Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 22nd, 2019

The Role of Kremlin in Resumption of Afghan Peace Talks

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The Role of Kremlin in Resumption of  Afghan Peace Talks

The Afghan geopolitics and its political conflicts have attracted all the regional powers as each of them is trying to achieve his specific goals through showing harmonious position with people of Afghanistan. Apparently, they pretend to bring peace in the country while their actions do not indicate so. Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons for the continuation of the war in Afghanistan is the negative role of these countries as they support the conflicting groups iwn the country. Russia is one of the countries in the world which is mentally hostile to the Taliban, but the US presence in Afghanistan and the emergence of the Khorasan branch of IS have made the Kremlin feel conformable with the Taliban because the US and IS are considered as enemy to both of them.
Since Putin took the power in Russia, he has taken active foreign policy, especially toward Eastern Europe and Central Asia. NATO and the European Union are considered as the most important enemy of Russia which continues their crawling activities in Eastern Europe under the support of the United States. In Central Asia, the US oil companies and also harmonious governments with the US are considered the most important enemy of Russia in the region. As Russia faces Islamic fundamentalists in the North Caucasus and the Taliban can serve as an inspiriting resource to Russian fundamentalists, the Taliban are not attractive to Russia but the emergence of IS in the Middle East, especially the formation of the Khorasan branch of Daesh in Afghanistan has changed the situation.
Khorasan branch of IS is considered a threat to Taliban because IS views Taliban as an obstacle to establishment of their Islamic caliphate. On the other hand, when extremist youths are attracted by IS, the Taliban are faced difficulties in recruiting military forces. Accordingly, both groups are funded through black businesses and illegal financial resources. Therefore, the scarcity of resources and conflict of interests caused a sort of confrontation between the two groups. Likewise, Russia is concerned about IS penetration in Central Asia regions and so the Russian has established unofficial relationship with Taliban as it ensures the benefit of both Russia and the Taliban.
Russia needs a common language to strengthen its relationship with the Taliban, and Hamid Karzai and its allies can be the most important Taliban-Russian common language. The activities of Hamid Karzai in the 1990s and the subsequent release of the Taliban during his second term presidency can be mentioned as an example. Russia cannot overtly cooperate with the Taliban because the Taliban is considered as terrorist face and their explicit support can be costly internationally. Therefore, Russia has repeatedly tried to support the Taliban in a different way such as holding the Moscow conference and recognition of Taliban as legitimate political group. However, the cancellation of peace talks caused Russia and the Taliban to partially lose their pretext for the mutual cooperation and so repeatedly called for the resumption of peace talks.
In the recent summit in Moscow, Russia called for an immediate resumption of Afghan peace talks and called on the Afghan government to control the activities of IS and East Turkestan group; Afghanistan should not allow these groups to use Afghan soil against other countries. In eve of Trump presidency, the United States is clearly retreating from the Middle East, and so Russia wants to fill gap of the US in the region. The most prominent examples of this replacement can be seen in equipping the Arab and Middle Eastern armies with Russian weapons and Russia’s active role in Syria. The question is how can Russia play a role in Afghan peace talks and also in the future politics? To find the answer to this question, we need to review Russia’s possible scenarios as following:
Firstly, Russia neither seeks to establish a liberal democratic government in Afghanistan nor it seeks to establish a communist system like in the 1980s. Russia will have a simple demand which is the formation of an anti-American system no matter by: Mujahideen or Taliban. In recent past, Russia has firmly fought against Islamic fundamentalists in its soil especially in Chechnya. The Putin’s bloody battles against fundamentalists made him a national hero and even paved the way for him to take the power in Kremlin. Thus, Putin did not hesitate in destruction of IS and the All Nusra Front in Syria; In doing so, Russia wants expel the US from Afghanistan and then treat the Afghan system in a way that treats to other Central Asian governments.
Secondly, Russia may destroy IS in Southern Russia such as Dagestan and Tatarstan where significant Muslim populations live and Russia is fearful of their tendency towards IS and Afghanistan could be a gateway of Daesh to that region and then to the North Caucasus. To this end, the formation of an anti-American and pro-Russian system could halt IS entry into Russia and its territory. When the Russian-Taliban friendship matures, the Kremlin can also take advantages from the regional governments in Central Asia.
Russia believes, if the peace talks between the US and the Taliban succeed, the possibility of US withdrawal from Afghanistan would be very strong, and if the US leaves Afghanistan, it could fill the vacuum in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is concerned because the issue of war and peace in the country might be handed over to the next US government while it is likely that the 48th US president be anti-Russian and takes offensive foreign policy against Russia. So, Russia’s emphasis on an immediate resumption of US-Taliban peace talks could mean that any peace deal under Donald Trump’s presidency could be in interest of Russia and even it may help Trump to come to power again which is also favorable for Russia.   

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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