Joe Biden’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan has left the country what fearful neighbors are calling a “boiling pot” of terrorism. A withdrawal was necessary, but Biden’s bungling execution has left things in the area worse than they’ve been in decades. Lynne O’Donnell discusses the situation in Foreign Policy, writing:
The Taliban’s failure to make the leap from insurgency to governance is coming under scrutiny this week as they meet with representatives of countries that are growing increasingly concerned that after almost year in power, the extremists have again transformed Afghanistan into a global terrorist haven.
The July 25-27 conference in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, follows the latest report on Afghanistan by the United Nations Security Council, which contains alarming details on the activities of terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, now enjoying the Taliban’s protection in Afghanistan. The report indicated that Afghanistan has essentially reverted to the state it was in before Sept. 11, 2001, when it hosted Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, while the group planned the big terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Officially, the theme of the conference is “security and economic development,” though sources among participants say the real focus will be on counterterrorism. More than 20 countries and international organizations will attend, including Iran, Pakistan, China, and the Central Asian states. The United States, Russia, and India are also set to attend, as are U.N. delegates.
This week’s gathering to discuss Afghanistan’s descent into rising lawlessness and corruption and sinking human rights will be the first for the Taliban as participants. They shouldn’t expect diplomatic recognition, as they are still widely seen as illegitimate. The European Union’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Andreas Von Brandt, says there is a general consensus on nonrecognition and an emphasis on helping the people, not the regime.
“The main goal of the event is to develop a set of measures and proposals for the approaches of the world community to promote stability, security, post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan and its integration into regional cooperation processes in the interests of the multinational Afghan people and the whole world,” Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said.
Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, and the Central Asian states were united in support of the Taliban’s victory over the former government last August, as they were happy to see the United States leave the region. Now that they’ve got the Taliban on their hands, few appear to know how to halt their brutality and transform them from murderous drug-dealing thieves into politicians. The resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan is also giving its neighbors fits.
Uzbekistan, host of this week’s conference, has seen its southern border region hit repeatedly this year by rockets fired from Afghanistan. While the local Islamic State franchise has mostly claimed responsibility, observers doubt that the so-called Islamic State-Khorasan is anything more than a Taliban cover, deftly serving as a lightning rod so that the Taliban can pretend to cooperate on counterterrorism.
“The Uzbeks are furious that rockets have been landing in the center of [the border town] Termez,” a delegate to the conference said anonymously, as he was not authorized to speak publicly. “The military are furious and want to react with force; the civilian authorities are having to try to calm them down.”
Tajikistan is also concerned about anti-state groups operating just over its border with Afghanistan. China, another neighbor, has been unable to cajole the Taliban into handing over members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which supports a Uyghur homeland in Xinjiang. Pakistan, which enabled the Taliban by providing safe haven, funding, and arms throughout their insurgency, has lost control of the group and finds itself negotiating with them for peace with their affiliate Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
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