Efforts for Afghanistan are being pursued through various formulas and techniques. Just yesterday, Ahmad Massoud, the exiled leader of Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front, unveiled his new book “Notre liberte” in Paris. Simultaneously, Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation, was the venue for a regional meeting that underscored the necessity of forming an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
The fifth regional consultation on Afghanistan took place in Kazan, in a gathering known as the “Moscow Format”. This meeting brought together special representatives from Iran, China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, attended this meeting as a representative of the interim government in Afghanistan.
In Paris, Ahmad Massoud expressed the Taliban’s reluctance to engage in national dialogue, stating that there are currently no talks with the Taliban aimed at achieving settlement and peace. He asserted that the only path to legitimacy for the Taliban would be through elections, a prospect that seems unlikely at present. Massoud pledged to persist with “guerrilla warfare” as a means to persuade the Taliban to engage in negotiations.
Conversely, Amir Khan Muttaqi, who participated in the Kazan meeting to garner regional support for the Taliban, highlighted in his speech the recent developments in Afghanistan. He stated, “Scientific and practical experience has demonstrated that the primary cause of the crisis is the imposition of external prescriptions, patterns, and orders on internal issues, disregarding our geography, history, culture, religious, and social values.”
This statement was made while the emphasis on the Taliban’s commitment to national dialogue was a key component of the Kazan declaration. Prior to the Moscow Format meeting, China’s decision to dispatch a new ambassador to Kabul sparked speculation that the recognition of the Taliban might be a topic of discussion at this meeting. However, the Kazan declaration, a copy of which was obtained by Iran Nuances, draws a clear distinction between the terms “current authorities” and “inclusive government”. This suggests that negotiations with the Taliban do not equate to recognition of this group. In reality, these discussions aim to manage the security implications of Afghanistan for the region, steer the country toward political development, and promote shared interests.
The Kazan declaration emphasized the need for a truly inclusive government in Afghanistan, with participation from all ethno-political groups in the country. It clarified that the appointment of individual representatives from various ethnic groups of Afghanistan to the Kabul administration does not constitute political pluralism. Consequently, the interim government in Afghanistan has been urged to establish a practical and result-oriented dialogue with representatives of ethno-political groups, with the goal of completing the peaceful settlement process and creating a balanced, broader, comprehensive, responsive, and responsible agreement.
To expedite the achievement of Afghanistan’s political and security objectives, Iran proposed the establishment of a regional contact group to discuss matters of interest. This proposal was included in the final declaration of the Kazan meeting. No details have been released yet regarding the structure of Iran’s proposed group. However, some experts suggest that Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and China, could form the core of the contact group. Previously, foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries held four rounds of meetings in Islamabad, Tehran, Tunxi, and Samarkand. The fifth round of the meeting is scheduled to take place in Ashgabat. Iran is one of the active participants in the meetings of Afghanistan’s neighbors.
Some observers believe that the Taliban is vehemently opposed to discussions concerning the presence of terrorist groups within Afghanistan. The Moscow Format declaration, while acknowledging certain measures undertaken, has voiced apprehension about Afghanistan’s security situation due to the escalating activities of terrorist groups, primarily ISIS. It underscores that combating terrorism is a commitment of the Taliban. Kabul has been urged to implement effective strategies to dismantle, eradicate, and prevent the formation of all forms of terrorist groups within Afghanistan, thereby averting the country from becoming a hub of terrorism and instability, and its subsequent spread to regional countries.
The issue of surge in the number of Afghan immigrants in Iran has garnered attention on social media recently. The Kazan meeting discussed and included in its declaration the improvement of living conditions in Afghanistan and the prevention of refugee influx into regional countries. The “current Afghan authorities” were called upon to create the necessary conditions to enhance the welfare of the Afghan populace through the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. This includes equal rights to work, education, and justice, without discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, or religion.
Following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, education in Afghanistan has been predominantly confined to religious and jihadi schools, a development that experts view with concern due to its local and regional implications. The Kazan discussions expressed worry about the existing restrictions on women’s employment and girls’ education. Furthermore, the interim government in Afghanistan was urged to implement education in schools in line with international standards.
Since the downfall of the Afghan government, the country’s situation has been under global scrutiny at both regional and international levels. The most recent international meeting, initiated by the Secretary General of the United Nations, aimed to harmonize international and regional actions toward resolving Afghanistan’s issues. This meeting took place in May 2023 in Doha, with the presence of special representatives.
The Kazan declaration, referring to the 20-year actions of the Western coalition led by the United States and its role in the current crisis in Afghanistan, calls upon this coalition to assume “responsibility for post-conflict reconstruction of the country, and unfreeze the Afghan national assets and lift unilateral sanctions, immediately.”
The Kazan declaration’s primary positive approach toward the Taliban is the support for the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s resources and the need to bolster economic cooperation with the country. This aims to ameliorate Afghanistan’s conditions and integrate the country into regional economic projects.
The Moscow Format on Afghanistan was instituted in 2017 to facilitate efforts to propel the process of national reconciliation in the country. Its preceding meeting was convened in Moscow in November 2022. This time, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey attended the Kazan meeting as guests.