Two regional security blocs led by Russia and China are preparing to hold separate summits in the Tajik capital this week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in which the Taliban seized power a month ago.
The September 16 meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), followed a day later by a rally of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), comes as Moscow and Beijing prepare to s ‘assert as key players in the region following the rapid collapse of the West-backed government in Kabul at the end of a US-led military mission in Afghanistan 20 years ago.
The two groups were seen as Moscow and Beijing’s counterparts to American geopolitical domination.
As Afghanistan faces a major humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the Taliban seizure of power, Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors are wary of security threats emanating from the war-torn country and the potential of tens of thousands of refugees to cross the border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of CSTO member states including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, will launch diplomatic talks in Dushanbe.
At a preliminary meeting on September 15, CSTO Secretary General Stanislau Zas acknowledged that the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border was “unfavorable” and promised that Dushanbe would receive “all military and technical assistance. -military necessary âto combat any threat from the south.
In recent weeks, the security group has organized military exercises in Kyrgyzstan to prepare for possible unrest. Tajikistan conducted military maneuvers with Russia and Uzbekistan, while Uzbekistan also held separate exercises with Russia along the Uzbek-Afghan border.
CSTO has scheduled three more rounds of military maneuvers near the Tajik-Afghan border in October, with a fourth scheduled for November.
Russia has military bases in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The leaders of the eight SCO members are then due to meet in Dushanbe on September 17.
Founded in 2001, the SCO was initially made up of China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan before India and Pakistan joined in 2017.
Putin, who is self-isolating due to “all-day” exposure to close contact testing positive for the coronavirus, has canceled his attendance at both summits.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also participate virtually in the SCO meeting.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country is an observer member of the SCO and eager to join the group, is expected in Dushanbe on September 17.
Afghanistan holds observer status with the SCO, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 15 that the Taliban had not been invited to observe the debates in the Tajik capital.
âNo one is in a rush to fully recognize the Taliban,â Lavrov said.
The Taliban have sought to reassure neighboring countries and Russia that they pose no threat since they took control of almost all of Afghanistan last month, including the capital Kabul.
The die-hard Islamist group has also pledged inclusiveness and a blanket amnesty for former opponents, but many Afghans remain deeply apprehensive, especially after the group formed an all-male government led by die-hard veterans, outlawing them. demonstrations and cracked down on protesters and journalists.
Lavrov said he “welcomes” several promises from the Taliban, including on combating drug trafficking and preventing attacks on other countries, but added: “Now we are monitoring to see how this will be achieved. In practice”.