An EU plan to get neighboring Afghan countries to cooperate on the fallout from the war runs into difficulties as it considers a return to Kabul.
Resistance to the EU’s proposed “regional platform” emerged from Pakistan at a recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Approved only earlier this month by the EU Council, representing member states, the platform seeks to “help prevent negative spillover effects in the region”.
The EU hoped to launch it at the UN meeting by seeking to cooperate with countries sharing a large border with Afghanistan, including Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
But Pakistan already has its own platform and is instead pushing for the EU to join it, according to EUobserver.
The cold shoulder could lead to new difficulties for a European Union wishing to re-establish its presence in Kabul in order to better coordinate humanitarian aid but also to counter Russian and Chinese influence.
“The question is not whether we should be there, but how,” a senior EU official told reporters earlier this week.
“If the country collapses, we will all pay the consequences. Nobody wants to rush into recognition of the Taliban, but we have to deal with them in a reasoned but pragmatic way,” he said.
He noted that they were working on a possible presence on the ground, after assessing the situation also from a security point of view.
“We have already had an exploratory mission and will now assess,” he said. Security does not appear to be any worse than before the Taliban took power in August.
If the EU returned with a permanent mission, the Taliban would have to be in charge of security outside the compound. Inside, security could be provided either by a private security contractor or possibly by EU states.
At the same time, the EU must engage with Taliban it will not officially recognize under conditions where they first respect women’s rights and the rule of law.
Some Taliban leaders are on the UN blacklist of international “terrorists and funders of terrorism”. And earlier this month, they shot dead four suspected kidnappers and hanged the bodies in the western town of Herat.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting to find some kind of financial and humanitarian aid as the country plunges into further chaos.
Until the Taliban takeover, about 80 percent of the country’s budget was covered by international donors.
Today, nearly a third of the population is in desperate need of help, and many children are at risk of acute malnutrition. The UN refugee agency says Pakistan hosts some 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees as well as dozens of unregistered ones.