IN the post-9/11 scenario in our region, the presence of extra-regional forces has played havoc with the internal security not only of Afghanistan but also its two critical neighbours, Pakistan and Iran. Accusations and counter allegations have been flung across, with all three countries accusing each other of aiding militancy and general interference across their borders in the other's territory. So it was a welcome development to have the three foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet in Islamabad and sign the joint Islamabad Declaration focusing on regional cooperation and security and development. The three countries committed to non-interference in the internal affairs of each country and also to ensuring that their territories were not used for activities detrimental to each other's interests. From the Pakistani perspective, this was critical because of India's use of Afghanistan to aid and abet terrorism in Pakistan. For Iran also this was important in the context of the alleged use of Pakistan's Balochistan by the US to foment terrorism in Sistan province. Much of the success of this Declaration will depend on the implementation process, but the fact that the Afghan side actually made a reference to India when it stated that Afghanistan should be kept out of the tensions bigger countries have with each other, is a positive step forward. Whether this message gets across to India remains to be seen but by excluding India from this regional meeting a strong message has gone out from Afghanistan and its neighbours to a meddlesome power. Equally important was the recognition by the three that terrorism posed a common challenge and that a regional approach, including in terms of intelligence sharing, was the more effective way of dealing with this problem. Unfortunately, the US has tended to leave Iran out of the equation which has led to increasing destabilisation of the region as a whole. Also, not only as neighbours of Afghanistan but also as countries that share ethnic and linguistic ties with groups in Afghanistan, both Pakistan and Iran have a legitimate interest in ensuring peace and stability in that country as well as ensuring that forces hostile to the two countries do not gain ascendency aided by external powers. The recognition in this trilateral meeting of the negative aspects of Obama's Afghan policy is also a much needed reality check. This is also the right time to extend the trilateral framework to include Turkey - another country that shares a cultural linkage with Afghanistan and has been involved directly in ISAF and now through its membership of NATO. Involving Turkey in a regional context, will allow the evolution of a consensus to help facilitate an early US departure from Afghanistan given the fact that the US/NATO presence itself is a major factor for the violence and instability in this region. That should be the next logical progression of a regional understanding on Afghanistan.