Baku, Azerbaijan, October 17
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
In the early 2000s, the Taliban movement was considered a bitter enemy, for both Russia and the United States, and any peace talks with it were excluded.
Now, both the US and Russia are simultaneously looking for opportunities for negotiations with the leaders of Taliban. If official Kabul can be influenced in one way or the other, Taliban – a radical movement that, according to the latest data, controls more than 50% of the total territory of the country – needs to be reckoned with.
Official Kabul and the radical Taliban movement (banned in Russia) confirmed their participation in the meeting at the ‘Moscow [negotiation] site’. The date of the meeting can be announced this week, Izvestia reported, citing special representative of the President of the Russian Federation on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.
On the other side, last week Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special adviser on Afghan peace, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar for talks on “possible paths to end Afghan war,” a spokesman for the insurgent group said, according to the Washington Post.
The spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan remains the “greatest obstacle” to peace, but he also noted that both sides agreed to continue the dialogue — a potentially major step toward formal negotiations with the Taliban to end the 17-year war, according to the newspaper.
In short, there is activity around the situation in Afghanistan. What is behind it?
In a few days parliamentary elections are due to be held in Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders have already warned that they will not allow them to take place.
Taliban leaders addressed the population of the country and the parliamentary candidates to refuse from participation in the elections, which, they believe, serve as a means to give legitimacy to foreign occupation, as well as to justify the failure of the ruling regime.
The insurgents seem confident in their abilities, and external players are aware of it. Otherwise, they would hardly sit down with the Taliban leaders at a round table.
For many, it is still unclear why the US is so clinging to Afghanistan and what is the ground for its relations with Taliban.
When being a candidate in the presidential race, Donald Trump supported the idea of withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan.
Then, in August 2017, he said that the hasty withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan will leave a vacuum there, which will be occupied by terrorists, BBC reported.
And now Washington has entered the negotiations once again, suggesting withdrawal of the US forces, but not meaning that it will be carried out for sure.
At the time, the US declared the main reason for the presence in Afghanistan – preventing terror activities against the US before they emerge. That was reasonable in 2001 and several following years, when US was crushing the al-Qaeda terrorist net in the country. Then it became to sound a bit strange. Rather, neighboring countries – Russia or China – should have such concerns.
Timing of the US presence in Afghanistan (17 years!) and the outcome that have not been ever worse than now, gives thoughts for some strong doubts.
Another task stated as an objective by the United States was to combat drug production and international drug trafficking, where Afghanistan occupies a leading position.
According to the ‘Afghan opium survey 2017’, prepared by UNODC, in 17 years – from 2001 to 2017 – the area of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased from 8,000 to 328,000 hectares, whereas production increased accordingly from 185 tons to 9,000 tons.
Russia has its own problems in Afghanistan.
For some time, the IS terrorist group has been making efforts to entrench itself in the country.
At the end of last month, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned during the consultations on the Afghan settlement about the danger of recurrence of the "Syrian scenario" in Afghanistan.
Based on data from Russian intelligence, the number of the IS militants in Afghanistan ranges from 8,000 to 10,000.
In early October, a joint statement by the foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member States on the situation in Afghanistan, the strengthening of IS positions in the Northern provinces of the country and the growth of the drug threat from the territory of Afghanistan was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
In the statement, the CSTO member states express special concern regarding the activities and growth of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, as well as with a significant accumulation of militants in the vicinity of the southern borders of the Republic of Tajikistan, which is a member state of the CSTO.
Against the background of the emergence of jihadists of the IS in Afghanistan, Russia, which has sharply protested for many years against cooperation with the Taliban movement, is now ready for contact. Moscow hopes that the dialogue with the Taliban will reduce risks of the terrorist spreading from Afghanistan to the republics of the Central Asia – Russia’s underbelly.