China, by being good neighbour to Afghanistan, offers lesson on tackling security problems elsewhere

At the end of March, foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbours met to discuss the troubled country. The joint statement issued afterwards – covering areas including political diplomacy, the economy and counterterrorism – highlights the determination of those in the region to help Afghanistan achieve stable development. Amid a complex and volatile global climate, the meeting chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China’s Anhui province, offers an instructive example on how to approach security problems, which is not only of practical significance to Afghanistan, but also important for the international community. The irresponsible withdrawal of the United States and its allies from Afghanistan last September left more than 20 million people facing an economic and humanitarian crisis, with high unemployment, food insecurity and an ongoing pandemic. In the face of such a dire situation, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan agreed to work together to support Afghanistan through its transition, believing that the country’s neighbours should help provide a favourable external environment for its reconstruction. Such a mechanism has provided stability during a critical period of uncertainty.

In less than a year, Afghanistan’s neighbours have held three foreign ministers’ meetings, during which they have reached important consensuses while maintaining active communication with the interim government of Afghanistan and cooperating with various international mechanisms to contribute to the country’s development. Still, Afghanistan faces severe challenges relating to humanitarian needs, the economy, counterterrorism and national governance. In particular, the situation in the country is being aggravated by the actions of the US. In February, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order to deploy the US$7 billion in Afghan central bank assets held in the United States towards humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and compensation for the victims of September 11, saying the US would not return the funds to the Afghan interim government. This has been strongly criticised by Afghanistan and the international community.

More worryingly, in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Afghanistan seems to be increasingly forgotten by the Western world. Some 24 million people across the country remain in need of humanitarian support this year, but the United Nations has made little progress in reaching its goal of providing US$4.44 billion in aid. Last month, with the eyes of the world on Ukraine, the UN high commissioner for refugees urged the international community not to forget the needs of the Afghan people.

Indeed, the latest round of talks could not have been more timely. It served as a reminder that the Afghan issue remains high on the current international peace and security agenda. The world should not forget Afghanistan, and the United States, as the instigator of Afghanistan’s problems, must certainly not deliberately avoid the Afghan issue.

It is better for the doer to undo what he has done. The US and Western world at large should fulfil their responsibility to rebuild Afghanistan and return the property of the Afghan people as soon as possible. To really help the Afghan people, more effort must be made to alleviate Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, and fewer unnecessary actions taken to create trouble.