The Enemy of My Enemy: Can Taliban Be an Ally of Russia  

Russia considers removing the Taliban from the terrorist list, potentially recognizing them as Afghanistan stabilizes and collaborates on regional security.

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Frontier India News Network
Frontier India News Network
Frontier India News Network is the in-house news collection and distribution agency.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Ministry of Justice have informed President Vladimir Putin that the dominant faction in Afghanistan, the “Taliban,” could potentially be delisted as a prohibited group.

TASS quoted Zamir Kabulov, who holds multiple positions within the Russian government, including Special Representative of the President for Afghanistan, member of the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Director of the Second Department of Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kabulov says the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a “positive” stance on removing the movement from the list. Without it, discussing recognition would be premature. Consequently, efforts are still being made to address this matter.

In June 2023, Kabulov stated in an interview with RTVI that for the “Taliban” to no longer be considered a banned organization, its officials must establish a government that is inclusive of various ethnic and political groups. In November 2023, the Special Representative for Afghanistan stated that Moscow did not categorize the Taliban as “terrorists by nature” since “this has been proven by the course of life itself.” The movement has developed, expressing a refusal “to engage in global jihad” and “to spread its ideology and way of thinking to neighboring states.” The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on April 1, 2024, that they are now addressing revoking the terrorist organization designation from the “Taliban.” On May 17, it was announced that Afghanistan intends to initiate discussions with Russia over establishing a logistics center in Herat Province. This center will serve as a means to facilitate the transportation of Russian oil to South Asia.

During a meeting of the Council of Heads of Security and Special Services of CIS member states in Bishkek on May 24, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov acknowledged encouraging developments in Afghanistan. He highlighted the active efforts of the Afghan authorities to restore stability, combat notorious terrorist groups, and fortify their borders to minimize the infiltration of militants from international terrorist organizations operating in neighboring conflict zones. ” They are in dialogue with us, meaning the special services of the Commonwealth countries. And if Kabul is not hindered by external players, the Taliban, I believe, will be able to bring order at home.”

Russia has extended an invitation to the Taliban to take part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), scheduled to take place from June 5 to 8. Zamir Kabulov stated on the “Russia 24” television channel that the Minister of Labor from the Taliban government and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman will attend the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. “I expect that they and the accompanying Afghan businessmen will be able to reach agreements with Russian and other foreign partners on establishing cooperation,” he said.

“They are the real power. We care about Afghanistan,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists. According to him, the initiative to exclude the “Taliban” from the list of terrorist groups “reflects the recognition of reality”: “Kazakhstan recently made a decision, which we also intend to make, to exclude them from the list of terrorist organizations. Moreover, the UN Security Council has not declared the Taliban as a terrorist organization.”

“We welcome the proposal of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to the Kremlin to remove the terrorist organization status from the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.’ We highly appreciate the statement of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia follows a realistic policy and puts its national interests above all else. <…> We were never terrorists, but we fought to liberate our country from foreign occupation. We want positive relations with neighbors and countries in the region and the world,” said Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, head of the Taliban political office in Qatar, in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Since this issue has been raised publicly, the ‘Taliban’ may be removed from the list of banned organizations. This is likely due to progress in negotiations with the Taliban on security issues. This also allowed Russia to activate its dialogue with Uzbekistan on the gas union, creating transit to the south through Afghanistan.

The move shows significant diplomatic successes of the Russian Federation in Central Asia. Russia may also consider removing the banned status, and recognizing the ‘Taliban’ can be considered a step towards multipolarity. This is one of the few forces in the Global South that successfully resisted the US. Moreover, with the Taliban coming to power in Kabul, the situation in the country has largely stabilized, including control over drugs. From 2018 to 2020, when the US was effectively in control of Afghanistan, the country accounted for 80% to 87% of the world’s heroin production. In 2023, the poppy cultivation was reduced from 1,300 km² to 10 km².

Afghanistan has one key advantage — its location, which allows it to influence the policies of all Central Asian countries. As long as the Taliban do not interfere with Russian national interests in the region, Russia will let them do what they see fit in their country.

Russians also feel that collaboration is feasible against ISIS extremists. ISIS operates a faction known as ‘Wilayat Khorasan,’ which was implicated in the terrorist attack against the Crocus City Hall music venue. They represent a significant danger to the Taliban also. In this context, a common adversary exists. The Taliban are a de facto ally of Russia and Iran. There is a sharp improvement in Iran-Afghan relations.

Russia needs a stable and friendly state or, at least, a neutral one on its southern borders.


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