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Home » SCO Members Lack Unity on Taliban Terrorism Concerns

SCO Members Lack Unity on Taliban Terrorism Concerns

by Grayson Henderson
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WASHINGTON — Frustration with the rising threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan emerged at a meeting this week of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a defense and economic alliance platform consisting of China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four central Asian nations.

Russia and Tajikistan say Afghanistan, which holds an uncertain observer status in the SCO following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, has become a breeding ground for regional terrorist groups.

“According to our information, terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, TTP, Jamaat Ansarullah are currently present in Afghanistan and pose serious threats to neighboring countries,” said Amirbeg Begnazarov, a representative of Tajikistan, at an event Wednesday jointly hosted by the SCO and the United Nations.

He said his nation was “very concerned about the concentration of different terrorist groups next to our borders that we’ve never had before [and it] is increasing day by day.”

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, recently said that the Taliban’s return to power had bolstered terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan, a charge echoed by other highly placed Russians.

Vladimir Voronkov, a former Russian diplomat who now heads the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism, said this week that Afghanistan had become “an epicenter for the dissemination of terrorism” under the Taliban.

Unlike Russia, China has refrained from making such blistering allegations against the Taliban and has instead actively engaged the isolated Islamist regime.

“Afghanistan is at a critical phase of transitioning from chaos to order,” Zhang Jun, the Chinese permanent representative at the U.N., told a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Zhang said the international community should engage with de facto Taliban authorities and help the country achieve stability and economic prosperity.

Domestic vs. regional concerns

Russia cautiously welcomed the Taliban’s return to power following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Shy of a formal recognition, Russia has handed over the Afghan Embassy in Moscow to the Taliban. It maintained its diplomatic mission in Kabul until September, when it was attacked.

Ten people, including two Russian Embassy staff, were killed and several others injured in the suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.

The attack prompted Russia to shut its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, warning about increased terrorism risks originating from the landlocked nation and threatening its Central Asian neighbors where Russian troops are stationed.

Within SCO members, “differing threat perceptions of particular extremist or separatist groups, political sensitivities and sovereignty concerns, as well as lack of genuine trust among member states, make concrete counterterrorism cooperation very difficult — besides some limited information sharing,” Jiayi Zhou, an expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told VOA.

While Russia is more vocal about terrorism threats it perceives from the Islamic State group, some SCO members see threats from other militant groups allegedly based in Afghanistan, experts say.

“The trust deficits and divergences within the SCO have resulted in most member countries using bilateral channels to establish ties with the Taliban for geostrategic, geoeconomics and individual security guarantees,” said Ayjaz Ahmad Wani, a researcher at the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian policy institute.

Pakistan has followed the Chinese lead even while officials say Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a militant group seeking to overthrow the government in Islamabad, has intensified terrorist attacks from its purported havens inside Afghanistan.

Last month, at the 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Islamabad, the parties agreed to promote trilateral cooperation in security, development and political fronts.

“The SCO as a regional security platform has largely been ineffective,” said Zhou, adding that member states have pursued different security and political priorities since the inception of the organization more than two decades ago.

Toppled from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition for their alleged support for international terrorism, the Taliban, even after recapturing power in 2021, face terrorism sanctions from many countries.

Taliban leaders maintain that they host no terrorist group and do not threaten the security of any nation.

Source : VOA

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