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SCO Opens in Tajikistan: Pakistan’s Imran Khan Calls for Replacing Geo-politics With Geo-economics

SCO Opens in Tajikistan: Pakistan’s Imran Khan Calls for Replacing Geo-politics With Geo-economics

Sept. 16, 2021 (EIRNS)—The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is convening at the head-of-state level in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, with the crisis in Afghanistan the major immediate challenge to their 20-year mission. The eight SCO countries—China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—become nine with full membership granted to Iran. (Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia are “Observer States”; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are “Dialogue Partners.”)

Early reports indicate multiple “sideline” meetings of the leaders of various countries. In particular, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was quite busy on Thursday, meeting on the sidelines with Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He had a more extensive bilateral meeting with Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on “trade, investment and transportation links.”

He had been welcomed at Dushanbe’s airport by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon. According to the statement released by the Pakistani government, he described an upgrading of the two countries’ engagement—what he termed his “Vision Central Asia” policy—and emphasized connectivity and Pakistan’s “pivotal position in providing the shortest access route to the sea.” His key example of connectivity was the Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Termez/Mazar-e-Sharif/Kabul/Jalalabad/Peshawar. His statement repeated the need to transform from “geo-politics” to “geo-economics.”

He also addressed the new Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum on expanding the “minuscule” $80 million of trade. He declared that Pakistan would expedite work on the CASA-1000 power transmission line to benefit from “your clean and cheap energy [such as] hydroelectricity”, too much lacking in Pakistan. Otherwise, he stated that he would work with President Rahmon to stabilize Afghanistan: “We will be doing our best to make sure they get together and there is an inclusive government.”


Afghanistan’s Neighbors Move to Secure Borders and Counter Terrorism

Afghanistan’s Neighbors Move to Secure Borders and Counter Terrorism

Sept. 16, 2021 (EIRNS)—In tandem with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) began on Thursday two days of head-of-state sessions in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The six nations involved are Russia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. Their immediate central concern is to modernize and upgrade their forces on an unstable border with Afghanistan.

After an initial meeting on Thursday, the Secretary-General of the CSTO, Stanislav Zas, stated: “In connection with the change in the situation in Afghanistan, plans for the deployment and the makeup of both military contingents and special forces were agreed.” Fourteen documents were reconciled and prepared for signing, including the “temporary presence of joint CSTO forces in the Central Asian region” and the equipping of rapid response forces. Earlier, Russia’s Security Council had issued their own statement saying that the CSTO, besides reinforcing the Tajik-Afghan border, would also tackle drug trafficking and illegal migration.


Drumbeat Grows for Release of Afghan Funds As Economy Falters

Drumbeat Grows for Release of Afghan Funds As Economy Falters

As Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment warned on September 13 that the country would plunge into an economic crisis unless frozen international reserves were released by the U.S. Treasury, there is a growing cascade of voices calling on the U.S. to do just that. These private sector representatives charged that the U.S. Treasury’s freezing of reserves is a violation of humanitarian law and reported that since the reserves were frozen, all transactions between Afghan and international banks have been halted.

Unless this situation is reversed, the country won’t avoid a deep recession, the representatives warned, according to TOLO News. “We call on the United States and the world to solve the issue with the frozen assets, because that money belongs to the people of Afghanistan. If you have political issues with the government or some people, you should not take people’s money hostage,” ACCI acting director Yunus Mohmand said. A fellow member of the ACCI, Khan Jan Alokozay, said that most of the factories are facing serious financial shortages and raw materials because they are unable to withdraw money, adding that in the last month over one million laborers have not been paid.

In addition, Afghanistan’s Health Minister, Wahid Majrooh, who had stayed on from the previous government, said that the Afghan health system is teetering on the edge of collapse, “We are losing personnel, we are losing lives, and the morale and momentum we had,” Majrooh said.  “The crisis is very, very extensive.”

Pressure is growing on the U.S.  to release the funds. On September 15th, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijjan said that the U.S. should release those Afghan Government assets which they have been holding in abeyance as the new Afghan government was in the process of formation. Zhao was replying to a question regarding the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen’s call for release of the funds. “Shaheen is right,” Zhao said. “The assets belong to Afghanistan and should be spent for the Afghan people. The U.S. should not freeze them without justification. The U.S. should face up to the legitimate demand of Afghanistan, abandon pressures and sanctions, and stop creating obstacles to the economy, livelihood and peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”

One can also expect a clear statement from the upcoming SCO meeting as both Russia and China have indicated that the U.S. which is responsible for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan have got to take the primary responsibility for resolving the crisis. A first step in that direction would be releasing the funds to the present interim government before it is too late.


UN Aid Conference Insists, Act Now, or Afghanistan “Will Truly Enter the Abyss”

Sept. 14, 2021 (EIRNS)—The Sept. 13, United Nations conference in Geneva on aid to Afghanistan succeeded in raising $1.1 billion, beyond the original target of $606 million. But given the dramatic reports by speakers on the dire humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for food and medicine to avert imminent starvation of tens of millions of people, the $1.1 billion won’t suffice. The situation is so fragile that 1 million children are at immediate risk of starvation if their immediate needs are not met, the New York Times reported Sept. 13. “At least 10 million children depend on humanitarian aid just to survive,” UNICEF’s executive director Henrietta H. Fore told the Times*. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 40% of Afghanistan’s crop has been lost this year, and the prices of basic food items are soaring. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is taking steps to help farmers so that they don’t miss the upcoming winter wheat planting season, and to keep life-sustaining farm animals alive, but the situation has been complicated by a severe drought. Over half of an average Afghan’s daily caloric intake comes from wheat, most of which is domestically grown, FAO director general Qu Dongyu, told the meeting.

World Food Program director David Beasley starkly warned that “14 million people—1 in 3—are marching to the brink of starvation…. On top of that, you have 14 million people in IPC2”—a category of acute food insecurity—“that are knocking on the same door, so if we’re not very careful, we could truly enter the abyss and see catastrophic conditions, worse than what we see now.” WFP estimates that 40% of Afghanistan’s crops have been lost for this year; the price of wheat rose by 25%, and the price of flour has doubled at local markets. Beasley stressed that a major concern is that 4 million people live in hard-to-reach areas, for whom, if food isn’t prepositioned before winter, “we will face a catastrophe. The time is now. We can’t wait six months. We need the funds immediately so we can move the supplies.”

Like other speakers, Beasley also warned, “if we’re not careful, and we’re not strategic, we could face mass migration, destabilization in the region, and for certain starvation for millions of Afghan people.” Beasley’s full remarks can be found here.

Making the same point, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the Geneva UN office, stressed that “Kabul’s traditional Western sponsors must provide active help to the country’s population to reduce or stop migration flows,” according to TASS.


Andrei Kortunov Warns Afghanistan Is on “Life Support;” No Time for Delay!

Sept. 14, 2021 (EIRNS)—In an interview with TASS published Sept. 13, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov warned that, due to both U.S. and UN sanctions, Afghanistan faces the threat of famine. The country is now “on life support,” he said, because it depends entirely on assistance from international development institutes, the UN, the EU, and the U.S. In fact, David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, reported during yesterday’s UN conference in Geneva on aid to Afghanistan that 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid, and 75% of its public spending from international funding. Kortunov admonished that, if the Taliban coming to power means there will be more sanctions placed on the country, it could jeopardize food deliveries. He told TASS that it will take an estimated $1 billion a month, minimally, to maintain basic social institutions and avoid hunger in certain regions—that is, $12 billion yearly.

Kortunov also highlighted the issue of who will control distribution of humanitarian and food assistance to Afghanistan. Take the case of Syria, he said, where the West claims that President Bashar al-Assad can’t be trusted to handle this task, so it’s left in the hands of international agencies and aid groups. “It is not to be ruled out that the same position will be taken in respect of the Taliban,” Kortunov said, explaining it would lead to a situation where the international community “will be ready to provide food assistance but on the condition that unimpeded access will be granted to the areas in need,” and the Taliban excluded from any decision-making as to whom aid should be delivered. In the Syrian case, Western arguments are simply a pretext for curtailing Syrian sovereignty under the guise of “humanitarian” protection. How this plays out in Afghanistan—a more complex situation—remains to be seen. The TASS article can be found here.


China to Donate Vaccines, Medical Aid To Afghanistan; Stresses Need for Regional Cooperation and Coordination

China to Donate Vaccines, Medical Aid To Afghanistan; Stresses Need for Regional Cooperation and Coordination

Sept. 9, 2021 (EIRNS)–Yesterday’s mini-summit among China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, called to discuss how to address the challenges posed by the Afghan situation, announced a humanitarian aid package of $31 million, including food, water, three million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and other medical supplies. The meeting was chaired by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who had just completed a tour of Afghanistan’s neighbors 10 days earlier. The three million COVID vaccine doses reportedly represent only a first batch, with more to come. Xinhua reports that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China is prepared to offer more anti-epidemic and emergency materials to Afghanistan under the China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve.

Today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian offered more details on yesterday’s meeting, stressing that it is the first attempt by Afghanistan’s neighbors “to work closely in response to the evolving situation in the country,” and to specifically establish “a coordination and cooperation mechanism.” He explained that this mechanism should be able to work smoothly with other existing multilateral mechanisms on Afghanistan “and can complement each other and form synergy. All participating parties support the continued operation of this unique mechanism so that countries can share policy propositions, coordinate positions, and jointly address challenges through this platform. The hope to host the second conference has already been expressed,” he reported. 


Taliban Want Relations with Regional Nations

Taliban Want Relations with Regional Nations

Sep. 6 (EIRNS) — TASS, citing Al Jazeera, reported this morning that the Taliban intend to invite a number of foreign countries to be present at the installation of the new government that they expect to announce within the next few days. “We have sent invitations to Turkey, China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Qatar to take part in the [ceremony] of announcing [the composition of the new Afghan] government,” said an unnamed Taliban representative.

Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban field commander and now the leader of Afghanistan’s High Council of Salvation, told TASS yesterday that the Taliban is very interested in establishing relations with Russia, Iran and Pakistan. “We should establish broad relations with Moscow, since it is in the interests of both the Taliban and Russia,” he said. “Iran and Pakistan are also countries we want to establish relations with. They need us and we need them.”

Agha also said that the Taliban have no objections against having a U.S. embassy in Kabul but Washington is afraid of it. “Before the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan there was a possibility to have good relations with Washington. But after their invasion and their crimes … relations have worsened,” he said. Agha said that “there are chances that [diplomatic] relations between the United States and the Taliban will be established. I think the Taliban will not be against opening the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. But the United States is afraid of the current situation in the country and most likely there will be no embassy for some time,” he said.


World Food Program’s Beasley Met With Taliban in Afghanistan on Continuity of UN Relief

World Food Program’s Beasley Met With Taliban in Afghanistan on Continuity of UN Relief

Sep. 1 (EIRNS)–David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, was in Afghanistan last week, during the evacuation period, to personally see to arrangements to continue and step-up food and humanitarian relief in these very hard times. He met with Taliban leaders on plans. Then, back in his home state of South Carolina, he was interviewed by local TV WBTW, in a video now in circulation, stressing the need for resources and action in Afghanistan. The interview can be seen here.

Overall, 18 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian relief—half the population, with over 500,000 displaced. Four million are near death this year from starvation, without reliable food relief, Beasley said.

He stressed, on his operating approach, “We have to negotiate, work with whoever controls an area. That’s why we’re in war zones. We work with both sides. We have no choice, because we’re trying to reach the innocent victims in the conflict. ” He said of his visit, “We’ve had very frank conversations and so far, quite shockingly, the Taliban has said to us, ‘We want you to do what you do. We don’t want to interfere.’ They’ve actually provided protection and warehouses and some of our supply chain and our routes.”

The World Food Program is appealing for an additional $200 million over the next 45-day period, in order to obtain and pre-stage food for the coming Winter months. Beasley is also mobilizing WFP workers to man the front lines to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in poor countries. The WFP is the UN logistics and travel service for all purposes, not just food.

Today, UN representative in Afghanistan Isabelle Moussard Carlsen gave an interview to CGTN on the dimensions of need for aid in Afghanistan. Since May, 80,000 more people have been displaced, above the 500,000, and more of this is taking place. Of the children under five years old, 60% are suffering from acute, severe malnutrition.


Webcast: Afghanistan—Chance for a Positive Reorientation

Helga Zepp-LaRouche delivered a thoroughly composed analysis of how the world has changed since August 15, 2021, when the Taliban marched into Kabul, and the U.S. and NATO left. “A whole system is coming to an end. The policy has failed.” All the lives lost, the chaos in the country, and the money spent—and stolen—served the interests of a greedy elite, but benefited no one else.

She reported on the prescience demonstrated by participants at the Schiller Institute conference on July 31, and then the solutions presented in the follow-up conference on August 21. The solution begins with a rejection of neoliberalism and imperial geopolitics. Biden’s rejection of the demand by Boris Johnson and the Europeans that the U.S. remain in Afghanistan longer has provoked hysteria among the war hawks responsible for the catastrophe, typified by Tony Blair.

It is now up to the Americans and the Europeans to join with Afghanistan’s neighbors to forge a durable peace, based on economic development. This means the West must junk the delusion that the “Rules-Based Order” must be accepted by all nations.


One in Three ‘Food Insecure’ In Afghanistan

One in Three ‘Food Insecure’ In Afghanistan

Aug. 21 (EIRNS)–One in three people in Afghanistan is “food insecure,” that is either with insufficient, or unreliable daily food, or both, according to the World Food Program Representative in Kabul this week, Mary-Ellen McGroarty. She spoke with AFP, and attributed the situation to strife, displacement of people from their homes, and bad weather, which she called “climate change.” There are 39 million people in the country, with masses more displacement currently taking place.

The Afghan wheat crop was down 40% this last crop year, under very dry conditions. The price of wheat in the country today is up 24% over the price averaged over the prior five years. Livestock have also been badly affected.

The WFP curtailed its operations since the Kabul changing situation since Aug. 14, but intends to ramp up again. The WFP is putting out the word that resources are needed. The WFP gave out food and aid in Afghanistan in the past week to 400,000 people overall, it was reported Aug. 20 by WFP official Frances Kennedy, to TASS. But there is a need for full-scale operations. She said, of the Afghanistan situation, “In the first six months of this year, WFP delivered food and nutrition assistance to 5.5 million people. WFP needs US$200 million urgently to continue its operations until the end of the year.”

China has pledged to send food, reported the Afghani Ambassador Javid Ahmad Qaem, on Aug. 18, in a CGTN interview. He said that he is working on finding transportation for it to reach his country. Given the air carrier problems in Kabul, he is seeking train transport via Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which for food, in any case, is far less costly than air cargo.

Also, Amb. Qaem said that the WHO has promised to get a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan.


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