Pakistan hosts US, Russia, China for talks on Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Thursday hosted talks with special envoys from the United States, Russia and China on the path forward for Afghanistan, where a deepening humanitarian crisis has forced many Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries since the Taliban takeover in August.

Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was also present in Islamabad but he did not attend the meeting, dubbed the “troika plus."

Muttaqi will meet with his Pakistani counterpart later Thursday. According to Afghanistan's foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Afghan foreign minister will also follow up with the special envoys on Afghanistan.

The participants of the troika plus meeting are expected to issue an appeal for the world community to urgently provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. They also are set to urge the Taliban to respect human and women's rights and to ensure an inclusive government.

The latest development comes weeks after Russia hosted a similar talks on Afghanistan, but Washington at the time stayed way due to logistical reasons. On Wednesday, India hosted senior security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the ramifications of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in talks that were boycotted by rival Pakistan and its ally China.

The Taliban seized power following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. Since the takeover in August, the world community has not recognized the Taliban regime over human rights issues and a lack of inclusivity in their Cabinet.

In his remarks at the meeting, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed his concern that any economic collapse in Afghanistan could cause instability in the whole region and beyond.

“All of us have common concerns related to Afghanistan and also have a shared interest in the country’s peace and stability," he said.

“We are confident that troika plus’ engagement with the new Afghan government will help consolidate peace and stability, promote sustainable economic development and help constrict space for terrorist outfits operating from and within Afghanistan," he said.

Qureshi said Afghanistan is at the brink of an economic collapse and called for the release of Afghan funds frozen by the world community.

“With international funding dried up, it has become difficult to pay even salaries, let alone pursue development projects," he added. "The common man is reeling under the effects of a severe drought. Any further downward slide will severely limit the new administration’s capacity to run the government" in Afghanistan.

Pakistan says the presence of Afghan representative was necessary in such talks.

In remarks after the meeting, Qureshi said he told participants that the talks would be more productive with the Taliban representative in the room. He said the next troika plus meeting will be held in Beijing, where the Taliban representative will be invited.

Qureshi said any instability in Afghanistan will directly affect Pakistan, but also Europe and other nations. He added that he will inform Muttaqi about the outcome of Thursday's troika plus meeting.

Pakistan has been urging nations to free Afghanistan’s assets to enable the Taliban government use its own money to avert the deepening crisis. Currently, Kabul does not have access to the Afghanistan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.