With Taliban fighters gaining ground as American troops prepare for a total pullout from Afghanistan by next month, one of Russia’s top foreign policy officials has said that there is still hope for peace and regional security.
Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Kabul, told a roundtable organized by the Gorchakov Foundation on Tuesday that the militant group’s advance may not present the same geopolitical problems as it has in the past. Despite the Taliban being listed as a terrorist organization and prohibited in Russia, Kabulov said that only around a third of them are radicalized and the group in Afghanistan does not pose a threat to neighboring nations.
“According to our estimates,” the diplomat said, “around two-thirds of this movement, including its top leadership, are committed to the idea of a political solution to the Afghan crisis.” He added that its foot soldiers are now tired of a long war, and that they are unlikely to attempt to operate across the borders of other Central Asian nations.
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The Taliban now claim to have taken control of the vast majority of Afghanistan’s territory, limiting the US-backed government in Kabul to its urban strongholds. In recent days, contingents of American-trained troops have sought refuge in neighboring Tajikistan, escaping from fierce fighting. In response, Moscow has committed to supporting the former Soviet Republic to secure its borders, and dispatched infantry fighting vehicles to its bases there.
Last month, after senior representatives of the Taliban visited Moscow for talks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that negotiations had an important role to play. She pointed out that “the Taliban movement is prohibited in our country” and that Moscow “reaffirms in every possible way its determination to fight against international terrorist activity.”
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However, she said, “there is a small and important nuance. The Taliban movement is part of the inter-Afghan dialogue. This is the very dialogue that the [UN] Security Council has called on all countries to facilitate.” She said that by holding talks with all sides, Russia would continue to champion that process in an effort to bring peace to the troubled nation.
The week before, a top Russian UN envoy, Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy, told RT that the country was prepared to work with the Taliban as part of peace talks agreed by the Security Council. “We support the inter-Afghan negotiations, and all our efforts are aimed at facilitating the start of substantive talks between the two sides,” he said.
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