Washington must unfreeze the $9 billion in Afghan money to allow the situation in Afghanistan to even begin to be stabilized. Qureshi underlined his point: “If you think that you are far, Europe is safe and those areas you imagine will not be affected by terrorism, don’t forget the history. We have learned from the history, and we don’t want to repeat those mistakes made in the past.”
A delegation from Afghanistan headed by Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (whose travel to Pakistan and presence at the meeting is suggested by some as a first step toward official recognition by certain countries), addressed the Troika Plus meeting in what was officially referred to as a “side meeting.” Reports were that they could address the concerns of Russia, China, and the U.S. on women’s rights, on a representative government, and on eliminating international terrorists from their land—but, as reported by WION, the $9 billion had to be unfrozen.
A Joint Statement on the Troika Plus Meeting of 15 points was unanimously agreed upon. Notably, while it did not mention the $9 billion explicitly, point 14 reflected a somewhat contorted compromise statement: They “acknowledged international humanitarian actors’ concerns regarding the country’s serious liquidity challenges and committed to continue focusing on measures to ease access to legitimate banking services.” Otherwise, the language on the terrorism matter was fairly blunt: The Taliban is to “dismantle and eliminate” international terrorist groups “in a decisive manner.”
Qureshi was scheduled to meet privately with Muttaqi at the conclusion of the deliberations, and Thomas West announced that he would be traveling on to Russia and India. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that West would meet in Moscow with Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov on Nov. 15.
Of note, point 3 of the 15 likely was of particular interest to India, as their offer to send Afghanistan a large shipment of grain has been tied up over transportation issues. Point 3 called for the rapid opening up of air cargo traffic into various points of Afghanistan. Interestingly, India’s proposal seems to suggest collaboration with its arch-rival, Pakistan.