by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1443)
In the beginning there was just the Troika. Then it was upgraded to Troika-Plus, almost like the Economy Plus class in air travel. Then it became Troika-Plus Plus. But there is also a minus in this designation. In the age of labels, this may be confusing to some, so let us clarify.
Troika Plus refers to the US, China, Russia and Pakistan. It is not difficult to determine who the ‘plus’ is in this configuration. The US calls it ‘Extended Troika’. This is grammatically incorrect because no matter how much you extend troika, it still remains three whereas, Troika Plus refers to three plus.
What does Troika Plus Plus stand for? On November 11, there was a meeting of Troika Plus in Islamabad. It issued a 15-point joint statement. Most of the points related to the well-known demands made of the Taliban in the past: an inclusive government, preventing Afghan territory from being used to launch terrorist attacks against neighbours but especially against the US, and girls’ access to education. The joint statement also expressed concern about the looming humanitarian crisis and urged the international community to offer immediate assistance.
On the sidelines of the meeting, representatives of the Troika Plus also met a Taliban delegation that had arrived in Islamabad a day earlier. It was led by Afghanistan’s Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. This added another Plus to Troika Plus. So, now we have Troika-Plus Plus even though no country has officially recognized the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan. With fast paced developments, it won’t be long before formal recognition is granted to the Taliban government although there are some voices being raised against it in the US. They want to use the suffering of the Afghan people, caused by the US, as a pressure tactic to wring concessions from the Taliban. They will not succeed even if they cause immense suffering to ordinary Afghans.
Points 5 and 14 of the Troika-Plus statement would have been music to Taliban’s ears although some of them may frown upon music per se. Point 5 of the joint statement read:
“Agreed to continue practical engagement with the Taliban to encourage the implementation of moderate and prudent policies that can help achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan as soon as possible.” This is as good an indication of recognition of the Taliban-led government as it can get.
Point 14 was even more important for the Taliban. It stated: “Acknowledged international humanitarian actors’ concerns regarding the country’s serious liquidity challenges and committed to continue focusing on measures to ease access to legitimate banking services.”
The Taliban have been urging release of their $9.5 billion funds frozen in US banks. This point was also emphasized by Foreign Minister Muttaqi during his press conference in Islamabad on November 12. He said 75% of the girls were now getting education but he had harsh words for those urging girls’ education while keeping Afghanistan’s money frozen. He said, it was duplicitous of the international community to emphasize on women’s education, but pay no heed to the salary of teachers as such disbursements were getting difficult because the country’s assets remained frozen in Western countries.
In order to overcome the foreign exchange problem, the Taliban have banned transactions in foreign currencies, especially US dollars. They have implemented a policy making all dealings in the local currency, called the Afghani.
The minus in Troika-Plus Plus also needs clarification. A day before the November 11 meeting in Islamabad, India tried to intrude into the Afghan situation hoping to keep itself relevant. Security officials from Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian republics attended a meeting on Afghanistan in Delhi but Pakistan and China declined the invitation. Even the US—India’s new close ally—was no show. And the Taliban were not invited. It was like a wedding at which the groom was absent!
With the assumption of power by the Taliban, India has lost big time. It had put all its eggs in the basket of the US-installed regime in Kabul. India’s eggs were smashed with collapse of the Ashraf Ghani regime. It is trying to readjust to recover lost ground but it appears not to be making much headway.
Delhi had assumed that the Americans would not flee in such haste. India’s attitude toward the Taliban was completely hostile during the previous US-installed regimes. It assumed that the Taliban were banished for good.
During the Delhi meeting of security chiefs, Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani lashed out at the US and its allies for the 20-year destruction wrought on Afghanistan. He demanded that the “least responsibility” they bear is to compensate for all the damage they have inflicted on the Afghan people over the past two decades.
Far from improving the lot of the Afghan people, “Terrorism, poverty and misery, as well as drug cultivation and trafficking and migration, increased while a large number of innocent people in Afghanistan were massacred by American fighter jets at weddings and mourning ceremonies for vague reasons. The state- and nation-building claimed by the United States ground to a halt,” Shamkhani said.
Such straight talk in which US crimes were highlighted with great precision must have left the Indians greatly uncomfortable. After all, India is now a favourite ally and client of Uncle Sam.