Outreach to the Taliban pays dividends to Putin


With the collapse of the Afghan government, a marketing campaign of peaceful outreach to the Taliban seems to be paying out dividends for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Taliban is – at least on paper – formally proscribed by Moscow, and the Russian federal government has nevertheless to acknowledge the militant group as the authentic governing administration of Afghanistan.

But on Monday, Russia’s overseas ministry announced it experienced proven operating contacts with the Taliban, which it reported experienced “started to restore public order” in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan.

And at the weekend, as the Taliban shut in on Kabul and US-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled the place, the Russians made apparent they would not be packing up their diplomatic mission.

“The evacuation of the embassy is not currently being readied,” reported Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special consultant for Afghanistan, according to Russian state-run information agency RIA-Novosti. “I am in get in touch with with our ambassador, they are operating calmly and intently observing gatherings as they unfold.”

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS/Getty Photographs/FILE

Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.

That sort of calculated insouciance could perform effectively for a Russian viewers, especially when Western diplomats are dashing for the exits.

The Russians may perhaps definitely love a little bit of schadenfreude: The USSR’s 10 years-lengthy intervention in Afghanistan was a debacle, but it took a few yrs for the communist govt of then-President Mohammad Najibullah to collapse just after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet forces. Ghani’s US-backed government unravelled in much less than three months.

In its assertion on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry observed that the transfer of power to the Taliban experienced transpired “as a consequence of the practically comprehensive absence of resistance from the countrywide armed forces properly trained by the United States and its allies.”

In a readout of a Monday cellphone simply call concerning Russian International Minister Sergey Lavrov and his American counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the foreign ministry ironically noted the “de facto regime change” underway in Afghanistan, a phrase that as soon as applied to Washington’s campaign to unseat the Taliban.

What is at stake right here is substantially extra than geopolitical place-scoring. Kabulov informed RIA the Taliban experienced certain safety for the Russian embassy, suggesting the Russians had open strains of communication with the insurgents as they marched on the capital.

That really should arrive as minimal surprise. As Putin’s place guy on Afghanistan, Kabulov oversaw a plan of cultivating closer ties with the Taliban, both of those as a counter to US impact in the area and as a hedge versus the probable collapse of the Afghan authorities.

On the diplomatic aspect, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the Taliban a seat at the conference table in Moscow, alongside users of Afghanistan’s Large Peace Council and civil culture, raising the militant group’s international profile.

On the covert facet, evidence indicates the Taliban received weaponry that appears to have been provided by the Russian authorities, though the Russian govt has vehemently denied supplying arms to the Taliban.

“Moscow is experiencing the celebration that their wager on the Taliban paid out off,” explained Arkady Dubnov, an impartial Russian analyst and pro on Central Asia. “Zamir Kabulov can count on a medal of the maximum order from the president, because his dangerous match of supporting the Taliban brought Russia to the position in which Russia can exhibit it does not dread the Taliban, in distinction to the Western diplomats.”

“It’s great PR for the Russians and for the Taliban,” Dubnov added.

05:12 – Supply: CNN

Five presidents, 5 procedures: The US’ wars in Afghanistan

Additional importantly, the collapse of a two-ten years-very long American experiment in state-creating in Afghanistan offers Russia a likelihood to reassert by itself in the region.

It is worth recalling that Putin was the to start with entire world chief to get in touch with US President George W. Bush soon after the 9/11 terrorist assaults. Putin – who at the time was fighting a homegrown insurgency in Chechnya – built popular cause with Bush, opening Russian airspace to humanitarian flights and supplying the environmentally friendly mild to the deployment of US troops to staging bases in Central Asia.

But the US army existence in the region was generally viewed with suspicion by the Kremlin, and anxieties that the Taliban brand of militancy may possibly unfold further than Afghanistan’s borders look, above time, to have been outweighed by Russia’s drive to see the US offered a bloody nose.

Still, the swift implosion of the US-backed federal government in Afghanistan came as a surprise to everyone. And the victory of the Taliban may pose a major problem to Putin in his strategic backyard, in which swift and unexpected variations or a refugee disaster could destabilize an currently susceptible region.

Dmitry Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Middle, stated on Twitter that Russia’s priority was to reassert its political and armed service influence with its Central Asian neighbors, noting the armed service physical exercises Moscow held lately with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan around the Afghan border.

Russia, Trenin mentioned, “isn’t evacuating [its] embassy from Kabul. It retains contacts with Taliban and watches developments. In the meantime, RUS [Russian] forces workout with Uzbeks and Tajiks in the community. For Moscow, [the] key situation is not who’s in electrical power in Kabul, but no matter whether radicals cross into CentrAsia. For now, seems to be not likely.”

However, it didn’t just take long for the gloating to start off in Moscow.

“With horror, the planet is viewing the end result of an additional historic Washington experiment,” Russian Overseas Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted on Facebook Sunday as the Taliban marched on the Afghan funds.

To travel her stage dwelling, Zakharova posted an excerpt of a press meeting supplied by US President Joe Biden just about a month in the past, when he was requested if a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was unavoidable.

“No, it is not,” Biden replied.

“Judge for oneself,” Zakharova wrote.

Elva Zachman

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