Facing high expectations, a five-man band Taliban finally played in Moscow. Yet the star of the show, predictably, was the Mick Jagger of geopolitics: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Right from the start, Lavrov set the tone for the Moscow format consultations, which boast the merit of "uniting Afghanistan with all neighboring countries." Without skipping a beat, he addressed the US elephant in the room – or lack thereof: "Our American colleagues chose not to participate," actually "for the second time, evading an extended troika-format meeting."
Washington invoked hazy "logistical reasons" for its absence.
The troika, which used to meet in Doha, consists of Russia, the US, China and Pakistan. The extended troika in Moscow this week featured Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and all five Central Asian 'stans.' That, in essence, made it a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, at the highest level.
Lavrov's presentation essentially expanded on the themes highlighted by the recent SCO Dushanbe Declaration: Afghanistan should be an "independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs," and bearing an inclusive government "with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups."