Kabul: The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan actually means that the United States has recognized the failure of its twenty-year-long mission in this country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.
“The United States is not merely withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, it is doing that having actually recognized the failure of its twenty-year-long mission,” he said during a lecture at the Far Eastern Federal University. He also noted that the situation in Afghanistan is being worsened by the fact that there are niches in that country that attract Islamic State organization. “Islamic State is deliberately pulling its forces in Afghanistan’s northern provinces bordering our allies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tajikistan called on members of a Russian-led military bloc to help it deal with security challenges emerging from neighboring Afghanistan, the RIA news agency reported. Tajikistan made its appeal to help to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Hasan Sultonov, Tajikistan’s Permanent Representative to CSTO, said that about 1,500 Afghan soldiers have crossed into Tajikistan over two past weeks, fleeing the Taliban offensive. “Over the past two weeks, about 1,500 Afghan government troops have crossed into Tajikistan,” Sultonov said at the CSTO permanent council meeting on the Tajik-Afghan border issue. He noted that the latest incident happened on July 5, when the Taliban took full control of several counties in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan. This area borders Tajikistan for 910 kilometers (560 miles), Sultonov added. According to the envoy, only on July 5, some 1,037 Afghan soldiers crossed over to Tajikistan, with some villages, located near bridges over the border river of Panj, facing an influx of over 200 people at once.
Even Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will adopt a joint statement on the situation in Afghanistan after the Dushanbe talks on July 13-14, Russian Special Presidential Representative for SCO Bakhtiar Hakimov told TASS on Wednesday. “It is clear that, considering the current situation in Afghanistan, we must review the developments in this country first and foremost. The discussion will take place both in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers and during a separate meeting of Foreign Ministers of the SCO and Afghanistan within the contact group. After that, we plan to adopt a joint statement on the situation in Afghanistan,” he said. The SCO summit will take place in-person in Dushanbe on September 16-17.
Our other partners, Iran and India too discussed the Afghanistan security situation. The Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi received the visiting Indian Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar for a meeting in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon. Raisi said that “The Islamic Republic of Iran supports stability, security and peace in Afghanistan. Pointing out that Afghanistan is in a very critical situation now, the Indian Foreign Minister added, “Afghanistan’s neighbors must work together to solve the country’s problems.”
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “apprehensive” about Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US and UK troops, saying the countries must work together so “blood and treasure” is not wasted. Before the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, Johnson told MPs he was not “happy” about the deteriorating security there. He said, “If you ask me if I feel happy about the current situation in Afghanistan, of course I don’t. The situation is fraught with risks.”
Johnson gave a statement to the house on Thursday regarding the country, which has seen Taliban advances in recent days after coalition troops withdrew. He is expected to pay tribute to the 454 British men and women, who lost their lives during the 20-year conflict. Johnson added: “We must hope that the parties in Kabul can come together to reach an agreement. We have to hope that the blood and treasure spent by this country over decades protecting the people of Afghanistan has not been in vain and that the legacy of their efforts is protected.”
He added, “I hope that no-one will leap to the false conclusion that the withdrawal of our forces somehow means the end of Britain’s commitment to Afghanistan. We are not about to turn away, nor are we under any illusions about the perils of today’s situation and what may lie ahead. We always knew that supporting Afghanistan would be a generational undertaking and we were equally clear that the instruments in our hands would change over time. Now we shall use every diplomatic and humanitarian lever to support Afghanistan’s development and stability. We will back the Afghan state with over £100 million of development assistance this year, and £58 million for the Afghan national security and defense forces, and we will of course continue to work alongside our Afghan partners against the terrorist threat. Our diplomats are doing everything they can to support a lasting peace settlement within Afghanistan, and they are working for regional stability, particularly by promoting better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” This comes even as the head of Britain’s armed forces warned there is the possibility that Afghanistan could be on a path to civil war as American and other foreign troops leave.
Also, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the Taliban’s rapid military advance across Afghanistan may lead to refugees fleeing the country and seeking asylum in Europe. “If the Taliban takes over more territory in Afghanistan and people’s lives become even more difficult, it is possible that we will see a new influx of refugees from Afghanistan,” Haavisto said in an interview with Yle’s Ykkösaamu. The Foreign Minister added that Turkey could become a transit route for refugees looking to escape to Europe. Canada too is planning to take in hundreds of vulnerable Afghan interpreters, embassy staff and their families as the United States draws down its military presence in Afghanistan after two decades, a government source. Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended a decade ago, after which the country resettled about 800 Afghans who had worked for the country as interpreters or in other roles. Now interpreters who remained in Afghanistan and Afghan staff at the Canadian embassy in Kabul want to leave, and Canada is looking to bring them in as immigrants, said a government source who asked to speak anonymously due to the sensitivity of the information. In fact, a Pakistan parliamentary panel on Wednesday called for making the visa process for the Afghan refugees returning to their country transparent and smooth besides making their monitoring mechanism further strict in wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
All these developments come even as US President Joe Biden said that he will speak on Afghanistan on Thursday, days after American troops pulled out of their main military base 20 years after entering the country. Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin on Wednesday had a “constructive and positive meeting” to discuss a plan for Turkey to operate and guard Kabul airport after the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Turkish defense ministry said.
The Biden administration is also considering offering an expedited visa path for vulnerable Afghans including women politicians, journalists, and activists who may become targets of the Taliban, US officials say. Rights groups have been asking the US State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas specifically for vulnerable women and women’s advocates. The current plan includes translators who worked with foreign forces.
One of the officials said the administration is looking not only at women who are under threat, but also men and minorities in high-risk professions. Women who made gains during the two-decade US occupation, and their supporters and advocates, should be part of any expedited list, rights groups have argued to the White House and US State Department. “Lives are at risk,” said Teresa Casale, advocacy director for Mina’s List, which advocates for women’s representation in governments around the world. “Women leaders are being actively targeted and killed by Taliban forces. They receive threats against their lives and safety every day.”
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch has also said that Taliban forces on the offensive across northern Afghanistan have forcibly displaced residents and burned homes as apparent retaliation for cooperating with the Afghan government. Since May 2021, the Taliban have captured scores of district centers throughout the country, including an estimated 150 districts in Kunduz and other northern provinces, the organization said.
“The Taliban’s retaliatory attacks against civilians deemed to have supported the government are an ominous warning about the risk of future atrocities,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban leadership has the power to stop these abuses by their forces but haven’t shown that they are willing to do so,” Gossman added.
“Cycles of revenge have fueled atrocity killings in the past, particularly in northern Afghanistan,” Gossman said. “The Taliban should cease all attacks on civilians, and the United Nations and governments pushing for a resumption of peace negotiations should press them to do so.”