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An international conference to promote peace in Afghanistan was held in Tashkent last month.
The conference aimed at bringing Afghanistan and the five Central Asian states along with Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia and China, to resolve the Taliban crisis.
Although, sponsored by the US, the ‘Great Power’ came close to throwing a monkey wrench into the works when the US commander in Kabul, General John Nicholson, accused Russia of supplying weapons across the Tajik border to the Taliban.
The Taliban refused the invitation to attend, reading that the US’s intention was to fortify the US and NATO’s presence in Afghanistan. This was not wide off the mark.
The US needs supplies delivered to its and NATO bases in Afghanistan without having to depend on Russia, Pakistan or Iran for safe- passage. Central Asia seemed their best bet.
But the conference was never going to be conclusive. China is committed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as is Pakistan, with both countries looking to extend the CPEC into Afghanistan and, China looking beyond, under its One Belt One Road determination.
Nevertheless, a joint declaration was signed at the meeting’s end with signatories asking for “direct talks with the Taliban, without any preconditions”.
The conference was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Wang Yi of China and Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu as well as senior officials from the EU and elsewhere. The US was represented by a lower ranked White House official.
The US’s lack of faith in its own initiative was vindicated. When Taliban militants attacked an Afghan security post in Herat, killing nine soldiers and one policeman, just a day ago.
Actually, this came as no surprise. At the conference, the Taliban had ruled out direct talks with Kabul and insisted they would only negotiate with the US on the withdrawal of NATO forces.
The US ignored the message.