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The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Islamabad on December 19, 2021, offered little succour to Afghanistan as a humanitarian trust fund set up to help the beleaguered nation where millions face acute hunger and poverty amid a bitter winter, received no donations. OIC Secretary-General said the organisation is hopeful that donations would come after future talks with the Afghan authorities. None of the OIC member states has officially recognised the Taliban regime.
The Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was excluded from the official photograph taken during the event. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the Foreign Ministers from OIC countries, “Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos”. Commenting on the results of the meeting, Pakistani journalist Husain Haqqani tweeted, “They met, they talked, they disperse”.
The Islamic Development Bank is expected to make efforts to free up assistance by the first quarter of 2022. An OIC resolution urged Afghanistan’s rulers to abide by “obligations under international human rights covenants, especially with regards to the rights of women, children, youth, elderly and people with special needs”.
Afghan Foreign Minister Muttaqi insisted that his government “has the right to be officially recognised”, that it is “cooperating with every foreign organisation,” and that sanctions “must be removed”. Addressing the delegates, he said the US decision to freeze Afghanistan assets “is a clear violation of the human rights of Afghans, and can be interpreted as enmity with an entire nation”. United Nations’ Undersecretary-General on Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths warned that Afghanistan’s economy was “now in free fall” and could “pull the entire population with it”.
The third meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue hosted by New Delhi the same day (December 19, 2021) was far more productive. Attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the meeting discussed the situation in Afghanistan and expressed support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan and respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs.
The Ministers agreed to continue humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. Upholding the importance of UNSC Resolution 2593 (2021) which demands that Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist acts, the Ministers called for concerted action against all terrorist groups. They agreed to continue close consultations on the situation in Afghanistan.
Endorsing the outcome document of the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue of November 10, 2021, the Ministers said there is a broad ‘regional consensus’ on Afghanistan, viz., formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, the central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups.
Alluding to common threats from neighbours, the Ministers condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterated that providing safe haven and using terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism, terror financing, arms and drugs trafficking, dissemination of a radical ideology and abuse of cyberspace to spread disinformation and incite violence all go against the basic principles of humanity and international relations. They urged early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, strengthening UN-led global counter-terrorism cooperation and implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions, Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and FATF standards.
The meeting supported optimum usage of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and of the Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor to enhance connectivity between India and Central Asian countries. It welcomed the move to include Chabahar Port (Shahid Beheshti Terminal) within the framework of INSTC to augment regional connectivity in Central and South Asia.
Within Afghanistan, four months after walking into Kabul unopposed – former President Hamid Karzai now says he “invited” them, though on what authority is unclear – the Taliban continue to spread fear within the country and dread in neighbouring Pakistan. On December 9, 2021, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) released a video where group commander Noor Wali Mehsud asserted during a visit to northern Pakistan that TTP is a branch of the Afghan Taliban: “The TTP is a branch of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and we are part of it”.
Both the TTP and the Afghan Taliban are aware that the Governments of Pakistan, the United States, Canada and Britain have declared the TTP as a terrorist organization. That the two groups are determined to work in tandem for a common objective was spelt out two days later (December 11, 2021) when Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declared, “Pakistan’s political framework does not represent an Islamic system. Their system is not Islamic. Religion is not important to Pakistan’s government.”
This must ring alarm bells in Islamabad. From 1947, both civilian and military leaderships have sought strategic depth in Afghanistan. Now, when the goal seems to have been achieved, there is a real danger that the Taliban will achieve strategic depth in Pakistan. A section of the Taliban is doggedly pursuing this agenda, regardless of lack of diplomatic recognition from the international community, and the food and other crises within the country. This could be one reason behind the widening rift between the Haqqani Network and the Southern Taliban (Kandaharis).
The situation is confused with many sub-conflicts roiling the country, from the fight of Pashtuns with ethnic Tajik and Uzbek militias (Afghan citizens) and victimization of the Shia Hazaras. Taliban commander, Maulvi Najmuddin Fayez, director of mines in Yaftal district of Badakhshan, was assassinated by his security guard on December 8, underscoring the Haqqani Network’s virulent opposition to the appointment of non-Pashtuns to high-ranking positions.
From Kandahar (December 15), there were reports of pitched battles between ISIS-Khorasan and the Taliban in some districts of the city. There were casualties on both sides and an unspecified number of civilians were killed.
Meanwhile, deposed vice president Amrullah Saleh announced in a tweet on December 17 that nearly 200 members of Pakistan’s elite Special Services Group (SSG) had arrived in Panjshir, to groom the Taliban militias and directly fight with the local citizenry, if necessary. Proclaiming that, “We knew it from the beginning. Nothing new, but the public has the hard evidence now”, Saleh said, “resistance is a national need”. There are reports of fighting in several districts.