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SCO: spring advance on Afghanistan

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov)

An international conference on Afghanistan will gather under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Moscow.

Scheduled for March, it was mentioned vaguely at a news conference summarizing President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Uzbekistan at the end of last week. It is now clear that the future conference is being taken seriously. It will be not an expert meeting, but a major diplomatic event representing SCO member and observer countries, Afghanistan, and relevant international organizations.

The U.S.-inspired anti-terrorist campaign opened in Afghanistan seven years ago. The International Security Assistance Force emerged at about the same time under NATO general command. Neither has hit its main targets-terrorism, drug trafficking, and transnational crime stirred up by domestic instability.

Russia, Central Asian countries, Iran, Pakistan, China, and India, who gave the peacemaking and anti-terrorist missions enthusiastic support in 2001, are Afghanistan's neighbors and SCO members or observers, with the exception of Turkmenistan. The SCO, a nascent organization at that time, had vast potential. If the United States and NATO had been wise enough to use it, Afghan affairs would not look so bleak today.

The world knows, however, how painfully the U.S. Administration at the time responded to attempts by Moscow and others to involve the SCO and especially the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Afghan problems-painfully enough to create a another problem - American and NATO presence in Central Asia - and provoke international prejudice against it. Its necessity is cast into doubt at every Afghanistan-related meeting.

Many experts regard Greater Central Asia as the idea underlying American presence in Afghanistan. The brainchild of political scientist Frederick Starr, the doctrine was published in March 2005. In a nutshell, it calls all neighboring countries to take part in the economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan. However, Russia and China are supposed to play passive marginal roles in the cause. The conspicuous obscurity imposed on them makes one suspect whether the project aims not so much to help Afghanistan as to wall off Central Asia from Russia and China.

Will America change its Afghan policies under the Obama Administration? The first indications might come at the Moscow conference in March.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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