Conference Diplomacy on the Afghan Question

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Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, announced that in October 2021, conferences will be held to address the “post-conflict restoration” of Afghanistan. Afterwards, various summits were hosted by countries such as Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan. These conferences have become one of the main agenda items of the international community.

In this context, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the meaning of the conferences dealing with developments in Afghanistan and their reflections on the region, in line with the opinions of the leading experts in their fields.

Dr. Sabir ASKEROĞLU (ANKASAM International Relations Specialist)

Evaluating the conferences in terms of Moscow’s efforts, Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu stated that since the Taliban came to power, they have been striving for the development of Afghanistan; however, he pointed out that due to insufficient resources in Afghanistan, they sought outside support. In this context, Askeroğlu touched upon the approach of regional actors to the Taliban and said, “None of Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and other regional countries want the worsening economic situation in Afghanistan to cause a humanitarian crisis. Russia, on the other hand, wants Afghanistan to cease to be an international security problem, to include the Taliban in the international community and to stop being seen as a threat. this is not easy to actualize in the short run.” said.

Referring to the expectations of the international community regarding the Taliban, Askeroğlu said, “There are expectations for the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, and a determined struggle against the terrorist organizations Daesh al-Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS) and al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, it is also clear that time is needed to meet these expectations.” he commented.

Evaluating the goals of Moscow, which gave a start to the conference initiative, Askeroğlu said, “According to Russia, the dialogue between the Taliban and other states should continue. Taliban and Afghanistan must not be left to their fate. However, Russia ,alone, is not strong enough to solve the problems in Afghanistan. For this reason, the support of the USA and other European states is needed. It is essential to organize such conferences for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.” he ended his speech with these words.

Prof. Ali ASKER (Karabuk University-International Relations)

Stating that it was not a surprise that the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, but the rapid realization of the process created a surprise in the international arena, Prof. Dr. Ali Asker said, “Obviously, there was a situation of ‘being caught off guard’ here. Did the Taliban emerge with a new identity? And were they able to learn from the negative consequences of their past practices? such questions he discussed. All these questions need to be answered, and this will take some time.” he made statements.

Pointing out that the realist approach always predominates in international politics, Asker said, “For this reason, states will prefer to act by taking into account the fact that the main power in Afghanistan is the Taliban. It can be foreseen that relations with Afghanistan will be developed in a new format, especially in terms of Pakistan, Iran, India and Central Asian countries.” he said and emphasized the importance of these conferences.

It can be foreseen that relations with Afghanistan will be developed in a new format.” he emphasized the importance of these conferences.

Noting that there have been two demands made to the Taliban since they took over the administration in Afghanistan, Asker said, “One of them is the expectation of a prudent attitude towards human rights and terrorism. The other is the creation of an inclusive government to ensure stability.” he commented.

Referring to the conferences on the restoration of Afghanistan, Asker said, “Regional states, especially neighboring countries, take a cautious stance. Considering the aforementioned meetings, it can be said that the Taliban will be recognized by more and more states as time goes on.” and ended his speech with these words.

Prof. Sertif DEMİR (Turkish Aeronautical Association University)

Beginning his speech by underlining the impact of the instability that emerged after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Prof. Sertif Demir said, “Refugees escaping from Afghanistan have created a major foreign policy problem for Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. The resulting economic crisis worries especially Pakistan, Russia and China. The radicalism created by the Khorasan group affiliated with DAESH also means a security threat for Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan and China. In terms of Iran and Turkmenistan, the absence of a comprehensive government in Afghanistan is likely to turn into a troublesome process.” and commented.

Demir stated that he wanted neighboring countries to overcome the aforementioned problems through conference diplomacy and said, “Another reason for holding such meetings is that a single country does not want to fill the power vacuum that emerged after the withdrawal of the United States of America (USA) from the country. For example, China, with its great economic power, can have a decisive influence on the Taliban alone. This is because the biggest problem of the Taliban is the inability to establish a functional economic structure. That’s why it needs foreign aid.” made the assessment.

Commenting on the neighboring countries’ approach to the Taliban, Demir said, “Russia considers the Taliban administration’s establishment of a more inclusive government and taking measures against radical terrorism as a primary problem in case the USA and therefore the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) become active again in the region. ” He pointed out that the rise of radicalism may cause the return of Western powers.

Pointing out that Iran’s biggest concern is that a group that does not believe in itself is ruling Afghanistan, Demir said, “Tehran is trying to ensure that Shiite groups are included in the administration by putting pressure on the Taliban through conferences. Thus, it will provide effectiveness on Afghanistan.” used the phrases like these.

Evaluating the impact of Afghanistan under the Taliban rule on neighboring countries, Demir said, “Neighboring countries are concerned that Afghanistan will again become a source of instability in terms of political, economic and radical terrorism. The fact that a stable Afghanistan will contribute positively to the welfare and security of all neighboring countries leads them to cooperate on this common ground.”  and ended his speech.

Khalid Temur AKRAM (Chairman of CGSS)

Khalid Temur Akram, who criticizes the US’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, said, “The fact that the US and other western countries handle the situation in Afghanistan solely for their own interests and that they do not include the countries of the region in any decision to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan has created a troubling environment. However, the neighboring countries of Afghanistan could have given the necessary support to restore the development in the country.” by making his comments.

Referring to the recent meetings and conferences between states such as Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Akram said, “Afghanistan’s neighbors have increased their support for the Afghan people in the process that started after the US withdrawal.” and used these phrases.

Expressing that the diplomatic steps taken will have a positive impact on both Afghanistan and neighboring countries, Akram said, “Uzbekistan has signed an agreement with Pakistan to build a 573-kilometer railway extension from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul and then to Peshawar, in February 2021. This railway will connect Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia to ports in the Persian Gulf. The friendly relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan with the Taliban will also make it possible for the Mazar-i-Sharif-Peshawar Railway to come to life.” he made a prediction.

Claiming that Western powers and regional countries have different approaches to the Taliban, Akram said, “Unlike Western powers, regional countries do not plan to overthrow the Taliban administration. Instead, they are striving to establish an inclusive government with all ethnic groups and to build peace and security in Afghanistan.” and used these phrases.

Finally, Akram, with conveying Pakistan’s approach to the issue, said, “Pakistan believes that the world should let the people of Afghanistan decide their future political/administrative discourse, and that no foreign country should dictate any policy.” , he concluded his words.

Aydın NURHAN (Retired Ambassador)

Retired Ambassador Aydın Nurhan, who discussed the situation in Afghanistan with the dimension of power struggle, said, “While Russian influence is decreasing day by day in Central Asia, Chinese influence is increasing. On the other hand, there is little that Russia can do. As it is known, US influence in Asia has been severely damaged. Now, there is talk that China will establish a base in Tajikistan. Therefore, there is a separation between Moscow and Beijing. However, there is also an important issue that unites Russia, China and Iran. These states do not want American presence in Central Asia. Meaning that they are uncomfortable with the possibility of a new “Great Game” being set up.” he evaluated the view of the great powers and the countries of the region towards Central Asia.

Referring to the efforts of the countries in the region after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Nurhan said, “It is unclear whether conference diplomacy will ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan. However, despite everything, regional powers are taking the initiative to determine their own destiny.”

Finally, pointing out that the terrorist organization DAESH is standing by to shake the Taliban government, Nurhan said, “The terrorist attacks that started in Afghanistan involve risks and negativities for the future of Asia. This threatens to turn the whole of Asia, especially Russia, China and Iran, into a place of fire.” He emphasized that the biggest concern of the countries in the region is the spread of radicalism.

Mehmet KIVANÇ (Journalist-CRI Turkish)

Journalist Mehmet Kıvanç, underlining that Afghanistan is once again in a state of great uncertainty after the switch change that the US policy has been planning for many years, said, “While Washington, which wants to make people forget the chaotic withdrawal in August 2021, concentrates on the Asia-Pacific strategy, which became more concrete with the establishment of the AUKUS alliance; Its rivals, Russia and China, want to get bogged down in Afghanistan. Aware that the mistake to be made in Afghanistan will create a huge black hole in the heart of Asia, the regional states tighten their security measures and cooperate to solve the problems”.

Expressing that the address of the search for solutions to the problems in Afghanistan is the Asian capitals and that he watches the wreckage left behind by the West from afar, Kıvanç said, “The USA froze the financial assets of Afghanistan using the Taliban, with which it sat at the table and signed an agreement. As the country to which the United Nations (UN) gave a distress call, step by step into a great humanitarian crisis; China and Russia urge the West to engage in practice with the Taliban and lift the economic blockade.” and used such phrases.

Stating that the countries of the region held the third meeting of the Moscow Format and the Tehran Conference due to these two situations, Kıvanç said, “The Foreign Ministers’ meeting will be held in China in 2022. The United States is expected to send a representative to the meeting to be held in Pakistan in november. In this series of meetings, the Taliban were asked to form an “inclusive government” , in the coming days, the focus will be mostly on improving the economic situation in the country.”

Referring to the statements of Mohammad Keshavarzzadeh, Iran’s Ambassador to China, that the Belt-Road Project will help Afghanistan’s economic development and that Iran will support it, Kıvanç said, “Putin’s Afghanistan Representative Zamir Kabulov wants also to discipine Taliban with hunger. In order for Afghanistan to come out of the economic crisis in Asia, it can be expected that the countries in the region, especially Russia and China, will increase their pressure on the West to end the economic blockade.” and he commented.

Commenting on the USA’s approach to the region in addition to the conferences in question, Kıvanç said, “The USA, which has expressed its intentions with AUKUS, seems to have captured India after Afghanistan. A military base to be taken from this country stimulates the Pentagon’s appetite both to intervene in Afghanistan when necessary and to keep the southern flank of China under pressure.” he made these statements.

2020 yılında Hacettepe Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olan Elif Tektaş, aynı yıl Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans programına başlamıştır. Halihazırda yüksek lisans eğitimine devam eden Tektaş, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.