Withdrawal or extended deployment? Nato defense ministers hold summit on Afghan war | DW News
Russia gathers a conference on Afghanistan without the US and NATO
What are Moscow’s goals – to end the war or undermine US influence in the region? Experts argue
ISLAMABAD – This week Moscow hosts a conference on resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, which will bring together representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iran.
The meeting is part of Russia’s efforts to play a more active role in Afghanistan for the first time since its invasion of that country in 1979. However, Moscow’s efforts have met with controversy from the outset..
The previous conference on Afghanistan, which Moscow hosted in December, involved only China and Pakistan, prompting strong opposition from the Afghan government..
This conference is more representative. It involves regional stakeholders, but there will be no US or NATO representatives, prompting speculation that Russia is more interested in undermining US positions than in solving regional problems..
At a recent hearing on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman John McCain said Russia is supporting the Taliban to harm the United States..
“Given how troubling the situation in Afghanistan is, any outside actors seeking a regional solution to the military conflict should be welcome,” says Michael Kugelman, deputy director for Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington..
But the question is what Russia is trying to achieve. “Is she genuinely trying to bring together key players to come up with an effective plan to end the war? – the expert continues. “Or is she just trying to strengthen her role in Afghanistan to undermine US influence?”
However, other analysts are more optimistic about the upcoming meeting..
“This framework includes all regional players with strong interests in Afghanistan,” says Amina Khan of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Islamabad, a Pakistani government research center..
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon, but I believe that the countries of the region should play a more active role,” she adds..
At the last trilateral meeting, Russia focused on the presence of the Islamic State group in the eastern regions of Afghanistan. Moscow does not want the group to extend its influence to the Muslim population of the Caucasian countries bordering Russia.
At the same time, General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently said at a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia is trying to “publicly legitimize the Taliban” by false statements that the Taliban are fighting the Islamic State and not Afghan government.
However, Russia is not the only country in the region that is worried about the influence of the Islamic State and uses the Taliban as insurance. Tehran has also begun supporting the Taliban to shield areas bordering Iran from ISIS influence. China has been in contact with the Taliban for some time. Beijing has held several secret meetings between the Taliban and Afghan government officials or envoys on a peace mission.
However, at this stage, there are no big expectations from the upcoming conference..
“The fact that three countries were added to the list of participants for the first time suggests that the process is still in its initial stage, when the parties get to know each other, try to hear each other’s versions and try to understand them. I don’t expect anything significant to come of this, ”says former Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Omar Samad..
Nevertheless, according to the former Afghan Ambassador to the United States Omar Samad, who agreed to comment on Skype, at this stage there are no big expectations from the upcoming conference..
“I do not expect significant results from this meeting,” Samad emphasizes..
Several similar attempts have failed due to tensions and mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Will a new attempt be successful? It will depend on whether Russia and China manage to convince Kabul and Islamabad to bridge their differences..
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