Why is Russia so invested in the Afghan peace process?

Despite being the ones who fought the former Soviet Union, and primarily led to its demise, Taliban are hosted by Moscow today for one simple reason, the growing threat of ISIS.

Russia

News Analysis |

An Afghan Taliban delegation met with key political figures of Afghanistan in Moscow in an event organized by Russia marking the 100 years of bilateral relations between the two countries. The delegation included Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of Taliban movement, released from Pakistani prison recently and was announced as the political chief of the insurgent group.

It was anticipated that his release from prison would result in a breakthrough between the United States and the Taliban vis-à-vis the ongoing peace negotiations but apparently, the reality seems to be in contrast. Mullah Baradar reiterated that the group wants peace but first the foreign troops would have to leave the country. “The Taliban are really committed to peace but think the obstacle for peace should be removed first.

ISIS, after the loss of its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, is a nationless threat faced by the entire world as the bombings in Sri Lanka made it very clear.

The obstacle is the occupation of Afghanistan, and that should end,” Baradar said. Russia has been the key player in the Afghanistan peace process as it was the second convention which has been facilitated where Taliban and the mainstream politicians met. The United States is closely working with Russia and China for an agreed formula as both these countries have their security and strategic interest tied with the long term, sustainable peace of Afghanistan.

Read more: Afghan peace talks: Deadlock in Doha?

The Deadlock in the Process

There has been stagnation for a considerable period now between the Taliban and the U.S negotiators as none of the sides is showing any sign of backing out from their demand. The United States has already compromised its position by forfeiting the credibility of its own installed Kabul regime by participating directly in the negotiations with the Taliban. So far, the only substantial development in the process has been a guarantee by the Taliban that they will not allow the Afghan territory to be used against the United States or its allies.

Mullah Baradar reiterated that the group wants peace but first the foreign troops would have to leave the country.

Washington wants to move on with other pressing agendas, such as a ceasefire and political paradigm of Afghanistan before all its troops are completely withdrawn and the Taliban are adamant that negotiations will only be allowed to move ahead after the last U.S soldier has been airlifted. Even the release of Mullah Baradar has not made any real impact the way Washington had anticipated.

Read more: U.S-Pak high-level delegation met to discuss the Afghan peace process

The Russian Angle

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in his opening statement before the meeting, said that Russia and Afghanistan share the same aim of fighting terrorism – which was the growing common threat for Taliban and the Kabul regime alike, ISIS in Afghanistan. It is becoming clear day by day that Taliban are moving closer to the power center of Afghanistan and Russia wants to have good relations in advance as indicated by Russia’s endorsement of the Taliban’s demand for complete evacuation of foreign troops.

Afghanistan before all its troops are completely withdrawn and the Taliban are adamant that negotiations will only be allowed to move ahead after the last U.S soldier has been airlifted.

ISIS, after the loss of its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, is a nationless threat faced by the entire world as the bombings in Sri Lanka made it very clear. After Putin’s intervention in Syria, which on one hand prevented Bashar Al-Asad’s government from falling at the hands of foreign-backed rebels, also obliterated ISIS via aerial strikes, the country has been added to the list of ISIS’s top enemies.

Read more: Afghan peace talks and opportunities it brings for region

Therefore, if the groups managed to hold its foot firmly in Afghanistan, then relatively vulnerable Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan would be a soft target and within no time ISIS will be on the Russian gates. Hence, Russia, for its own national security, is putting a lot of efforts and resources into making the Taliban feel that they are on the same page when it comes to taking out the menace of ISIS and in return, they support the Taliban claim of troop withdrawal.

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