Islamabad mulls regional moot on Kabul

Conference of regional FMs part of diplomatic push to prevent civil war in Afghanistan

Kamran Yousaf August 09, 2021
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the check post on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan July 13, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS


Pakistan is likely to host a regional conference on Afghanistan to be attended by foreign ministers of the immediate neighbours of the war-torn country as well as other stakeholders as part of a diplomatic push to prevent a civil war there.

“We are planning to host foreign ministers of the key regional countries on the Afghan situation,” a senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity.

The official added that they could not provide the list of invitees. However, sources said foreign ministers of the neighbours of Afghanistan including Russia, China, Iran and other stakeholders including Turkey would attend the conference.

The idea behind the initiative is to discuss the latest situation and evolve a consensus in order to prevent a civil war in Afghanistan.

The neighbours of Afghanistan are concerned that the deteriorating situation in the war-torn country would have a negative impact on the region.

Pakistan has a central role in the Afghan endgame, but as the situation deteriorates in the neighbouring country, there are elements within Afghanistan as well as in the US which are holding Islamabad responsible for the mess.

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Officials familiar with the development said Pakistan would counter such allegations at all levels as it insisted that the civil war in Afghanistan would harm the country more than anyone else.In order to counter what Pakistan says is baseless propaganda by certain quarters in Afghanistan, Islamabad’s civil and military leadership discussed a counter strategy last week.

While Pakistan contemplates hosting the foreign ministers of regional countries, the plan to organise a meeting of leaders of different factions of Afghanistan is now in doldrums.

Pakistan was supposed to host the “Afghan Peace Conference” last month as part of its diplomatic initiative to bring all Afghan players on board.

The conference, however, was postponed after the Ghani administration refused to send a delegation.
The sources said the conference’s idea had now been shelved altogether given the deepening mistrust between Pakistan and the Afghan government.

According to the sources, while Pakistan would continue to seek a political settlement in Afghanistan, the focus would now be on securing the border to minimise the impact of the Afghan civil war.

Pakistan has already fenced the 2,600km long border with Afghanistan coupled with introducing a new mechanism that regulates the movement of people between the two frontiers.

Another aspect of the strategy includes stepping up the campaign against the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is likely to get emboldened against the backdrop of the Afghan Taliban’s victory.

Pakistan’s efforts to persuade the Afghan Taliban to take action against the TTP were met with lukewarm response.

Therefore, the sources said Pakistan had decided to fight its own battle instead of pinning hopes on others to take on the TTP.

There has been a sudden spike in TTP terrorist attacks since the US and NATO forces started withdrawing from Afghanistan and as a result, the Taliban started making rapid inroads.


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