Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last week to cooperate more closely on Afghanistan after the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country. Both leaders hope to promote a peaceful resolution of its crisis in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2513 from March 2020 which authorizes them to engage with the Taliban in the interests of peace despite that group still officially being designated as terrorists. Most immediately, they can organize another meeting of the Extended Troika between themselves, Pakistan, and the US, but there’s more that they can do too.
Before describing the other policy options available, it’s important to remind the reader of the aforementioned one’s importance. The Extended Troika brings together the top foreign stakeholders in the Afghan Civil War. It functions as the most efficient platform for exchanging views between the warring sides and facilitating a political solution to the conflict. Now that the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul has collapsed, however, that country’s participants could be a mix of the Taliban and some of the other groups that want to participate in their de facto leaders’ promised inclusive government.
The Taliban might be able to organize a government on their own without any foreign support like they’re reportedly in the process of doing, which could then change the purpose of the Extended Troika. Instead of facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis, they could focus more on pressing matters of mutual security such as the threat of ISIS-K and other international terrorist groups that are active in Afghanistan. The US will have much less influence there following its planned withdrawal by the end of the month so relevant responsibilities would fall more on China, Pakistan, and Russia’s shoulders.
These three countries are all part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where Afghanistan is also an observer. It might very well turn out that the Extended Troika becomes redundant in the event that the Taliban succeeds in forming an inclusive government on its own like it’s promised so it would be more sensible in that case for the SCO to play a greater role instead due to its members’ opposition to the shared threats of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Since China and Russia jointly founded the SCO, they’d accordingly have the most responsibilities when it comes to this issue alongside neighboring Pakistan of course.
Security and development go hand in hand, however, so it would then be equally important to ensure Afghanistan’s sustainable reconstruction in the coming future. The US already froze the Afghan Central Bank’s $9.5 billion assets, the IMF suspended Afghanistan’s access to funds, and the World Bank just halted its aid so alternative financial structures would have to replace those Western ones’ role if requested to do so by Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban-led government. China and Russia would of course first have to officially recognize that government, but such formal acknowledgment might soon follow the conclusion of that process.
China and Russia can extend their own forms of bilateral financial support to Afghanistan once that happens and/or the financial organizations that they founded could potentially do the same. These are mostly the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and the Eurasian Development Bank, but all members might have to first recognize the Taliban-led government. That’s why bilateral mechanisms or perhaps even a newly established joint one between China and Russia would most likely suffice since it’s unclear who else might recognize those authorities, when they’d feel comfortable doing that, and under what conditions.
Regardless of the exact scenarios, it’s clear that China and Russia hold the keys to Afghan peace one way or the other. These major countries have pivotal roles to play through the Extended Troika, the SCO, the non-Western alternative financial institutions that they participate in, bilaterally with Afghanistan, and jointly with one another and that war-torn country. China and Russia can help Afghanistan politically, in terms of security, and financially. This observation speaks to their irreplaceable importance in the emerging Multipolar World Order and the increased responsibilities that they’re shouldering commensurate with their rising global roles.
Source: One World