Moscow Format on Afghanistan: Taliban accepted as a 'new reality', but trust deficit with regime remains

The joint statement released by Moscow Format consultation on Afghanistan hosted by Russia on Wednesday called the Taliban a “new reality,” and stressed the formation of an “inclusive government”, respecting the interests of all major “ethnopolitical” forces

Oct 21, 2021
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Moscow Format on Afghanistan

The joint statement released by Moscow Format consultation on Afghanistan hosted by Russia on Wednesday called the Taliban a “new reality,” and stressed the formation of an “inclusive government”, respecting the interests of all major “ethnopolitical” forces. The statement also expressed “deep concern” over rapidly deterioratinging economic and humanitarian conditions, and called the international community to mobilize urgent aid. 
     
The talks, which saw participation from ten countries, including India, “call on the current Afghan leadership (the Taliban) to practice moderate and sound internal and external policies, adopt friendly policies towards neighbors of Afghanistan, achieve the shared goals of durable peace, security, safety, and long-term prosperity, and respect the rights of ethnic groups, women and children,” 

The Taliban which seized power two months ago has been trying hard to get international recognition--a goal the group is nowhere close to achieving, at least for now. The Taliban’s decision to form an all-Taliban government--mostly dominated by Pashtuns, ignoring the leaders of the former government-- and its relations with regional terrorist organizations are big issues for the international community, including for those countries the group considers friendly.  

The member countries noted that “further practical engagement with Afghanistan needed to take into account the new reality, that is the Taliban coming to power in the country, irrespective of the official recognition of the new Afghan government by the international community.”

Furthermore, it appears that the talks have not produced any concentrate and solid steps or assurances to change the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. On the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the joint statement merely called for mobilizing urgent resources, without announcing any substantial collective aid package. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said separately that Russia would soon dispatch humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. India has also reportedly offered humanitarian aid, according to a statement released by Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s deputy minister for information and culture.   
 
“We are satisfied with the level of practical interaction with Afghan authorities, which allows to effectively ensure the security of Russian citizens in Afghanistan and the unimpeded operation of our embassy in Kabul,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. 

He further emphasized the importance of respecting human rights and pursuing balanced social policies, adding that he discussed those issues with the Taliban delegation before the talks.

The talks’ participants also called for an international donor conference under the auspices of the United Nations, “with the understanding that the core burden of post-conflict ... reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by the powers which had military contingents in the country for the past 20 years.”


Interestingly, the Taliban, soon after taking over Kabul, had announced that China would be their major economic partner. However, things have not moved much since then. Beijing, like other countries, don’t seem to be in the mood of trusting the Taliban’s assurances on counter-terrorism. Neither it has called for recognizing the Taliban government.

Pakistan, the group’s traditional patron, remains a lone voice, asking the international community to recognize the Taliban. 

Furthermore, the Taliban’s refusal to accommodate leaders of the former government--many of them have been as clients to important countries like Russia and Iran with substantial ethnic support back home--is coming in the way of regional countries, with the exception of Pakistan, from accepting this interim government. 

(SAM)