On February 15, 2016, Moscow hosted consultations on Afghanistan with senior representatives of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Iran and India. The participants agreed to strengthen efforts to promote the intra-Afghan reconciliation, while maintaining the leading role of the current government of Afghanistan. Alexei Fenenko, leading research fellow at the RAS Institute of International Security Problems, said in an interview to www.valdaiclub.com, that Russia is becoming one of the leading mediators in the Afghan settlement process.
According to the expert, Afghanistan always played a critical role for Russia's security for three reasons. First, if there is a real destabilization of Afghanistan, it will mean the internal political turmoil in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, key allies of Moscow in Central Asia. This is the main challenge for the Collective Security Treaty Organization even if Uzbekistan is not a CSTO member at the moment.
Second reason is NATO's presence near Russia's southern borders. "For us it is especially important problem, because NATO will use Afghanistan to justify its presence on the Russia's southern flank," Alexei Fenenko said.
Third, the expert said, there is a problem with India. Since 2011 the Americans try to link India to the Afghan settlement process in the framework of their AfPak long-term project. Washington counts on the Afghanistan-Pakistan common space, guaranteed by NATO and India. "In fact, under the guise of solving the Afghan conflict, the Americans intend to turn India into a key regional partner of the USA," the expert said.
The conference in Moscow is designed to determine the strategy of the Afghan government cooperation with the SCO and CSTO. Since the current government of Afghanistan feels not so confident enough in terms of security (it is based on rather shaky package agreement, signed in summer 2014), it is important to establish more strong relations with Russia and the CSTO.
It is primarily the military-technical cooperation, the ability to obtain certain types of weapons for internal stability. Second, with the help of Russia, Kabul tries to improve relations with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. According to the expert, "interaction with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is only possible through Russia." Third, the current government of Afghanistan is trying to counterweight the US influence in the future to balance its positions. This is a very important issue.
Russia is becoming one of the leading mediators in the process of Afghan crisis settlement. So far, the US controlled all the Afghan settlement projects, it tried to invite China, but without the participation of Russia. Now there is an attempt to resolve the crisis involving Russia.
Since the SCO is an alternative format for the United States, Washington's non-participation in this conference is quite natural. Any American project for Afghanistan directly or indirectly is against the SCO and CSTO. Currently there is a search for points of contact between Afghanistan and the SCO. Naturally, such a project objectively can be anti-American, the expert said.
Fenenko stressed that of particular interest is the participation India in the conference. The dialogue between Russia and the CSTO with India on Afghanistan is a serious blow to the entire structure, which Americans built in the past five years.
We cannot expect good agreements or loud statements after the conference. This is just an attempt to connect Afghanistan to the dialogue and interaction with the SCO. "This is not a quick process, it will take at least two years. But the Americans this time will play against such a format", the expert concluded.