The Taliban leadership has convinced 10 regional powers to back a United Nations donor conference to help Afghanistan avoid an economic collapse and a looming humanitarian crisis. The Moscow talks mark one of the Taliban’s most significant international meetings since their return to power in Afghanistan.
At the Moscow talks, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan all supported the idea. They called for the UN to convene such a conference as soon as possible to help rebuild the country.
The regional countries said that the said summit should take place “with the understanding, of course, that the main burden … should be borne by the forces whose military contingents have been present in this country over the past 20 years”.
The statement was a direct swipe at the US and its allies, who invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The occupying forces ended their 20-years long stay with an abrupt withdrawal in late August, paving the way for the Taliban to seize back control of the country.
The US chose not to attend the talks, citing technical reasons, but has hinted at joining future rounds.
Since the Taliban takeover, Russia has led the calls for international aid, conscious that any spillover of conflict from Afghanistan could threaten regional stability.
Taliban reiterate commitment to peace, rights
Since returning to power, the Taliban have promised to open up their government as quickly as possible and guarantee rights to women. The group has also repeatedly assured the international community that it does not represent a threat to any other country.
Afghanistan’s interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said, “Afghanistan will never allow its soil to be used as a base for anyone to threaten the security of another country.”
Head of the Afghan delegation and the country’s interim Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi hailed the talks, calling them “very important for the stability of the entire region”. Hanafi said, “Isolating Afghanistan is in no one’s interests.”
Russia recognises Taliban’s ‘efforts’ to ensure stability
The global community, including Russia, is yet to officially recognise the Taliban government. Regardless, the Moscow talks recognised the “new reality” of the group’s ascent to power in Afghanistan.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia called on the Taliban to form a government that includes all ethnic groups and political forces in Afghanistan. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the conference that the Kremlin recognises the Taliban’s “efforts” to try and stabilise the situation in Afghanistan since taking power in mid-August.
Lavrov said, “A new administration is in power now. We note their efforts to stabilise the military and political situation and set up work of the state apparatus.”
The Russian diplomat also urged the group to assemble an administration “reflecting the interests of not only all ethnic groups but all political forces” in Afghanistan in order to achieve a stable peace in the country.
Lavrov told the conference that Russia would soon send humanitarian aid and demanded the international community mobilise resources to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
Lavrov also regretted the absence of the US at the conference.
Taliban recognition ‘not under discussion for now’
Russia, China, and Pakistan expressed their willingness to provide aid to Afghanistan earlier on Tuesday that led to the ground-breaking talks. Meanwhile, Russia has also made it clear that it is not yet ready to recognise the Taliban government.
Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the Kremlin was withholding recognition from the Taliban. He said that Moscow will wait for the group to fulfil the promises it made when it took power, including on the political and ethnic inclusivity of the new government.
Talking to reporters, Lavrov said, “Official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now. Like most of other influential countries in the region, we are in contact with them. We are prodding them to fulfil the promises they made when they came to power.”
Russia’s initiative to lead diplomatic efforts to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan stems from fears that instability in the wider region could damage its interests.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of the possibility of “Islamist extremists” infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Moscow views as a defensive buffer.
The concerns have intensified after a series of attacks by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP – Afghan affiliate of ISIL (ISIS). Named after an ancient name for the region, ISKP has carried out deadly attacks on mosques and other targets that have killed hundreds of people since the Taliban’s rise to power.
Meanwhile, Russia has continued to operate its embassy in Kabul unlike many other countries and its ambassador has maintained regular contact with the Taliban in recent months.