The meeting of the spy chiefs of the region, including Iran, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, in Islamabad, hosted by the ISI, showed that all these countries were taking seriously the issue of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan following the US withdrawal. Incidentally, the meeting paid to speculation about Pakistan’s importance in the region after the US withdrawal. It is worth noting that the countries represented not only border Afghanistan like Pakistan, but in the case of all except Iran and China, have their nationalities forming an ethnic minority in Afghanistan. This diversiy in Afghanistan should be one reason why Pakistan should not take a unilateral approach to the change, but should participate in a multilateral approach, like that which is apparently developing.
Like other countries of the region, Pakistan too can be destabilized by terrorists obtaining refuge in Afghanistan. Pakistan faces the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, who claim inspiration from the Afghan regime, and who seem to have declared war on Pakistan’s state institutions. China is made very uneasy by any revival of the East Turkestani Islamic Movement, which consists of Uighur separatists. Uzbekistan would not like the revival of militancy as before. The US-backed regime did have the advantage of preventing all of these movements from prevailing. However, now that that has gone, the intelligence agencies are among those who will have to coordinate to prevent these threats from taking shape. It cannot have escaped the spy chiefs’ notice that the threat of militancy has not disappeared, and that it cannot be dealt with unless all cooperate.
The end all must seek is stability in Afghanistan. The Taliban must provide a stable regime which can provide the country the law and order it needs, and which is a responsible member of the international community. The Taliban had appointed its own intelligence chief, and his absence from the Islamabad meeting meant that the country where the meeting’s decisions were to be operationalised was unrepresented. Apart from its problems of legitimacy, Afghanistan faces a financial collapse, and the Taliban can only avoid that if they ensure that they obtain international recognition. Two important players were not present in Islamabad, the USA and Russia, but the USA CIA chief met Pakistan’s COAS just before the meeting, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met his Pakistani counterpart. This indicates that all are engaged towards he common end.