In an interview published Saturday, Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov suggested Moscow is ready to cooperate with the US on Afghanistan.
Kabulov, who serves as Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, told reporters that Moscow is in contact with US diplomat Alice Wells, a former Ambassador to Jordan who currently works as acting Assistant Secretary of State and acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wells told Kabulov earlier this year that Washington was willing to work with Moscow on Afghanistan, but as Kabulov was quick to point out, US sanctions on Russia could limit the scope of such cooperation. “You introduced them, then you are to lift them, if you want to cooperate with us,” said Kabulov.
In an interview with Sputnik, Kabulov said Russia wants the Afghan government to engage in dialogue with the Taliban “based on conditions acceptable for both sides.” Bolstered by ever-increasing revenue from opium, the Taliban currently controls or contests 45% of Afghanistan.
According to Kabulov, Kabul is working on a plan for peace talks with the opposition. In early December, “Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai announced Kabul’s plans to work out a roadmap for the launch of a peace dialogue with Taliban. We’ll see what kind of results it would bring.”
“We are happy to know that Kabul is showing flexibility regarding the launch of negotiations,” continued Kabulov. Just six month ago, the Afghan government had ruled out the possibility of talks with the opposition. Kabulov added that Kabul should not overestimate “Russia’s ability to contact and influence” the Taliban.
In August, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Moscow of selling weapons to the Taliban. Moscow denies these accusations. The alleged support for the Taliban, which is banned in Russia, “simply does not exist,” says Kabulov.
Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Afghanistan last week, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani to discuss the Trump Administration’s new strategy in the region.
Earlier this year, Trump unveiled a broad strategy for Afghanistan involving more troops and increased regional cooperation with Pakistan and other countries. The strategy, which has no timetable for US involvement, demands government cooperation in exchange for military assistance.
Author’s Note: Many of the articles you read about the turmoil in Afghanistan fail to mention the one thing that is keeping the Taliban in power: opium. People seem to forget that up to 80% of the world’s opioids are produced in Afghanistan.
Both the US and Russia have ultimately failed to stabilize Afghanistan. Perhaps we can do it together, but it all depends on how serious we are about taking out the poppy growers. A combined effort seems unlikely considering Russia’s objection to the US selling weapons to Ukraine.