The security and development of Afghanistan was recently debated in Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, as representatives from the International Contact Group for Afghanistan gathered there on Thursday in an effort to chart a way forward for the war-torn country.
“Our common goal is to achieve peace and security objectives in Afghanistan and beyond the country,” Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Araz Azimov said in his remarks, according to 1news.az.
“This is a very important platform, with a broad range of international groups interested in cooperating in dealing with Afghanistan-Taliban conflict,” Azimov said.
More than 90 high-profile representatives from around 60 countries, including Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai and the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells, attended the gathering in Baku. The meeting set the ground for further involvement of the international community in Afghanistan in a universal interaction with the members of the Afghan government.
The International Contact Group for Afghanistan serves as a forum to address the multisided civilian and security assistance provided by the international community. The group was established in 2009 and is co-chaired by Afghanistan and Germany. Azerbaijan is one of 60 participant countries in group gatherings and talks, which are held twice a year.
Internal peace and stability in Afghanistan remain vulnerable, mainly due to a never-ending standoff between the Afghan government and the Taliban – a fundamentalist group that ruled large swaths of land in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, before a U.S. led invasion.
When international forces overthrew the Taliban regime for providing refuge to members of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, including its leader Osama bin Laden, the Taliban regrouped across the country’s eastern border with Pakistan to lead an insurgency against the Western-backed government in Kabul.
NATO has been conducting a non-combat mission in Afghanistan since 2003. The first phase of the mission, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), wrapped up on December 2014 to pave the way for the Resolute Support Mission, still underway and focused on police and military training and assistance activities. Resolute Support includes 16,000 personnel from 39 NATO allies and partner countries, operating in one hub at Kabul/Bagram and in four cities: Mazar-e Sharif in the north, Herat in the west, Kandahar in the south, and Laghman in the east.
Azerbaijan has been a non-NATO ally in international missions to Afghanistan since 2003. The first detachment of Azerbaijani peacekeepers included nearly 100 soldiers that were tasked with providing security to a television tower station, a central ammunition depot, and conducting regular patrols in Kabul. Azerbaijan’s peacekeeping contingent towards Resolute Support today consists of over 100 soldiers that have been helping safeguard the Kabul International Airport. Azerbaijan is the only country from the Caspian region that is supporting Resolute Support.