On December 27, 2016, officials from Russia, China and Pakistan met in Moscow for the third Trilateral Dialogue on Afghanistan, where all three states deliberated on the deteriorating state of affairs in Afghanistan, the stalled Afghan peace process and the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS) in the region. In a joint statement, representatives from all three countries reaffirmed their support for an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, underlined the importance of intensifying efforts in this regard, and to adopt flexible measures to remove the names of certain Taliban members from the sanctions lists in order to encourage peace talks. It was also agreed to include the Afghan government in future talks.
The formation of the Russia-China-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue is a welcoming development and a good initiative, however it has been questioned and looked upon with suspicion by Afghanistan, India and the US, with particular reference to Russia’s growing interest and involvement in the peace process. The Afghan government expressed concern and displeasure over the meeting and questioned why Afghanistan was not involved in the discussion and that it was the state’s prerogative to decide who should be on the sanctions list. In December 2016, President Ghani had asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose sanctions against the incumbent Taliban chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada. Apart from the government, Afghan parliamentarians also lashed out at all three states for excluding Afghanistan and felt that it was a “direct interference in Afghan internal issues.”