Pakistan urges US to unfreeze Afghanistan assets at Troika Plus
Published: Nov 11, 2021 09:09 PM
This handout photo taken and released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 11, 2021 shows Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (3L) posing along with Pakistan's secretary foreign affairs, Sohail Mahmood (2R), US special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West (L), Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov (2L) and China's special envoy to Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong (3R) prior to attend the 'Troika Plus' meeting on Afghanistan, in Islamabad. Photo: AFP

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (third from left) poses with China's Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs Yue Xiaoyong (third from right) and other representatives from Russia and US at the Troika Plus meeting on Afghanistan held on November 11, 2021 in Islamabad. Photo: AFP

Pakistan on Thursday hosted the Troika Plus meeting on Afghanistan in Islamabad, with the participation of special envoys from China, Russia and the US, discussing issues like the humanitarian crisis and the future path of the war-torn country. 

Although Taliban diplomat Amir Khan Muttaqi was not in Thursday's meeting, he arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday and was expected to talk with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday. 

China's Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs Yue Xiaoyong attended the meeting. The Troika Plus mechanism is viewed as a balanced combination of countries with different interests in various directions on the Afghan issue.

Qureshi, who affirms the mechanism's role in consolidating peace and stability, and in suppressing terrorism in Afghanistan, expressed concern at the meeting that any economic collapse in Afghanistan could cause instability in the region and beyond, media reported.

Experts said the Troika Plus meeting is expected to achieve some results in forming an inclusive government and cracking down on terrorism, but that depends on whether the Americans can face reality and be more pragmatic about the Taliban.

According to media reports, during Wednesday's meeting, Pakistan called on the US to free Afghanistan's $9 billion in assets frozen by the US, and allow Taliban to use the money to avert a humanitarian crisis.

"The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been largely created by decades of irresponsible US behavior. If the US truly wants to play a role in solving Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis, it should unfreeze that country's assets, rather than use the well-being of Afghanistan's 38 million people as leverage against the Taliban," Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Experts said US participation somehow represents a partial shift in US attitude.  

"Before the US withdrawal, Washington hoped that the Troika mechanism could help the US-backed Kabul government survive. But after the Taliban took over Kabul, the US, for a period, felt less interested," Zhu Yongbiao, Director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

There is a renewed awareness in the US of the importance of this mechanism, one of the most important multilateral mechanisms on Afghanistan, Zhu said, noting that the efficiency of the mechanism is relatively high and the topics will be more focused and specific.  

Only by maintaining contact through multilateral mechanisms, rather than simply excluding the Taliban, can the parties better influence the Taliban and lead the Taliban to develop in a positive direction on issues such as inclusive government, counter-terrorism and humanitarian issues, Qian said.

The meeting was held amid the convening of a parallel security dialogue in New Delhi on Afghan issue. China and Pakistan skipped the meeting. 

Experts said India can be included in the Troika Plus mechanism.

"As long as India stops prioritizing its rivalry with Pakistan over the current situation in Afghanistan, and prioritizes the interests of the Afghan people and regional security, it is welcome to participate in the Troika Plus mechanism… India is a regional power, after all, and it has invested heavily in Afghanistan in the past," Zhu said.   

Media reported that Pakistan has also discussed the idea of Afghanistan joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a mega infrastructure project under the Belt and Road Initiative.

"China has always been concerned about the livelihood of Afghan people, the issue of terrorism, and lasting peace and stability in the region," said Qian. "China has played a positive and constructive role in humanitarian assistance, which will be recognized by any unbiased country."