US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Khalilzad met his Russian, Chinese and EU counterparts on March 21—22. They issued two separate statements, one US-Russia-China and the other US-EU, though they were all at the same meeting. The former statement underscores “respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” of Afghanistan and its right to make its own political, security, and economic decisions. The three agreed to seek “common efforts and coordination” in the Afghan peace process.
There are a few remarkable aspects to this meeting. Firstly, Afghanistan was not invited to it, though it has been a universal mantra that an Afghan political process should be Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled and inclusive. Secondly, the US and Russia have been involved in mutual recriminations over years, with the US accusing Russia of aiding and arming the Taliban and Russia accusing the US of massing assorted terrorists at the Afghan-Central Asia borders. Now they have come together to find common ground on Afghanistan, without Afghanistan and without other important regional stakeholders like India. Russia would take great satisfaction from the fact that, through its recent dialogue initiatives, it has earned an invitation to the international negotiations table on Afghanistan. Finally, it is quite clear that all players have taken Pakistan’s assistance to establish dialogue with the Taliban.
We have, therefore, reached the stage of a P5-owned, Pakistan-controlled and Afghanistan-exclusive process for a settlement in Afghanistan.
March 30, 2019