Reuters via CNN
Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers won backing from 10 regional powers at talks in Moscow on Wednesday for the idea of a United Nations donor conference to help the country stave off economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe. Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran and five formerly Soviet Central Asian states joined the Taliban in calling for the UN to convene such a conference as soon as possible to help rebuild the country. They said it should take place “with the understanding, of course, that the main burden…should be borne by the forces whose military contingents have been present in this country over the past 20 years.” That was a pointed reference to the United States and its allies, who invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and whose abrupt withdrawal paved the way for the Islamist Taliban to seize back control of the country in August. Washington chose not to attend the talks, citing technical reasons, but has said it may join future rounds. Russia has led the calls for international aid, conscious that any spillover of conflict from Afghanistan could threaten regional stability. “Nobody is interested in the complete paralysis of an entire state, which borders, among other things, the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States),” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The Taliban’s resurgence has stirred international fears of a return to their hardline form of Islamist rule in the 1990s, when they hosted Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda movement and carried out egregious human rights violations, including public stonings and the marginalization of women at work and in schools. Since returning to power, the Taliban say they have moved as quickly as possible on opening up their government and guaranteeing rights to women, and that they do not represent a threat to any other country. “Afghanistan will never allow its soil to be used as a base for anyone to threaten the security of another country,” Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said.