Key Consideration of Regional Intelligence Chiefs By Prof Dr Muhammad Khan

IT was an unusual event on 11 September 2021, as Pakistan hosted the meeting of intelligence chiefs from key regional states; China, Russia, Iran and Central Asian states at Islamabad.

Earlier, ISI Chief, Lt General Faiz Hameed visited Kabul to personally assess the evolving situation in Afghanistan where he met with the key Taliban leaders including Mullah Abdul Ghani Brother.

Indeed, a peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan from Ghani Government to Taliban was unique and rare in the history of this country.

Immediately after ceasing the power, there prevailed a general peace in Afghanistan under Taliban which is quite encouraging and promising for the regional states, bordering this war-torn country.

For over two decades, instability in Afghanistan had distressed the regional peace and stability.

The meeting of the intelligence chiefs mainly focused on the on-going security situation in Afghanistan and how to ensure regional peace and stability of this geopolitically significant region.

Earlier, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah MehmoodQureshi visited the regional states for formulating a consensus strategy over the emerging situation in Afghanistan. In a way, Pakistan is struggling to ensure regional peace through a peace in Afghanistan.

The significant aspects which the intelligence chiefs must have debated in-depth during the meeting includes; one, Taliban is a reality in Afghanistan and they can alone ensure peace and stability in their country.

Two, regional states must cooperate and facilitate the Taliban Government. Three, Afghan Government under Taliban needs immediate economic and financial assistance from all regional states.

Four, a constant engagement with Taliban Government is needed for ensuring peace within Afghanistan.

Five, recognition of Taliban Government regionally, since alienation of Taliban Government may attract their infuriation which can disrupt the regional peace.

On their part, Taliban assured all regional states and international community that, under their rule, Afghan soil will not be used against any other country.

In fact, this can be only be ensured by Taliban, since the past regimes under Hamid Karazai and Ashraf Ghani remained hostage of foreign powers and their spying networks.

The spying networks of foreign states with vested interest fully used Afghan soil and created instability in almost all countries, adjoining Afghanistan.

Pakistan remained the major target of these hostiles spying networks for the last two decades besides Central Asian states, China and even Russia.

All regional states which remained affected because of foreign invasion in Afghanistan should maintain an intimate engagement and cooperation with Taliban, before they opt for any other option which may prove disadvantageous for the regional peace.

This is in the context that, US State Department did not deny future relationship with Taliban Government rather clarified, any future relationship including recognition of Taliban will depends upon US future interests in the region.

India too is trying to reach over to Taliban Government through back channels for its relevance in the regional context and protection of the investment, it made in last two decades.

China has out rightly hinted for a positive engagement with the Taliban, much before the announcement of interim Taliban Government.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin welcomed interim Taliban Government and said, “China attaches great importance to the announcement by the Taliban of the establishment of an interim government and some important personnel arrangements.” Indeed, there is end of anarchy in Afghanistan which lasted for three weeks.

Nevertheless, it is end of chaos and civil war in Afghanistan which continued for the last four decades in various forms and formats.

Taliban invited Chinese investment and assistance much before the announcement of interim Government which is an evidence of their prior collaboration and coordination.

Taliban leadership believe that, being a rising global power and economic giant China can play a decisive role in the “rebuilding, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

Owing to uncertain situation in the Xinjiang, autonomous region of China, where the overwhelming Muslim majority has been marginalized since decades, China cannot afford unfriendly relationship with Taliban Government.

Indeed, there is an informal reciprocity between Taliban and Chinese Government which will be enhanced after a formal recognition process. There has been formal and overt engagement between Taliban leadership and Russian Federation in last few years.

Moscow remained unyielding supporter of US pull-out from the region and could see a ray of hope for peace and regional stability with Taliban at the centre stage in Afghanistan. Russia called the Taliban a “far more trustworthy partner than the puppet government in Kabul.”

The Federation considered Afghanistan as safer after the Taliban take-over. With peace in Afghanistan under Taliban, Russia sees lot of opportunities for its economic, political and diplomatic outreach in the region.

The Central Asian states may feel more comfortable with Taliban at the helm of affairs in their neighbourhood.

Nevertheless, ethnic factor has been an issue in the past, which derailed Afghan relationship with some of the Central Asian States.

If Taliban has assured no use of their soil against any other state(s), Central Asian states must not allow any external power or any Afghan dissident to conspire against the Taliban Government which may create regional instability.

Iran has been more guarded in its relationship with Taliban Government. There have been more critics then welcoming the Taliban. Capture of Panjshir Valley by Taliban was highly criticized by Iran.

Similarly, Iran called for an inclusive Government in Afghanistan which has not been done as yet.

Javad Zarif, former foreign minister called this as “a horrifying strategic mistake”. The Key consideration of the meeting of regional intelligence chiefs mainly focussed on the regional peace and stability which is only possible through a durable peace in Afghanistan.

While the Taliban are assuring peace in Afghanistan the regional countries need to assist them in overcoming the looming economic crisis with a word of de-facto recognition to begin with.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.​

Source: Published in pakobsever

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