If not the SCO, then who will help Afghanistan

Date of publication: 6 September 2021
The SCO leaders are actively discussing the situation in Afghanistan

Sergey Sajenko

international columnist

The rapid and shameful withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the seizure of power in this country by the Taliban movement (banned in the Russian Federation) has set new and, frankly, difficult tasks for the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO or the Organization). After all, it is no secret that rebellious Afghanistan was considered, at least until recently, one of the states where terrorists live very freely. And let’s not forget that this country borders with five of the eight states of the Organization – China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan.

It should be noted that now the situation in Afghanistan is of concern not only to the SCO countries, but also to other neighbors of this country, including all the states of Central Asia (CA). It is no coincidence that an extraordinary meeting of the CSTO Collective Security Council was held in Dushanbe on August 23 in the format of a videoconference. This organization includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. During the online meeting, the CSTO leaders made an important decision to implement additional measures to strengthen security in connection with the situation in Afghanistan.

Following the meeting, at an online briefing, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zasj said that the leaders of this association indicated the need to join forces with the SCO countries on the Afghan issue. “Of course, today we noted the need for interaction with other international organizations, primarily the SCO, on the topic of Afghanistan,” Zasj said.

At the CSTO meeting, it was noted that it is important to prevent the infiltration of radical Islamism into the territory of the Central Asian states, to prevent the recruitment of citizens into the ranks of extremists, including using social networks and the Internet. In this regard, in his speech, Vladimir Putin expressed particular concern that ISIS and Al-Qaeda (terrorist organizations banned in Russia) maintain quite strong positions in Afghanistan. And taking into account the thousand-kilometer borders of the Central Asian countries with Afghanistan, the penetration of the militants of the same ISIL and Al-Qaeda into their territory will not be difficult.

This fact, of course, seriously concerns both Russia and all members of the CSTO and the SCO. For example, China is very concerned about the penetration of terrorists into Xinjiang, located just in the north-west of the country, where more than 10 million Muslim Uighurs live. In turn, India fears the penetration of Islamic extremists and captured American weapons into the disputed province of Kashmir with Pakistan. In this regard, all the SCO countries are extremely interested in resolving the situation around Afghanistan, which would contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the region as a whole.

While world leaders are discussing whether to cooperate with the Taliban (led leadership of Afghanistan), the leading SCO countries – Russia, China and India-are coordinating joint actions on the Afghan issue. For example, on August 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the “hot topic” of Afghanistan by phone. The leaders of the two countries noted the importance of coordinated efforts that contribute to the establishment of peace and stability in this country, ensuring security in the region as a whole. In addition, the parties agreed to increase cooperation in countering the spread of terrorist ideology and the drug threat emanating from the territory of Afghanistan. Putin and Putin also agreed to form a bilateral channel for permanent consultations on this issue.

It is no secret that the seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban movement has opened up additional opportunities for Russia and China to expand their influence in South and Central Asia. This, by the way, was greatly frightened in the West, primarily in the United States. Yes, China did offer assistance to the Taliban in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, but at the same time, Beijing is very concerned about the possibility of extremism entering its territory. On August 25, a telephone conversation between President Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping was devoted to the topic of security due to the complicated situation in Afghanistan. During the conversation, the Chinese president told the Russian head of state that Beijing is ready to work with other countries, including Russia, to push all parties in Afghanistan to create an inclusive political structure free from terrorist groups.

Earlier, Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Afghanistan by phone with President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, the leader of another SCO member state. First of all, Putin and Rahmon discussed joint actions of Moscow and Dushanbe to strengthen the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border in connection with the escalation of tension in Afghanistan, which may have a negative impact on the overall state of regional security. The two leaders also spoke in favor of further coordination of efforts on a bilateral and multilateral basis to comprehensively promote a peaceful settlement of the Afghan problem.

There is no doubt that all the SCO countries are extremely interested in normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, which would contribute to the establishment of a stable situation in the region as a whole. To this end, the members of the Organization intend to help Afghanistan in becoming a peaceful and prosperous country. This is stated, in particular, in a statement issued on August 23 by the SCO secretariat. “The SCO member states confirm their intention to assist Afghanistan in becoming a peaceful, stable and prosperous country free from terrorism, war and drugs,” the document says.

It emphasizes that the Members of the Organization advocate strict compliance with the norms of international law and obligations under bilateral as well as multilateral agreements. The SCO countries call for ensuring the security of the population of Afghanistan and foreign citizens staying in the country, diplomatic missions, institutions of foreign states and international organizations. At the same time, the statement clarifies that “the SCO member states consider it important to responsibly restore the legitimacy of state power in Afghanistan through an inclusive peaceful dialogue, taking into account the interests of all public, political, ethnic and confessional groups of the country.” According to the document, the SCO countries are also “ready to participate in international efforts to stabilize and develop Afghanistan with the central coordinating role of the UN”.

In conclusion, we note that on September 16-17, the 20th anniversary SCO summit will be held in Dushanbe under the chairmanship of Tajikistan, at which the topic of security due to the escalated situation around Afghanistan, presumably, will be one of the main ones.



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