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17 Aug, 2021 10:47

Collapse of American-backed government in Afghanistan is opportunity for Russia & China ‘to fill the vacuum,’ EU chiefs claim

Collapse of American-backed government in Afghanistan is opportunity for Russia & China ‘to fill the vacuum,’ EU chiefs claim

As the last US and EU forces leave Kabul, Brussels’ foreign policy committee has warned that the failure of the Western mission in the Central Asian nation has opened a vast gulf that its purported adversaries will rush to fill.

In a statement issued on Monday, a group of senior EU parliamentarians expressed concern over the withdrawal and the collapse of the Washington-backed government. The missive was signed by MEPs David McAllister, who heads Brussels’ foreign affairs committee, Tomas Tobe, the chair of the committee on development, and Petras Austrevicius, who leads the EU’s delegation for relations with Afghanistan.

“We deeply deplore the recent political, military, and moral calamity in Afghanistan and express our deep concerns about the situation,” the parliamentarians said. “The hasty withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country without a condition base and the shocking collapse of Afghan institutions and its security forces allowed the Taliban to take over the country in an unexpectedly rapid way.”

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According to them, the EU must now urgently develop a new strategy to deal with the region, “considering that Russia and China will quickly try to fill the political vacuum.”

While the Taliban is designated a terrorist organization and prohibited in Russia, Moscow has hosted a delegation of its political representatives and opened bilateral ties with the group in recent weeks. As the group prepared to assume control of Kabul on Sunday, Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Afghanistan, said he was positive about the prospects of maintaining relations.

“If we compare how easy it is to negotiate as colleagues and partners, then the Taliban have seemed to me for a long time much more prepared for negotiations than the [American-backed] puppet Kabul government were,” he said.

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The diplomat went on to say that the door to acknowledging the legitimacy of the new administration was open, depending on its conduct. “We are in no hurry to grant recognition,” he added. “We will see how the new regime behaves.” While most Western diplomats have been evacuated or relocated, and embassies cleared, Russian diplomats have kept their mission in Kabul open, with the Taliban assuring Moscow’s envoys that “not a hair on their heads will be harmed.”

Earlier this month, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that China was a welcome “friend” in its plans to rebuild the country, and called on Beijing to support economic development “as soon as possible.” China has long held rights to develop Afghanistan’s massive mineral resources, but delays and a terse security situation have hampered plans for investment and extraction.

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In a statement posted to Twitter on Monday, the Russian Embassy in the UK said that “the objective reality is that Washington’s comfortable position of US hegemony is receding into the past against the backdrop of the strengthening political positions of Russia and China.”

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