BILD: Merkel visit to the Taliban? Shift in the US and EU Indo-Pacific strategy?

BILD: Merkel visit to the Taliban? Shift in the US and EU Indo-Pacific strategy?

While the EU was discussing about an EU army to demonstrate that the EU is not just a papertiger, the ground work for an EU Indo-Pacific strategy is under way.However, just to concentrate on the Indo-Pacific, rely on India and the Quad  gives no answer how the EU will react to the Afghanistan disaster as it could lead to a refugee wave, the destabilization of Central Asia and even threaten and destabilize Pakistan as a nuclear power. But according to the Hindustan Times Pakistan is sending drones and intelligence devices from its military and ISI to support the Taliban offensive against the Northern Alliance in the Pandshjir valley. While the German Indo-Pacific strategy focused on the ASEAN, India and the Quad, the EU and Germany now shift their attention to Pakistan and the Central Asian states. The Indo-Pacific and Asia can´t be thought without Pakistan and Central Asia and even some first voices think about a cooperation even with Russia, China and the Taliban. At the moment the focus is on Pakistan. Politico reports:

“Pakistan seizes chance to be Europe’s best buddy in Afghan crisis

Desperate to repatriate its citizens and avoid another refugee crisis, Europe has turned to Islamabad for help.(:::)

Before the Afghan crisis, Pakistan was not popular in Brussels. The conservative Islamic country was routinely bashed for its human rights record and its duplicitous conduct in Afghanistan, where it simultaneously supported both NATO and the Taliban forces. While the EU is a major trading partner for Pakistan, the South Asian country is way down the EU’s priority list.

But all that has changed since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month, leaving European countries desperate to repatriate their citizens.

Islamabad has underlined its role in helping European and foreign officials leave Kabul, including 294 Dutch citizens, 201 Belgians, 216 Italians, and 273 Danes. In addition, Pakistan is also helping evacuate more than 4,000 Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. and allied forces in Kabul. The country was able to do so because of its strong ties to the Taliban, which allowed it to continue flights and keep its embassy open, even as most countries were scrambling to leave the country.

„We have tremendous admiration and respect for Pakistan and we would like to reiterate our gratitude,“ Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was in the capital the next day, announced that the U.K. was sending teams to Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, to help process arrivals from Afghanistan and repatriate them to the U.K. He also announced that the U.K. was immediately sending £30 million to Afghanistan’s neighbors, Pakistan chief among them, to help them deal with the humanitarian crisis.

„Pakistan is a vital partner for the U.K.“ Raab said.

In the long term, Europe believes Pakistan is crucial in averting a new wave of refugees. Hosting refugees is a toxic issue in Europe, and the Continent is keen to avoid the acrimony it experienced over the last influx that arrived on Europe’s borders in 2015 and 2016. Austria vowed not to take in any Afghan refugees after the Taliban took over the country this month, and French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe “must anticipate and protect ourselves against major irregular migratory flows that would endanger those who use them and feed trafficking of all kinds.“

That’s where they’re seeking Pakistan’s help. The country already hosts millions of Afghan refugees, and Europe is hoping that with the right incentives, it would host a few more.

Only a few months ago, when the two countries‘ foreign ministers met, Germany pointed out Pakistan’s depressed economic state, its repressive blasphemy laws and the lack of protection for minorities.

Last weekend, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s tone was markedly different: „As a neighbor of Afghanistan, Pakistan in particular is feeling the effects of the crisis. Germany won’t abandon the region. In addition to our financial commitment, we will continue concrete projects, such as in border management.“

Dutch Foreign Minister Kaag said in Islamabad: „We’re mindful and grateful for the longstanding hosting role Pakistan has played for the refugees over the years.“

„We will explore ways in which we can assist Pakistan in its role as a hosting nation to refugees and wanting to invest and make use of the improving climate to attract business and invest in Pakistan itself.“

A simple favor

Aware of its leverage, Pakistan is trying to push for a host of trade and economic perks in addition to trying to rebrand.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed Raab to take Pakistan off the country’s „red list,“ which bans travel to the U.K. for countries where it deems the coronavirus is too severe. Raab confirmed that Pakistani and British officials are meeting on Monday to discuss it. It also asked Raab to support removing Pakistan from the „grey list“ of an international anti-money laundering and terrorist financing initiative, known as the Financial Action Task Force, which, apart from being a stain on its international reputation, makes it harder for Pakistan to access international credit.

Islamabad is also trying to convince EU countries to keep a trade scheme called the GSP+, which allows Pakistan to export goods to Europe at low or zero tariffs. The scheme is predicated on Pakistan improving its human rights record, including child labor, freedom of the press and religious freedoms, but human rights groups have documented a worsening outlook.

And it’s pushing Europe to once again allow its national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, to fly to the bloc. Regulators banned PIA from flying to Europe since June last year when it emerged that hundreds of pilots working for the airline may have gotten fake licenses.

All that’s in addition to asking for oodles of economic aid to host incoming refugees, which many European countries have duly promised, and diplomatic support for Kashmir, a region that both Pakistan and India claim as their own.

It’s likely that Pakistan will drive a hard bargain. Having seen how Turkey negotiated its deal to keep asylum seekers from entering Europe, Pakistan is pursuing a similar strategy.”

Breaking news today was in the German popular newspaper BILD , that the Taliban officially invited German Chancellor Merkel to a state visit to Kabul. Here the English translation of the interview:

Taliban spokesman invites Chancellor to Kabul „We would warmly welcome Ms. Merkel here“

BILD reporter Paul Ronzheimer in an exclusive interview with Zabihullah Mujahid ++ The detailed analysis on Monday morning from 9 a.m. on BILD LIVE on TV by: Paul Ronzheimer and Giorgos Moutafis published on September 6th, 2021 – 7:30 am

HE is the face of the Taliban: Zabihullah Mujahid has been present everywhere since the seizure of power and answers questions from reporters at press conferences. BILD managed to meet Mujahid for an exclusive interview. Why should the Taliban’s promises be believed now? Why were women beaten down in Kabul at the weekend? And what is the message from the Taliban to Chancellor Merkel (67, CDU)? BILD Vice Paul Ronzheimer and cameraman Giorgos Moutafis confronted the Taliban spokesman with these and other questions. They interviewed him in a former ministerial office of the Afghan government in Kabul.

BILD: Mr. Mujahid, there are currently many talks with the German government taking place in Doha, but also from here. Can you tell us what kind of talks are and what has been agreed so far?

 Mujahid: As far as I know, we have a special envoy for European countries in our political office in Doha. It is Mr. Mawlawi Abdulhaq Wasiq. He is in contact with many countries, and especially with Germany. The representative of Germany was in our political office in Doha. We met with him several times and are still in touch. The contact goes well. We are trying to turn things around and start a new chapter in which we have a proper exchange and good diplomatic relations. We would also be very happy if Germany would support us and the people in our country, because historically we had strong and good diplomatic and economic relations with Germany. We want to revive the friendly atmosphere that existed between Afghans and Germans. The next government will be based on a friendly relationship with Germany.

BILD: We hear from so many German local workers who are still in Afghanistan and want to leave the country for fear of the Taliban. How can you leave Afghanistan and what do you say to the people who are now hiding?

Mujahid: First, we want nobody to be afraid of Afghanistan and the Afghans. We not only have many German diplomats in Afghanistan. Many German Afghans also live in our country. You should not be afraid because we can assure you that nothing and no one can threaten you. For those who want to leave the country voluntarily, there is no problem. But first the State Department should start its work. If people want to leave the country, it should be done legally. You should have a passport and a visa. We don’t have a problem with anyone because each individual is free to choose. All people have the right to live where they want to. Apart from that, we have to wait for the airport to resume operations. Then anyone can legally leave the country and they won’t have any problems. BILD: So can the Afghans who worked with the German government also leave the country? Do you guarantee that? Mujahid: We did not cause any problems for the Afghans who worked for Germany or any other country and we will not do so either. We will make sure they can live safely. They will not be prosecuted and their lives will not be in danger, for it was a time of fighting that is now over. We even announced an amnesty for all the soldiers and generals who killed hundreds and thousands of Taliban and civilians. Now they live with us in Kabul and the provinces and there are no problems and no reason to threaten them.

There will be no problems for the Afghans who worked with Germany either. If they want to leave the country voluntarily, they will have to take the legal route.

BILD: Some politicians and experts in the West point out that the Taliban also issued insurances in the 1990s when they were in power, but did not keep them. Why should it be any different this time?

Mujahid: There is a big difference between then and now. There were numerous political parties at the time and there was no cooperation between them. I can still remember when Hazrat Sebghatullah Mujadidi became the leader and president. He publicly announced an amnesty. But immediately afterwards a political party called Hezb-e Islami led by Gull Badin Hikmatyar did not accept the amnesty. There was a dispute with Abdul Rasheed Dostum, who had his own party. Six or seven men announced in Kabul that they were the leader. Each of these political parties had their own rules and regulations. Because they were divided, there was opposition and different promises. In contrast, we have a single leader and a level of management with specific rules that we all obey. We have never found ourselves in a situation where our leader says anything and any of us objected. We stand up for our word with our leader, and that’s why the new government will never have the same problems as it did in the 1990s.

BILD: The humanitarian situation in your country is dire. You ask Germany for financial support. How high should this support be?

Mujahid: First, we want a good relationship with Germany to develop. The Islamic Emirate will be the desired government of the Afghans, and we want the German government to have the best possible diplomatic relations with our new government. Second, we would like Germany to support and help us in the humanitarian field as far as the German government can. We also need help in healthcare, education, and infrastructure. We believe that the German government can really help us. In addition, the German government could encourage its entrepreneurs to come to us and invest in our country. We will pave the way for this and ensure their safety. The German government can help in various areas so that our country continues to develop and prosperity grows. So Germany plays an important role. We are counting on that, and Germany shouldn’t worry.

BILD: Have you already tried to contact Angela Merkel or Heiko Maas?

 Mujahid: We spoke with the representatives of Germany, and their special envoy also came to our political office in Doha. I am sure that you conveyed our messages to Ms. Merkel. Personally, I haven’t tried. BILD: Would you welcome the German Chancellor here in Afghanistan?

Mujahid: Yes of course! We want a completely safe environment here in Afghanistan – one that is accepted by all countries in the world and that heads of state and government believe in. You should visit us, and Angela Merkel would be given a particularly warm welcome. We would be really happy to see you.

BILD: On Saturday, a protest in Kabul was brutally cracked down  against women. Why are women not allowed to protest? Are you allowed to work in the future? What about schools and universities

Mujahid: We want an Islamic government, and an Islamic government has its own rules and regulations based on Sharia law. In Islam women have their special rights. We fully support the rights that Islam and Sharia give them. We will definitely give them their Islamic rights, and women will also work in various areas of government. In addition, women are currently working in the healthcare and education sectors. We announced that in the first few days. Women are welcome to work in this area. Once the new government is announced, there will be special instructions for it as well. In the first few days after our arrival in Kabul there were unfortunately a few women who were physically and mentally abused. They also faced some social problems. To solve all these problems, we are still waiting for the new government and working on new and positive changes. As for the protest, I have to tell you that the women concerned wanted to enter the presidential palace. The problem was that there were no official representatives from our side. We told them so, but they insisted on forcible entry and the security forces took action against them. We called our special forces to bring the situation under control. The government has not yet been introduced – so now is not the time for protests and demonstrations. These women should be patient and wait for the new government. Normality is slowly returning to Kabul. It is therefore unfair to cause scuffles right now. Such a thing only worries people and us.

BILD: But why were they attacked so brutally on Sunday?

Mujahid: They were not attacked. First they tried to enter the presidential palace. At the checkpoints they said they wanted to enter and protest inside the palace. Since no one was in the palace, the security forces at the checkpoints were supposed to prevent them from entering the palace. What happened wasn’t good. Intelligence officials arrived on time, pushing back the security guards who were cracking down on the women. People arrested have been released.

BILD: The other day I was at so-called “Independence Day” in Wardak, and the people celebrated their victory against the western troops. They said that from now on Sharia will rule the country. What does that mean?

Mujahid: The people in Afghanistan are Muslim. Sharia is the law of the government. That is why people have emphasized this. The Afghans fought for it for 40 years, and the war of the last two decades had two goals, among other things: First, to end the presence of the international armed forces. Second, to implement Sharia law in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have the right to create, implement and live their own laws in accordance with their religious principles and national interests. It opted for Sharia law and sacrificed an enormous amount for it.

BILD: If western countries were to deport refugees because they had committed a crime, e.g. in Germany – would they then be punished in accordance with Sharia law in the future?

 Mujahid: Indeed! Your case will be examined and if their crimes have violated Islamic law and we are supposed to punish them, then they will go to court. Or they are deported for a minor offense, and the deportation itself is the punishment. Of course, if they have committed a crime and the plaintiff asks the court to look into it, they will be charged.

BILD: There is a discussion in the West who will be part of your government and who will be the ministers. Could this include those who have carried out or were involved in attacks against the West or Western troops in the past?

Mujahid: The attacks on the Germans came about because Germans occupied our country and participated in the war. We never intended to fight Germany or have problems with the country. Now that the international armed forces have left Afghanistan, no one has any intention of attacking Germany or its citizens here. There are no such intentions, and the Germans will be safe in our country. Our politicians will be appointed in accordance with Islamic law and agreements. Nobody has the right to attack Germans.

BILD: How great is the threat from ISIS in Afghanistan? And can you explain the main difference between the Taliban and the IS – who fought against each other in the past?

Mujahid: First of all, I would like to make it clear that there are many reasons why ISIS is not a threat in Afghanistan. First, ISIS that was in our country did not come from Iraq and Syria. Instead, a few Afghans were influenced by them, and because foreign troops were in our country, they had a reason to fight these troops. Second, there was no Islamic government, which resulted in these people fighting the foreign troops.

But since the foreign troops have now left the country and there is a new Islamic government, no one will have any reason to cling to an idea from abroad and cause hysteria and fighting. That is why we can assure you that such ideas will not be taken up here in this country. ISIS will change. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is responsible for security in the country. We will ensure complete security in the country. We will protect our country from all threats. And when people come from abroad, especially from Germany, they will be safe, because that is our job. In short, there is a big difference between us, the Taliban, and ISIS. The Islamic Emirate has never considered attacking another country, attacking foreign diplomats or interfering in the internal affairs of another country. Rather, everything we have done over the past 20 years has served the purpose of making our country independent.

BILD: In this interview you gave many assurances that nothing would happen to anyone. But how do you then explain why so many people are fleeing?

Mujahid: The fear comes from the fact that there has been propaganda about us for the past 20 years. People got the wrong impression that the Taliban kill people and not let them live. Of course, this misinformation about us had its consequences. Because of this, there are still some people who are still afraid or who don’t trust us. There have been many people or officials in the past administration who have killed civilians – and those people fear for their lives too. But we can only repeat that this fear is unfounded. We do not pose a threat to anyone in this country. Nobody is in danger. Afghanistan is our common homeland. Anyone with different views can live here and work on the development of the country. We assure them that their life is protected and that there is no threat to them.

BILD: In Germany there is always massive discussion about deportations, Austria has already announced that it will continue to deport to Afghanistan in the future. What would you say to the German government if it sends the refugees back to Afghanistan?

Mujahid: We want all Afghans who are abroad – especially in Germany – as refugees to come back to their own country. Because I know that the German government has its own problems with the refugees – and the refugees, in turn, have difficulties with the rules and regulations in other countries. So these Afghans will live in uncertain conditions when they go to other European countries. We want them to return to their home country, where they know the rules and regulations. So they can deal with all other difficulties as well. We hope to develop Afghanistan too far and so reliably that all Afghans around the world voluntarily return to their homeland. BILD: How long will the formation of the new government take, and will women also be part of the government, for example as ministers? Mujahid: We are doing our best to announce the new government as soon as possible because we know that not having announced the government sooner has created a lot of problems. People also worry about economic issues. But the decision rests with the management level. You are working on it. Personally, I don’t know any specifics as to whether women will be part of the new government. The leaders will decide. But forming a government is very time consuming. But things are slowly changing and we are doing our best with women.

BILD: What would your message be for Chancellor Merkel?

Mujahid: First of all, we would like our government to be recognized by all countries in the world, and especially by Germany. We want our diplomatic relations to be restored as well as possible. When there is good diplomatic relations, there is authenticity and reliability. To do this, we have to be in contact with the German government and we would invite Chancellor Merkel to Afghanistan. At the same time we would like to visit Germany. With good diplomatic relations, all of this is possible. We are doing our best to make this possible. We would like to maintain diplomatic relations with all countries in the world – and above all with Germany, because Germany has good, historically reaching relations with Afghanistan. We do our best to revive these relationships so that they are good and trusting.

BILD: There is a risk of a humanitarian crisis in the country. What does it take for people to survive?

Mujahid: All of these problems are temporary. Once the new government is introduced, these problems will go away. We reopened the banking sector. And most importantly, Sarai Shahzada has reopened since Sunday, the largest foreign exchange market. As soon as the new government is announced, the Treasury Department will begin its work. The fear of currency devaluation will disappear because people will deposit money into their bank accounts and thus pave the way for the flow of money in our country. Besides, we are not worried economically because we spent most of the money on the war – and we are not going to do that anymore. These expenses will be curtailed and most of the money will be spent on infrastructure. We will get a grip on the corruption that was a major problem in previous governments. There will be no corruption in the next government. When the corruption is stopped, all the money will go to the country’s budget.

BILD: Before that, the Taliban rarely appeared in photos or videos. How does it feel to be shown on TV around the world now?

Mujahid: We didn’t show up for security reasons. We couldn’t take photos or speak to the media in person. The situation now requires us to appear on television and be in contact with the media. I think that’s a good step too, because we will be in a relationship with the rest of the world and our authenticity will become evident. We are part of this world and we take our role seriously. I work from six in the morning until midnight

Are the Taliban teutonophile? Is Oskar Ritter von Niedermaier’s mission to Afghanistan still having an impact? In any case, „Mutti“ Supermum Merkel seems to enjoy more trust than Margot Käßmann, who wanted to drink peace tea with the Taliban If Merkel visits the Taliban, she would come under pressure to stand up for women’s rights, inclusive government, minority rights of the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara, etc. as the UNO demands. What could be gained there? Is that even realistic? Wouldn’t she be accused of naivety or had to drop the value orientated policy? And wouldn´t a Merkel visit without consultation interpreted by the EU and the USA as a special German way (Deutscher Sonderweg) and undermining the Free West? Probably not feasible without consultation with the USA and the EU. Conversely, she may not be interested in new refugees, but already the deal with Erdogan created resentments because of dependency and potential for blackmail. And then whether Germany is not again a paymaster idiot and feeds the beast. In addition, the question will also be which countries are the first to recognize the Taliban government. Can that be Germany? However the Taliban seem to hope that Merkel could still be a decisive force within the EU and in the West, but as she seems to be a lame duck and only another 20 days in power,  it seems left to her successor to find a new strategy for the Greater Middle East, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific. However it is interesting that till now the Taliban haven´t offered and invited Xi Jinping and Putin to a state visit in Kabul, but Merkel.

BILD and Springer are making German foreign policy, be it with regard to Russia, China, just think of the press conference organized by Springer for Joshua Wong and now Afghanistan. BILD’s deputy chief, the only high-ranking journalist on site in Kabul, a defeat for the competitor SPIEGEL. Especially since there is now BILD TV for the election campaign.

Merkel will not travel to Afghanistan. Laschet thinks, like most, one should speak to the Taliban. But about what remains controversial. EU-FDP Lambsdorff only wants to talk about the auxillary forces and local workers, the Greens consider negotiations with the Taliban to be „naive“. The German government has rejected a recognition of the Taliban so far, but Russia and China have not yet done so either. Aid for the refugees on the ground and neighbour states is apparently supported by all sides, but aid for the Taliban government is not. Let’s see how this can be sustained, because the UN is speaking already of the danger of a famine and a „humanitarian catastrophe“. To what extent the West wants to be accused of wanting to starve the Afghans to death after „abandoning and having betrayed“ them remains to be seen. This can build up a lot of moral pressure.

However, the Hindustan Times quotes Al Jazerra and an unnamed Taliban  that the Taliban has invited Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Qatar to the inauguration ceremony of the new Taliban:

Taliban and its potential international partners: What’s in it for them?

If China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Qatar were to accept the reported invitations to the inauguration ceremony, the new regime would be recognised by exactly double the number of countries that accepted the last Taliban dispensation

As the Taliban pushes forward with the troubled process of forming a new set-up to govern Afghanistan, much of the speculation has centred round which countries would be invited to an inauguration ceremony and whether this dispensation will be recognised by the international community.

An unnamed Taliban official was cited by Al-Jazeera on Monday as saying that the group has invited China, Iran, Pakistan , Qatar, Russia and Turkey”

Putin and Gazprom adviser Dr. Rahr commented:” That would be a demonstration of BRICS strength. The West would be disgraced.” But first it is a rumor, secondly India which is part of the BRICS and the SCO would not be invited and would be embarrassed by China and Pakistan which it perceives at its main enemies. It would not even be Primakov´s Eurasian triangle RIC without India and it is no accident that Modi wants to meet Biden soon.However it could be some sort of almangation and coalition of civilizations as Huntington prophezised in his Clash of Civilization, that the value oriented West will be confronted with the real political Asian and Muslim civilizations who don´t care about human rights, women´s liberation, democracy, liberalism, LGBTIQ rights and so on. But Alastair Crooke made clear that such a coalition would only work because of self- interest and not trust. These powers which are rumoured to be invited made the Taliban clear that it had to accept the interests of them, otherwise Taliban-Afghanistan would become an pariah state with famines and instability and if he Taliban doesn´t in its own interests accepts the interests of them, they would be brought to the abysses fo doomand totally isolated by the world community.Only if the Taliban recognizes the interests of China , Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Qatar and Turkey not to export terrorism, seperatism and extremism, the three evils, only if the Taliban has a more moderate government than in the 90s and might be interested in investments and economic development along the New Silkroad, , it can have its Sharia authotarian state which those powers would try to stabilize.However, all these powers are not sure, if this will work.

Meanwhile, the EU is turning more towards Pakistan and Central Asia, which is angering India, and Modi plans to visit Biden soon to discuss whether the previous Indo-Pacific strategy has to be adjusted and he will also attach importance to the fact that Asia is not only East Asia and China, but also South and Central Asia. However, Modi relied a long time exclusivly on Trump (Namaste Trump) and has to normalize his relations with the Democrats and Biden as he will try to blame Pakistan for the takeover of the Taliban and the defeat of the Northern Alliance and make propganda against China´s BRI, CPEC and role in Afghanisatn, Central and South Asia–make clear that Afghanistan and Pakistan are still is part of the Sino-Amercian conflict, even after the withdrawl of US troops. The comments made by Chief of Joint Staff Milley were interesting. After Milley first emphasized that the United States could fight the IS with the Taliban which has met with skepticism from US Secretary of Defense Austin, Milley now declared that a civil war is likely to break out in Afghanistan. Is this still the hope for a regime change due to a hunger revolt or maybe the idea of destabilizing Afghanistan to block the BRI and CPEC and its rod to Iran and Central Asia? Or is Milley now fearing a strengthening of IS or other Islamists, which one should fight with the Taliban? Still unclear, especially since the anniversary of 9/11 is approaching and Biden is under special observation and an emotionally charged atmosphere.

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