Afghanistan 'at brink of economic collapse', warns Pakistan

Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke at the opening of the so-called "troika plus" meeting, which included Thomas West, the new US special envoy for Afghanistan. The delegates also met later Thursday with Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Members of Syria's top jihadist group the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, parade with their flags and those of the Taliban's declared "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" through the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib on August 20, 2021. The armed group that formally broke ties with al-Qaeda years ago is considered to be the most prominent jihadist group in Syria after a decade of war. HTS controls nearly half of the Idlib region -- the last remaining opposition bastion in Syria -- alongside other less influential groups.
OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP

ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan is "at the brink of economic collapse" and the international community must urgently resume funding and provide humanitarian assistance, Pakistan's foreign minister warned Thursday as US, Chinese, Russian and Taliban diplomats met in Islamabad.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke at the opening of the so-called "troika plus" meeting, which included Thomas West, the new US special envoy for Afghanistan. The delegates also met later Thursday with Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

"Today, Afghanistan stands at the brink of an economic collapse," Qureshi said, adding that any further downward slide would "severely limit" the new Taliban government's ability to run the country.

"It is, therefore, imperative for the international community to buttress provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis," he said.

That included enabling Afghanistan to access funds frozen by Western donors since the Taliban took control of the country in August, he added.

Resuming the flow of funding "will dovetail into our efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability", Qureshi said.

Doing so would benefit Western countries also, he argued in later comments to state media.

"If you think that you are far, Europe is safe and those areas you imagine will not be affected by terrorism, don't forget the history," he said. "We have learned from the history and we don't want to repeat those mistakes made in the past."

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half the country facing "acute" food shortages and winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.

The troika plus meeting represents envoy West's first trip to the region since taking over from Zalmay Khalilzad, the long-serving diplomat who spearheaded talks that led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this year.

The State Department said earlier in the week that West also plans to visit Russia and India.

"Together with our partners, he will continue to make clear the expectations that we have of the Taliban and of any future Afghanistan government," State Department spokesman Ned Price told a briefing this week.

West, who was in Brussels earlier this week to brief NATO on US engagement with the Taliban, told reporters the Islamists have "very clearly" voiced their desire to see aid resumed, normalise international relations and achieve sanctions relief.

He called for unity from allies on those issues, noting that Washington "can deliver none of these things on our own".