TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan has destabilized the region and exacerbated the terrorist threat, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a meeting of world leaders and Afghanistan’s neighbors on Friday, as they sought a unified solution to the country’s growing bloodshed.
Participants gathered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, traded scathing comments and finger-pointing over Afghanistan’s quickly deteriorating situation. As the US and NATO depart, Taliban militants have risen in recent weeks, seizing dozens of districts and a crucial border area from the Afghan security forces and military.
The conference’s initial agenda was to address improving transportation linkages across Central and South Asia, but the Taliban’s gains superseded that.
The United States, Russia, China, and many of Afghanistan’s neighbors are all involved in the Afghan conflict. Few people want the Taliban to take over the nation entirely, but the conference’s early tone suggested that finding common ground on how to salvage a peaceful solution would be tough.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a rapid deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan in the last few days,” Lavrov said, citing the “hurried evacuation of US and NATO contingents.”
“The Afghan situation has exacerbated the terrorist danger and exacerbated the problem of illegal drug trafficking, which has reached historic proportions,” he added. “There is a genuine danger that unrest may spread to neighboring nations.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, mocked EU foreign policy director Josep Borrell’s appeal for joint efforts to aid a peaceful solution in Afghanistan. She said on her messaging app channel, “First, they create a crisis, then they seek for people guilty and ask for communal actions.”
Any aspirations the US had of employing facilities in Central Asia to monitor terror threats in Afghanistan were crushed by Lavrov. While Pakistan and Uzbekistan have already said no, Lavrov claims that no Central Asian countries are willing to take such a risk.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he would push for at least a short cease-fire for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha next week.
A long-term “comprehensive” cease-fire may have to wait for the two parties to establish a political agreement, according to Khalilzad, who voiced astonishment at the Taliban’s quick advance over large parts of Afghanistan. Despite this, he stated that he will continue to advocate for a reduction in violence.
The Taliban have won scores of battles in recent weeks and now control major border crossings with Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. The rebels claim they are not seeking a military triumph over the Afghan government, but peace talks have been delayed for years, and without a settlement, the country risks devolving into a full-fledged civil war between the country’s various armed factions.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan stated at the meeting that his country seeks a peaceful solution. He said that Pakistan already has over 2 million refugees from decades of conflict in Afghanistan and that the country would be unable to absorb a fresh influx if violence intensifies.
The Russian official news outlet RIA-Novosti reported Khan as stating, “We will always be against a military solution to the situation in Afghanistan.” He also dismissed accusations of Pakistani backing for the Taliban as “very unjust,” claiming that “Pakistan has done more than any other country to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.”
In reply, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani used his speech at the conference to criticize what he called Pakistan’s fomenting of violence in Afghanistan. Without providing evidence, he claimed that over 10,000 “jihadi fighters from Pakistan and other places” had arrived in Afghanistan in the previous month.
Deep and long-standing mistrust exists between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kabul accuses Islamabad of providing safe havens for the Taliban and treating injured terrorists in Pakistani hospitals on a regular basis. Afghan Taliban were allegedly treated for injuries suffered in a confrontation with Afghan security forces and military across the border in Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak on Friday in Pakistan’s southern border town of Chaman. The border town had been captured by the Taliban earlier this week, and Afghan elite troops were conducting a counter-offensive to reclaim it.
Pakistan has also accused Afghanistan of sheltering the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has increased assaults in Pakistan in recent months, killing several army soldiers each week.
On Friday, a top Afghan government team traveled to Qatar to meet with Taliban commanders who maintain a political office in Doha, the country’s capital. The meeting will be led by Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the country’s national reconciliation council, and will be the highest-level delegation to meet with the Taliban to date.
“It needs all parties to strive for peace… there is tremendous combat continuing on, and it hasn’t stopped for 42 years “Before departing Kabul for Doha, Abdullah told reporters. “This conflict has impacted hundreds of thousands of people; we must do everything we can to establish peace.”
Central Asian governments, Russia, and the United States have all voiced hope that a stable Afghanistan, with the Taliban working with Afghan security forces rather than against them, might combat extremist organizations like the Islamic State and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Taliban have attacked IS in various regions of Afghanistan at times, assisting in degrading its capabilities.
With the final deadline for the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan approaching on August 31, the United States is aiming to beef up its intelligence and capabilities to combat terror threats in the region.
President Joe Biden’s assistant for homeland security, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, met separately with the five Central Asian states on Thursday. Afghanistan was a major topic of discussion during their meeting, which focused on ways to collaborate on regional security.