According to a Pakistani official and the United States State Department, the new US special envoy for Afghanistan will visit Pakistan this week to meet with the Taliban foreign minister and senior diplomats from China and Russia.
It will be Thomas West’s first trip to the region since succeeding Zalmay Khalilzad, the long-serving diplomat who oversaw the negotiations that led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban’s new foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, will attend the so-called “troika plus” meeting on Thursday in Islamabad, a senior Pakistani government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The State Department announced earlier this week that the West will also visit Russia and India.
“Together with our partners, he will continue to make clear the expectations that we have of the Taliban and any future Afghan government,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week at a briefing.
According to a senior Pakistani official, the meeting is “primarily aimed at… averting a humanitarian crisis and exploring the possibility of establishing an inclusive government in Afghanistan.”
The UN has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the verge of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half of the country suffering from “acute” food shortages and winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.
West, who was in Brussels this week to brief NATO on US engagements with the Taliban, told reporters that the Islamists have “very clearly” expressed a desire for aid to be resumed, as well as for international relations to be normalized and sanctions to be lifted.
He urged allies to work together on these issues, noting that Washington “can deliver none of these things on our own.”
This includes China, with whom the US has recently clashed over issues such as Taiwan. West stated that Beijing can play a “positive role” in Afghanistan.
Both China and Russia confirmed that they would be sending Afghan envoys to the meeting.
“China supports all international efforts that promote peace and stability in Afghanistan and strengthen consensus on all sides,” said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a routine briefing.
West stated that, while he will be in India, he will not be attending a regional security dialogue on Afghanistan.
According to Indian officials, the meeting will include Russia and Iran, as well as the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Pakistan, India’s archrival, was invited as well, but declined, as did China, Islamabad’s close ally. Wang stated that Beijing would be unable to attend due to “scheduling conflicts.”
India was a staunch supporter of Afghanistan’s deposed Western-backed government.
As he opened the meeting in New Delhi, Ajit Doval, India’s national security advisor, echoed West’s call for close cooperation among regional allies.
“I am confident that our discussions will be productive and useful in assisting the people of Afghanistan and enhancing our collective security,” he said.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated that the group welcomes the various regional meetings.
“We have no concerns; the meetings will be for the benefit of Afghanistan because the entire region believes that Afghanistan’s security is for the benefit of all,” he said.
West also addressed regional security, saying the US is concerned about an increase in attacks by the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
“We want the Taliban to be successful in their fight against them,” he said.
He went on to say that Al-presence Qaeda’s in Afghanistan is “an ongoing source of concern for us in our dialogue with the Taliban.”