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Afghanistan back in focus with US envoy Thomas West’s visit to India

The Hazara Shia community faces repeated attacks in Afghanistan (Photo: Twitter)

Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to Japan, India, and the UAE from December 1-8 to discuss the Afghan situation.

In a statement, the White House said that “West will consult with partners and Afghans regarding the humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan, protection of Afghans’ rights, and shared security concerns.

West is travelling in the region at the same time as the US designated the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Pakistani Taliban as global terrorists.

As the Special Representative for Afghanistan, “West will also engage with the Afghan diaspora, including human rights, business, political, and media leaders on how to address these challenges”, the State Department said.

Afghanistan remains in news for curbs on women’s rights and banning girls from school, keeping minorities out of governance and a spate of bombings. The Taliban government recently made a spectacle by lashing men and women in a stadium crowded with people.

Many nations in South Asia and Central Asia have expressed the fear that the Taliban’s return to power after two decades will lead to spread of terrorism from the land-locked nation. Leaders have sought assurances from the Taliban government that Afghanistan will not become a training ground for terror once again.

For India, West’s visit comes months after it restarted its embassy in Kabul with a ‘technical team’. It provides an opportunity to New Delhi to exchange notes with Washington on the Afghanistan situation and look for possible solutions that benefit the Afghan people.

India recently announced that it will restart 20 projects in the war-torn country. The development projects were left languishing after the Taliban seized Kabul in August 2021 and formed its government. India has, however, been engaging with the Taliban and has been consistently sending aid including wheat and vaccines to Afghanistan as its commitment to the people who face a precarious humanitarian situation.

Meanwhile, the Taliban government has reacted to West’s travels. Afghan news agency Tolo News reported that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has called on Washington to release the money and assets that were frozen in the wake of the Taliban storming to power.

The US had blocked nearly $3.5 billion belonging to the Afghan central bank saying that it will utilise the funds for the economic stabilisation of the Afghan people but not through the Taliban government. The Afghan financial assets, however, remain frozen in US banks.