WASHINGTON D.C.: G20 leaders holding a virtual summit on Afghanistan Tuesday are “laser-focused” on keeping the Taliban-ruled country from becoming a militant haven and on providing humanitarian aid, says a US readout on the meeting.
Leaders of the world’s major economies including US President Joe Biden, joined by representatives of the United Nations and key intermediary Qatar, “discussed the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ISIS-K,” a White House statement said.
It was referring to Daesh’s offshoot in the region, a bitter rival of the Taliban that has staged a series of deadly attacks of late as it tries to destabilize the country’s new rulers.
It claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 55 people last week in a Shiite mosque.
The G20 leaders also discussed the need to provide safe passage for foreign nationals and “Afghan partners” with documentation who hope to leave Afghanistan, the US readout said.
The leaders also reaffirmed a commitment to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people through independent international organizations, and “to promote fundamental human rights for all Afghans, including women, girls, and members of minority groups.”
The US — which completed a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August — remains committed to “using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people.”
The G20 needs to maintain contact with Afghanistan’s Taliban government but this does not mean the Kabul administration will be formally recognised, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also said Tuesday.
Speaking after chairing a special G20 summit on the Afghan crisis, Draghi said the virtual meeting had been a success despite the absence of key leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“This was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis … multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back,” Draghi told reporters after the video conference.
There was unanimous agreement among the participants about the need to tackle Afghanistan’s mounting humanitarian crisis and safeguard the position of women in the impoverished nation, Draghi said.
“It is very hard to see how you can help people in Afghanistan without involving the Taliban,” Draghi said.
Qatar’s diplomatic point man on Afghanistan said countries should engage the country’s new Taliban rulers, warning that isolation could lead to instability and a wide-reaching security threat.
Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation in conflict resolution, said he’s held conversations with the Taliban about combating terrorism.
The Taliban, he said, are committed to fighting Daesh and its affiliates, which are increasingly active in Afghanistan, and ensuring the country is not used by terrorist organizations.
The sides have also discussed pressing issues related to the role of women in society, girls’ access to education and the importance of an inclusive government.
“What we are saying to the Taliban, which is the caretaker government, the de facto authorities in Kabul, (is that) discrimination and exclusion… this is not a good policy,” Al-Qahtani said in a speech at the Global Security Forum in Doha organized by The Soufan Center.
The current Afghan government, which the Taliban say is only interim, is comprised solely of Taliban figures, including several blacklisted by the UN.
Qatar was crucial to the US airlift of more than 100,000 people from Kabul after the Taliban’s surprise takeover of the capital Aug. 15, and has hosted face-to-face talks between the Taliban and the US.
* With AFP, AP and Reuters