Shanghai Cooperation Organization Leaders Meet In Dushanbe With Afghanistan In Focus.

Leaders of the Russia and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are holding talks in the Tajik capital with their attention centered on the regional fallout from the U.S.-led international military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power.
Founded 20 years ago to combat what it calls the “three evils” of separatism, extremism, and terrorism, the Eurasian security bloc initially consisted of China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan before India and Pakistan joined in 2017. How the leaders from those disparate countries will find common ground in Dushanbe is unclear, with the SCO members holding differing views on how to deal with Afghanistan’s new rulers. What is certain is that with Afghanistan facing a looming major humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the Taliban's takeover, Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors are wary of the security threats emanating from the war-torn country and the potential for tens of thousands of refugees to pour over the border. The SCO summit on September 17 comes a day after leaders of another regional security bloc -- the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)-- also held talks in Tajikistan’s capital.
The two days of talks come as Moscow and Beijing move to assert themselves as key players in the region following the rapid collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul at the end of a 20-year U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan. Both security groupings have been viewed as Moscow's and Beijing's counters to U.S. geopolitical dominance. Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the talks in Dushanbe via video conference after self-isolating because of close contact with several people in his inner circle who tested positive for COVID-19.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also participating in the meeting virtually. Beyond the attention being put on the situation in Afghanistan after Taliban militants swept into Kabul on August 15, full membership in the group for Iran is said to be on the table. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country holds observer status in the organization, is attending the gathering. "Regional cooperation is a top priority for us," Raisi said in remarks at Tehran airport before leaving for Dushanbe. Afghanistan also holds observer status at the SCO, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that the Taliban had not been invited to observe proceedings in Dushanbe. Lavrov said on September 15 that "nobody is hurrying to give full recognition to the Taliban," which has sought to reassure neighboring countries and Russia that it poses no threat since gaining control last month over almost all of Afghanistan’s territory. China has not said whether it will recognize Afghanistan’s new rulers, but it has established working ties with the group’s leadership and agreed to provide aid and vaccines to Afghanistan.
Beijing has also called on the Taliban to hold to its pledge to restrain militants seeking independence for the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Tajikistan remains hostile to the Taliban and is concerned about what the group could mean for its own internal security, while India views the militants as a Pakistani proxy -- which Islamabad denies. Following the meeting of CSTO leaders on September 16, the organization’s secretary-general, Stanislau Zas, stressed that in the event of an aggravation of the security situation on the border with Afghanistan, member states Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan would “provide Tajikistan with all the necessary assistance."
In recent weeks, the security grouping held military exercises in Kyrgyzstan to prepare for any possible trouble. Tajikistan conducted military maneuvers with Russia and Uzbekistan, while Uzbekistan also held separate drills with Russia along the Uzbek-Afghan border. The CSTO has scheduled three more sets of military maneuvers close to the Tajik-Afghan border in October, with a fourth scheduled for November. Russia has military bases in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

https://www.rferl.org/

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