US sidelined as Moscow-format on Afghanistan replaces Troika Plus

Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said Tuesday that the US has not been invited to the Moscow-format meeting due to be held this week in Kazan and that the Troika Plus has essentially been scrapped.

The upcoming Moscow-format will be held in Kazan city in Russia on Friday and will bring together envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran – along with the Taliban’s acting minister of foreign affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Muttaqi left Kabul on Monday to attend Friday’s meeting where participants will discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan, reconciliation among Afghanistan’s citizens and regional security.

Kabulov said there will not be a US representative present. He also stated the Moscow-format meeting had replaced the Troika Plus, which had included the US.

“No, we have not invited [representatives of the US] and we didn’t have it in our plan. The Troika Plus meeting on Afghanistan with the participation of the US, has now been eliminated in practice,” he said.

“The quadrilateral forces including Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran have replaced it. This format will continue its work, we will see later.”

Aziz Maarij, a political analyst, said that the meetings will only be effective once the Taliban bring reforms to their policies.

“The issues of women working. These are the issues which are mentioned as a recommendation but there will be no practical step in this regard. And not even a mechanism is presented about it. So, the meetings in Moscow or the Troika Plus conference… will not have any benefit for Afghanistan until the Taliban bring reforms inside and Afghanistan is recognized,” he said.

Kabulov also expressed hope that regional countries would voice their opinions on the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics in the country.

Wais Naseri, a political analyst, believes that the participants of the Moscow-format will not recognize the Taliban government.

“No country, and no member state of the Moscow-format will be ready to recognize the Taliban as the Islamic Emirate as the official government of Afghanistan, considering their (Taliban) current policies,” he stated.

Muttaqi is visiting Russia despite having a UN travel ban against him.

Earlier this month, the Taliban’s acting minister of vice and virtue said while in Badakhshan that the UN’s travel bans against Taliban leaders will not affect them.

However, on September 19, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West stressed that no country has tried to ease travel sanctions on 135 Taliban officials.

Muttaqi’s trip to Kazan is his third visit abroad after having the ban imposed on him. The Taliban’s chief for the Afghanistan Red Crescent Society- a state aid agency under Taliban control- is also on a foreign visit, to Geneva, according to ARCS. However, he does not appear to be on the UN’s sanctions list.

The Troika Plus group was made up of Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States. The Moscow format was however introduced in 2017 on the basis of a six-party mechanism for consultations on Afghanistan between special representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and India.