Afghanistan’s Neighbours Meet in Samarkand, Call for Inclusive Government, Tangible Action Against Terror Groups


The latest: During the fourth meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighbouring states, the participants emphasised on the building of an inclusive governance system in Afghanistan with the participation of all ethnic groups and political institutions. The statement asked the Taliban government in Kabul to “take tangible action in fighting against terrorism and eliminating terrorist groups in the country.”


Go deeper:

  • The Samarkand Declaration has been released after the foreign ministers and senior officials of China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met on April 13 in Uzbekistan to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
  • The statement emphasized that a peaceful Afghanistan is in the international community’s interest and that the country should be a place for international cooperation rather than geopolitical rivalry.
  • They reaffirmed the commitment to the development of Afghanistan as a peaceful, united, sovereign and independent state, free from the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking.
  • The countries said that all terrorist groups, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Jundallah, Jaish al-Adl, Jamaat Ansarullah, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and other terrorist organisations based in Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to regional and global security.
  • However, they also mentioned that all neighbours would work together for a counter-terrorism strategy.
  • The issue of drug menace had also been discussed and called for support for the development of drug crop substitution programs, as well as for combating drug production and trafficking.
  • The foreign ministers of the participant countries also stressed on the need for the international community to maintain dialogue and communication with Afghanistan and called for further measures to improve the living conditions of the people.
  • While expressing concern about the humanitarian situation and the poor economic situation in the country, the countries said that they would provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and support the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.
  • They also stressed on the importance of cooperation on major international energy, transport, communication, infrastructure and other projects implemented by neighbouring countries for socio-economic development of Afghanistan.


Take note of what some countries had to say during the meet- Pakistan: Pakistan has warned growing voices, especially in the West who are advocating a complete break from Afghanistan, not to offload its problems to the neighbourhood and walk away.

  • “Mistakes of abandoning the people of Afghanistan is always a bad choice and should not be repeated. There are clear indications that humanitarian support to Afghanistan will see a significant decline this year,” said Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar.
  • However, she also pointed to the Taliban government, which was represented by the group’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, that ‘regrettably’ some of the policies and actions of the government had not helped either. “The decision to suspend education for women and girls and to prevent them from working for national and international NGOs is regrettable, not only that it deprives the enterprising Afghan women and girls their rightful opportunities to progress and advance, and to secure gainful employment, but also restrains the helping hand of many friends and well-wishers of Afghanistan,” said Khar.
  • Pakistan, she said, has voiced its disappointment with this decision. The issue of terrorism, including attacks on Pakistan from the soil of Afghanistan, was also raised by the MoS at a time when in Islamabad, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Pakistan would not hesitate to strike inside Afghanistan against those who were carrying out terrorist activities against Pakistan.
  • Pakistan seven points pointing out that progress towards the goal of promoting greater political inclusivity in Afghanistan, remains a critical priority, and should be guided by: One, unity of purpose and a synergy of effort within the region remains imperative. “We should not only continue to hold regular consultations but also evolve common strategies and shared perspectives on Afghanistan.”
  • Pakistan believes that the three Working Groups, on the political and diplomatic, economic and humanitarian and security and stability dimensions, established during the last meeting, provide a useful framework to follow-up on the decisions taken during our meetings, and should be fully operationalised.
  • Two, connectivity should become a conduit for regional peace and prosperity by identifying projects, consolidating and implementing them, as critical building blocs for a common vision for regional connectivity. Connectivity projects such as CASA-1000, Trans-Afghan Railways, TAPI and others, are not merely economic undertakings, they are also strategic investments in our shared future, it stated.
  • Three, Pakistan firmly believes that humanitarian support should remain delinked from any political considerations. Continued and sustained humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan must therefore, be ensured.
  • Four, beyond the confines of humanitarian assistance, we should focus on generating economic activity within Afghanistan to ensure a sustainable future, avoid economic meltdown and prevent exodus of refugees.
  • Five, we should devise a roadmap of cooperation with the Taliban authorities based on a ‘hierarchy of priorities’, especially where the Taliban Government has shown a commitment to act, including strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation.
  • Six, greater coordination between regional and international efforts on Afghanistan remain equally important.
  • Seven, we cannot talk of the Afghan people without talking to them. Constructive engagement with the Taliban Government remains imperative.


Iran: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Afghanistan is in need of regional cooperation to solve its current challenges rather than the US-led intervention that had pushed the country toward poverty and instability.

  • He said Iran is concerned about the spread of terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan and the continuation of the wrong US policies in the country, adding that today, Afghanistan is more in need of regional cooperation and solutions, rather than the intervention by the US and the West that have pushed the Asian country toward poverty and instability.
  • The Iranian Foreign Minister highlighted the necessity of managing the economic situation in Afghanistan and cited the economic pressures in the country as a factor behind the increased migration of Afghan refugees to neighbouring countries, which has resulted in certain types of insecurity in these countries.


Russia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was present at Thursday’s meeting in Samarkand and he held separate meetings with foreign ministers of the participating countries before the summit began.

  • Russia announced its opposition to the deployment of US infrastructure near Afghanistan and blamed the US as responsible for today’s deplorable situation in Afghanistan.


Uzbekistan: The Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan issued a statement saying that neighbouring foreign ministers at the Samarkand summit supported the implementation of economic projects in Afghanistan with the participation of these countries.

  • Afghanistan’s economic capacities should be used, it said. The statement without directly mentioning Afghanistan under Taliban control, said participants stressed “the importance of measuring measures to fight international terrorism.”
  • Neighbouring countries “emphasized the establishment of a joint mechanism for providing humanitarian assistance and reviving the Afghan economy,” the statement said.
  • The statement also asked the Taliban to provide work and education for women and girls. The statement stated that Taliban respect the basic rights of minorities.


China: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang said that the U.S. failure in Afghanistan is multifold. First, it was a military failure. “The military subjugation did not bring a moment of peace to Afghanistan, and the 20 years of occupation by the U.S. military had been 20 years of conflicts and turmoil in Afghanistan. Second, it was a political failure,” Gang said.

  • The “democratic transformation” carried out by the U.S. and other Western countries in Afghanistan failed to fit into local conditions, and the issue of national reconciliation in Afghanistan has dragged on unresolved to today.
  • Gang also said that counter-terrorism was a failure. With the U.S. interference, the terrorism issue has got from bad to worse in Afghanistan.
  • Qin expressed the hope that the US will truly draw a lesson from what happened in Afghanistan, and that the US should not judge or interfere in other countries’ systems based on Western standards, nor should it attempt to reset military forces in Afghanistan and the region, still less supporting and employing terrorism.


Between the lines: To everyone’s surprise, the Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi had also been present in Samarkand and met with a few officials.

  • Muttaqi told delegates that “the recent positive developments in Afghanistan, such as the withdrawal of foreign forces, rise of a powerful central government, law and order, encompassing security, end of corruption, access to judiciary and justice, ban on narcotics cultivation and trade, and the overall positive resolve of the Taliban government have spawned new opportunities for close and meaningful cooperation between Afghanistan and the region.”
  • He also said that decades of imposed wars had not only snatched great economic and commercial opportunities from Afghanistan but the region at large. “We now have a window of opportunity to transform Afghanistan into a key economic and commercial partner,” he said.
  • “Our expectation remains that regional countries will exert joint efforts to bring about conditions of stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan so that it may assist Afghanistan in playing a constructive role. We, likewise, are ready to fulfill our obligations as a responsible government,” he stated.
  • He urged regional states to remain vigilant about not allowing their policy towards Afghanistan “to fall prey to the negative propaganda and machinations of opposing powers.”
  • “Instability in Afghanistan is not in the interest of anyone as it can become a source for regional instability, narcotics boom, arms proliferation, illegal migration and other challenges,” he said.


Zoom out: Thursday’s meeting was taking place at a critical juncture. Afghanistan currently faces multiple and mutually reinforcing challenges: the humanitarian situation in the country remains grim, with a staggering 28 million people – over 2/3rd of the population, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance to survive.

  • The menace of terrorism continues to blight the lives of Afghan people on a daily basis. The threat posed by terrorist organisations to the neighbouring states and the region has accentuated.
  • Meanwhile, the Afghan economy continues to operate under the shadow of sanctions and billions of dollars of frozen assets. Coming together of neighbours on how to better handle the crises in Afghanistan may seem to be the best foot forward for the region.
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