Editorial

Russia’s peace efforts must meet Afghanistan’s need

In 2001, Russia backed the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of the Taliban regime and the creation of a new government. Since then, Russia has supported the new system and has made contributions to reconstruction efforts in the country, including training the Afghan security forces, supplying military equipment, supporting joint counternarcotic activities with the United States, and providing some level of development aid, including scholarships to Afghan students.
The post-2001 phase of the conflict in Afghanistan has lingered for more than 17 years now, and the Taliban have re-emerged as a force that threatening the life of innocent masses and sparing no effort in targeting the government facilities. With the deadlock in the peace process andthe war at a stalemate, Afghanistan, the United States, and regional powers are trying now to seek a political solution. Russia, too, is trying to do its part by reaching out to the Taliban to help kickstart a peace process, however, there is confusion over Moscow’s overtures to the Taliban.
In 2016, Russia initiated a series of meetings among countries neighboring Afghanistan known as the Moscow Process. In the first meeting, Afghanistan was not even invited – only Russia, China, and Pakistan attended the meeting. In 2017, Afghanistan, India, and several Central Asian countries were added. The United States did not attend any of the meetings and perceived them as an overlapping effort that lacked clarity.
Moscow’s contact with the Taliban is not new and there have been reportedlycontacts since 2005. Russia has allegedly shared intelligence with the Taliban, and there has been much media reports that Moscow has even armed them. Russia’s contact with the Taliban has even given the militants a degree of legitimacy and recognition.
But with peace efforts that intensified recently, US started to hold talks with Russia too on Afghan peace process. US Special Envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has discussed the peace process with Russian officials, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow says.Currently, on a swing through the region, Khalilzad met Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lgor Morgulov and Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov in Moscow on Friday.
The diplomats reviewed the current situation in Afghanistan and prospects of building a Russian-US interaction to promote direct talks between the warring Afghan sides.”The current situation of Afghanistan was discussed, as well as the prospects of establishing Washington-Moscow cooperation in the framework of international efforts to facilitate the launch of a direct dialogue between the opposing Afghan parties.”
Russia’s so-called security interests, mainly transnational terrorism and drug trafficking aligned with Afghan and American objectives. Moscow’s efforts can be useful when they are well defined and are held in unison with efforts by Afghanistan and the United States, as two major parties to the conflict.
Engaging with the Taliban for humanitarian causes and the initiating of a peace process is inevitable. Nonetheless, contacts that can embolden and disincentive the group to come the negotiating tables goes against the stabilization needs of Afghanistan. Russia’s peacemaking efforts must meet Afghanistan’s needs, which include initiating negotiations, achieving a political solution, and ultimately peace, and then maintaining that peace. Afghanistan cannot be stabilized when regional actors play dual games and continue open and secret support of the militants.

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