Government officials in Kabul have reacted with dismay to a trilateral meeting in Moscow involving Pakistan, China and Russia to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
The gathering in the Russian capital – the third in a series of consultations between Russia, China and Pakistan that have so far excluded Afghanistan – is likely to deepen worries that the government in Kabul is being sidelined in negotiations over the country’s future.
Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, Afghanistan’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, said the government was not optimistic about the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting.
“Even if such talks are organised with a good will, it cannot yield any substantial results because no one from the Afghan side is there to brief the participants about the latest ground realities,” Mostaghni said.
He said meetings without the presence of Afghan government officials will not represent a real picture of the situation.
For their part, the representatives from Russia, China and Pakistan at the Moscow meeting said the influence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group was growing in Afghanistan and that the security situation there was deteriorating.
They also agreed to invite the Afghan government to such talks in the future, the Russian foreign ministry said.
“[The three countries] expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups including the Afghan branch of IS,” Maria Zakharova, the ministry spokesperson, said referring to ISIL, also known as ISIS.
She said the three countries agreed on a “flexible approach to remove certain figures from sanctions lists, as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement”.
Responding to the developments, Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan parliament member, said Pakistan should convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table “so that we have only one enemy to fight, which is the ISIL”.
“What we are concerned about is that there is a legitimate elected government that could represent Afghanistan in international and regional talks,” she told Al Jazeera from Kabul.
“And we know that without Afghanistan’s inclusion, any process will prove unsuccessful.
“At this stage, we have multiple enemies in Afghanistan, therefore our vulnerabilities are growing and, as a result, we cannot defeat our enemies in the country.”
US not invited
Along with Afghanistan, the United States, which still has nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan more than 15 years after the Taliban was toppled, was not invited to the Moscow talks.
Officials in Kabul and Washington have said that Russia is deepening its ties with the Taliban, but Russia has rejected the claims.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month asked the UN to add the Taliban’s new leader to its sanctions list, further slowing a faltering peace process.
A number of Afghan provincial capitals have come under pressure from the Taliban this year, while Afghan forces have been suffering high casualty rates, with more than 5,500 killed in the first eight months of 2016.
An offshoot of ISIL has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the last year.