After Issuing Warning About the Threat Posed by The Islamic State, Russia has Invited the Afghan Taliban to Hold Talks

October 21, 2021

Russia will host the Taliban for talks in Moscow, seeking to assert its influence in Central Asia and press for action against Islamic State (IS) fighters it claims have gathered in perennially volatile Afghanistan. The talks, which are attended by officials from ten countries, including China and Pakistan, are one of the Taliban’s most important international gatherings since seizing power in mid-August.

They come after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week that IS fighters were gathering in Afghanistan to sow discord in Russia’s former Soviet republics. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s veteran foreign minister, is scheduled to address the gathering.

The Taliban delegation is led by Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, a senior figure in Afghanistan’s new leadership who led last week’s talks with the European Union and the United States. These came after talks between the Taliban and Turkish officials in Ankara. Following the group’s takeover, Brussels has pledged one billion euros ($1.2 billion) to avert a humanitarian crisis.

One of the goals of the Moscow meeting, according to Russia’s foreign ministry, is to “consolidate the international community’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Moscow also stated that the formation of an inclusive government would be on the agenda, and that the parties to the talks would issue a joint statement following the talks. In recent years, Moscow has reached out to the Taliban and hosted its representatives several times. Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and foreign troops withdrew after nearly two decades, senior Russian officials, including Putin, have expressed a slew of other security-related concerns. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that 2,000 militant Islamic State fighters had converged in northern Afghanistan, and that their leaders planned to send them into neighboring Central Asian countries disguised as refugees. Following the Taliban’s takeover, Russia conducted military drills with ex-Soviet countries bordering Afghanistan.

Lavrov also warned that drug trafficking from Afghanistan had reached unprecedented levels, a concern that the Kremlin has since echoed during meetings with other Central Asian countries and China. Despite reaching out to the Taliban, Russian officials, including Putin, have made it clear in recent weeks that Moscow is not on the verge of formal recognition of the regime. The official recognition is not being discussed, and that has been stated publicly,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia, like other countries in the region, keeps in touch with the group.

In the 1980s, Moscow waged a disastrous decade-long war in Afghanistan, killing up to two million Afghans, displacing seven million more, and killing over 14,000 Soviet troops.

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