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Afghans Reject Russian "Alliance" With Taleban

Diplomat hints that Moscow may share common interests with the insurgent group.
By IWPR Afghanistan

Participants in IWPR debates across Afghanistan have rejected a suggestion from a high-ranking Russian envoy that the Taleban may be an unlikely new ally in the fight against Islamic State (IS).

Zamir Kabulov, the KGB’s former top officer in Kabul during the 1980s war and now President Vladimir Putin’s man in Kabul, told Interfax news agency last month that “Taleban interests objectively coincide with ours.” 

“Both the Afghan and the Pakistani Taleban have said they don’t recognise [IS] and they don’t recognise the IS leader [Abu Bakr] al‑Baghdadi as the caliph; that is very important,” he continued. “We have communication channels with the Taleban to exchange information.”

Russia has long been concerned that IS poses a particularly threat if jihadists from the former Soviet Republics who fight in Syria and Iraq return to commit atrocities at home.

However, participants in discussions in Ghor, Kunduz, and Kabul provinces last month rejected any Russian support for the Taleban as roundly against Afghan interests.

In Kunduz, provincial council member Maulawi Khosh Mohammad Nasratyar said any Russian backing for the insurgents would be a threat to the entire region.

He added that in any case the Taleban would never deal with Russia, their former foes from the 1980s.

Civil society activist Qazi Matiullah Doorman said Kabulov was trying to institute another proxy war.

“The United States supported the mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the 1980s and defeated Russia this way,” he said. “Today, Russia wants to support the Taleban to defeat America.”

Although IS has some affiliates within Afghanistan, they are not thought to be a major threat and political analyst Mohammad Hussain Nafiz demanded that the Kabul government respond forcefully to Kabulov’s statements.

“The situation in Afghanistan will get many times worse than it currently if the people and the government do not act decisively against the Taleban,” he said.

In Ghor province, provincial council member Abdul Hameed Natiqi also thought that any Russian support for the Taleban could be disastrous.

“When Russia provides the Afghan Taleban with weapons and ammunition for fighting IS, this act will be dangerous not only for Afghanistan, but also for the region and the world.”

However, one speaker in the Kabul debate said that such a scenario could be leveraged by the Afghan government.

Moscow has also suggested increasing support to Kabul, and Zabulov indicated that a shipment of small arms would arrive as early as this month.

 “A confrontation between Russia and US in regards to the Russian fight against IS will be beneficial for Afghanistan,” political analyst Sayed Farhad Hashimi said, “[providing] the government of Afghanistan makes sure to benefit from this clash.”

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

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