23rd Oct 2021

EU's Afghan diplomacy proposal runs into trouble

  • Chaos erupted as Western forces pulled out of Afghanistan in August. (Photo: CNN)
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An EU plan to get Afghan's neighbouring countries to cooperate on fallout from the war is facing difficulties as it mulls a return to Kabul.

Resistance to the EU's "regional platform" proposal has emerged from Pakistan at a recent United Nations general assembly meeting.

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Endorsed only earlier this month by the Council of the EU, representing member states, the platform seeks to "help prevent the negative spill-over effects in the region."

The EU was hoping to launch it at the UN meeting by seeking cooperation with countries sharing a large border with Afghanistan, including Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan.

But Pakistan already has its own platform and is instead pushing to have the EU join it, EUobserver understands.

The cold shoulder could spell further difficulties for a European Union keen to re-establish its presence in Kabul in order to better coordinate humanitarian relief but also to counter Russian and Chinese influence.

"The question is not if we should be present, but how," a senior EU official told reporters earlier this week.

"If the country collapses, we will all pay the consequences. No one wants to rush into a recognition of the Taliban, but we need to deal with them in a principled though pragmatic way," he said.

He noted that they were working on a possible presence on the ground, after having assessed the situation also from a security point of view.

"We already had an exploratory mission and will now assess," he said. Security appears not to be any worse than before the shock Taliban takeover in August.

If the EU did return with a permanent mission, the Taliban would need to be in charge of security outside the compound. Inside, security could be carried out either by a private security contractor or possibly by EU states.

At the same time, the EU is having to engage with a Taliban it will not officially recognise amid conditions they first respect women's rights and the rule of law.

Some of the Taliban's leadership are on the UN's blacklist of international "terrorists and funders of terrorism". And earlier this month, they shot dead four alleged kidnappers and strung up the bodies in the western city of Herat.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting to find some sort of financial and humanitarian relief as the country plummets into further chaos.

Up until the Taliban takeover, some 80 percent of the country's budget was covered by international donors.

Now nearly one third of the population is in desperate need of support, where many children face the threat of acute malnutrition. The UN refugee agency says Pakistan hosts some 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees along with scores of others not registered.

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