Pakistan has hosted senior diplomats from the United States, China and Russia in Islamabad to discuss the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, where a deepening humanitarian crisis has forced many Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries since the Taliban takeover in August.
Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was also present in Islamabad, but did not attend the meeting Thursday, which was dubbed the “troika plus”.
Muttaqi will meet his Pakistani counterpart later on Thursday. According to Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, the Afghan foreign minister will also contact special envoys in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned at the opening of the meeting that Afghanistan is “on the brink of economic collapse” and that the international community urgently needs to resume funding frozen by Western donors since the Taliban took over. has come to power and must provide humanitarian aid.
He said any further economic decline would “seriously limit” the new Taliban government’s ability to run the country.
“It is therefore imperative for the international community to support the delivery of humanitarian aid on an urgent basis,” he said.
Resuming the flow of international financing “will fit in with our efforts to restore economic activity and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability,” Qureshi said.
That would also benefit Western countries, he said in later comments to state media.
“If you think you’re far, Europe is safe and the areas you don’t think will be hit by terrorism, don’t forget history,” he said. “We have learned from history and we don’t want to repeat those mistakes of the past.”
A Pakistani official told Dawn newspaper earlier this week: “Troika plus has become an important forum for contacts with the Afghan authorities. It will show its support for an inclusive government, discuss ways to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, as well as the protection of human rights, especially women’s rights.”
The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half of the country facing “acute” food shortages and the winter forcing millions to choose between migration and famine.
New US Envoy
The State Department said earlier this week that the new US special envoy to Afghanistan Thomas West will attend the meeting and also plans to visit Russia and India.
“Together with our partners, he will continue to make clear the expectations we have of the Taliban and of a future government in Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing this week.
The meeting will be West’s first trip to the region since taking over Zalmay Khalilzad, the long-serving diplomat who presided over talks leading to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
West, who was in Brussels this week to brief NATO on US involvement in the Taliban, told reporters that the group has “expressed very clearly” its desire to resume aid, as well as normalize international relations and alleviate to see the sanctions.
He called for unity of allies on these issues, noting that Washington “cannot deliver any of these things alone.”
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine briefing this week that “China is supporting all international efforts beneficial to promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and strengthening a consensus on all sides.”
The last meeting of the Troika took place on 11 August in Doha and was attended by Khalilzad. Russia called another meeting in Moscow on October 19, but the US did not participate.
Kamal Hyder of Al Jazeera reported from Islamabad that with the third troika meeting taking place to discuss Afghanistan, it was clear that “the world is in talks with the Taliban”.
“It will be important to see what comes out of the meeting as regional powers are concerned about the inclusivity factors, women’s rights and a massive humanitarian crisis likely to unfold in Afghanistan,” Hyder said.
On Wednesday, India held a regional security dialogue on Afghanistan, which reportedly involved Russia, Iran and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to Indian officials.
Pakistan – India’s arch-rival – was also invited but, like China, Islamabad’s closest ally, declined.
India was an enthusiastic supporter of the overthrown western-backed government of Afghanistan.
Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, reiterated West’s call for close cooperation among regional allies when he opened the meeting in New Delhi.
“I am confident that our deliberations will be productive, useful and contribute to helping the people of Afghanistan and increasing our collective security,” he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference on Wednesday that the group welcomes the various regional gatherings.
“We are not worried, the meetings will be in Afghanistan’s favour, because the whole region believes that the security of Afghanistan is for the benefit of everyone,” he said.
West also talked about security in the region, saying the US is concerned about a recent increase in attacks by its ISIL (ISIS) affiliate in Afghanistan.
“We want the Taliban to be successful against them,” he said.
He added that the presence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is “a point of constant concern for us in our dialogue with the Taliban”.