On Wednesday, Moscow will host a meeting of the “Moscow format” on Afghanistan, which will include representatives of this country and ten neighboring countries. The Taliban delegation will participate in the meeting for the first time since this terrorist organization, banned in Russia, gained almost absolute power over Afghanistan and formed its own government. The Taliban, not recognized by the world community, will sit at the same table with government delegations of other countries and participate in the adoption of a joint statement. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the purpose of the meeting will be “to discuss the prospects for the development of the military-political situation in Afghanistan and the formation of an inclusive government.” Another feature of the meeting will be the absence of the US delegation.
Exactly three years ago, a meeting of the “Moscow format” was the first to be attended by a Taliban delegation. But then, along with them, representatives of official Kabul came to Moscow. Now this no longer makes sense – after the capture of the Afghan capital on August 15, the Taliban took control of the country. According to the Afghan TV channel Tolo News, the delegation, consisting only of the Taliban, will be headed by the deputy head of the country’s new government, Abdul-Salam Hanafi. Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki will also come with him.
Even ex-Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the head of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, who were previously frequent guests in Moscow, were not on the list of invitees. This was reported by the Russian Embassy in Kabul, although numerous media outlets, citing sources, wrote until recently that they would come.
Russia traditionally invited the United States to the meeting of the “Moscow format”, but a polite refusal came from there – the Americans referred to “logistical difficulties.” In addition, important personnel reshuffles have just taken place in Washington – the special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has left his post, yielding to his deputy, Thomas West.
The situation was explained by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “Mr. West called yesterday our representative, Mr. Kabulov (the special representative of the President of Russia, the director of the second department of Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Zamir Kabulov. – “B”), expressed regret that this is how it all happened (he was appointed the day before), and said that he definitely wanted to make contact and come to the Russian Federation. We will be glad to see him, ”Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a press conference at the Valdai Forum in Sochi.
For his part, State Department spokesman Ned Price specified that the expanded troika format for Afghanistan, which includes Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan, which exists along with the “Moscow format”, is still considered “effective and constructive” in Washington.
Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov described the purpose of the Moscow meeting in the most general terms: “Continuation of the dialogue, exchange of views, comparison of positions and an attempt to understand what will happen in Afghanistan.” The Russian Foreign Ministry gave specifics. “During the meeting, it is planned to discuss the prospects for the development of the military-political situation in Afghanistan and the formation of an inclusive government. The issues of consolidating the efforts of the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis in this country will also be touched upon, “the ministry noted, adding that” a joint statement is expected to be adopted following the meeting. “
According to the Russian expert on Afghanistan, Arkady Dubnov, the text of this statement will become a subject for real discussion, and in one of the points of this document the meeting participants will try to consolidate the desire to create a new – this time truly inclusive – government of the country. “The Taliban have managed to prove that it is possible to work with them, they are becoming more and more negotiable,” noted Mr. Dubnov in an interview with Kommersant. “Recently, a representative delegation of the Taliban was received in Uzbek Termez, and this meeting greatly inspired the Uzbeks. The Taliban are already talking about their readiness to open schools for girls of all ages in several northern provinces. ”
On the eve of the Moscow format meeting, on October 19, the Russian Foreign Ministry also held an expanded troika meeting, but due to the absence of American representatives, it turned out to be truncated: besides Russia, only China and Pakistan were represented at it. “The participants exchanged views on common security threats, expressed their joint interest in providing urgent humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. This gives reason to believe that, despite all the difficulties of a political nature, it is the humanitarian issue that can now be called the most acute, because a possible crisis threatens an influx of refugees to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.
The terrorist threat cannot be written off as well. Over the past month, Shiite mosques have been attacked twice: the explosion in Kunduz killed 46 people, and in Kandahar on October 15, more than 60. The Islamic State group, banned in Russia, claimed responsibility for these attacks.
It is noteworthy that exactly one week after the meeting in the “Moscow format” an event on Afghanistan will be held in Tehran. It will be attended by the foreign ministers of Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. According to Arkady Dubnov, Iran “as the owner of the site and the largest Shiite state in the region will certainly raise the issue of the security of its Afghan co-religionists.”