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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Why’d Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan visit Kabul amidst Pakistani-Taliban tensions

The Pakistani-Taliban security dilemma prompted the latter to rely on Russia to balance the former in a friendly way with last year’s commodities deal. Then the aforementioned pair’s dilemmas worsened this year due to TTP-US threats respectively, though China is neutral in their latest tensions.

Russian Special Representative to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov’s latest visit to Kabul coincided with the worst Pakistani-Taliban tensions since the latter group emerged as their country’s de facto leaders in August 2021. During his time in the Afghan capital, his host’s Deputy Spokesman and Assistant Director of Public Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hafiz Zia Ahmad shared on Twitter that the envoy met with Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, which Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency then reported on.

From what’s publicly known, the two diplomats discussed last year’s commodities deal between their countries, trade ties in general, and breaking the Taliban’s international isolation. Kabulovwas also quoted as saying that“Russia wants stability and development in Afghanistan and does not want to criticize Afghanistan and interfere in its internal affairs like Western countries.” Additionally, President Putin’s special envoy spoke about Afghanistan’s potential to serve as a bridge for inter-regional trade.

Read more: Taliban praises Afghanistan’s first supercar

Understanding the matter better

Considering the complicated context in which his visit took place, there might have been a bit more to it than what was publicly disclosed. Those readers who haven’t been closely following regional affairs are requested to at the very least skim the following analyses in order to bring themselves up to speed:

* 19 August: “The Taliban Envisions Russia Playing A Big Role In The Group’s Geo-Economic Balancing Act

* 28 August: “A Dangerous Security Dilemma Is Rapidly Developing In Pakistani-Taliban Relations

* 17 November: “The New Russian-Indian-Iranian Troika On Afghanistan Balances The Chinese-Pakistani Duopoly

* 25 December: “Zamir Kabulov’s Interview With The Hindu Symbolizes Russia’s Grand Strategic Recalculations

* 6 January: “Pakistan Might Be About To Launch A “Special Military Operation” In Afghanistan

* 6 January: “Twenty Truths About Pakistani-Taliban Ties In Light Of Their Latest Tensions

* 8 January: “China’s Oil Production Deal With Afghanistan Is Mutually Beneficial

* 11 January: “Continued Pakistani-Taliban Tensions Can Indeed Lead To Another Never-Ending War

Basically, the Pakistani-Taliban security dilemma prompted the latter to rely on Russia to balance the former in a friendly way with last year’s commodities deal. Then the aforementioned pair’s dilemmas worsened this year due to TTP-US threats respectively, though China is neutral in their latest tensions.

Considering this, Kabulov might have visited Kabul at this particular point in time for more than just to talk about trade ties that their lower-level representatives could normally do on their own. It can’t be known for sure, but extrapolating from his reported reference to Afghanistan’s promising geo-economic potential, he might have also sought to remind his hosts that they have a lot to lose in terms of their long-term interests if they don’t take practical steps to ease tensions with Pakistan.

Recalling former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wise warning to those policymakers in his country who conspired with the US to pull off their post-modern coup against him last April, a never-ending war might indeed be the result if Pakistan’s security dilemma with the Taliban finally boils over. Provided that Islamabad hasn’t already decided to facilitate Washington’s plot for indefinitely dividing and ruling the region, then the Taliban might still be able to avert that scenario if it plays its cards right.

The pretext upon which Pakistan has recently implied its intent to launch a “special military operation” in Afghanistan is the Taliban’s sheltering of TTP terrorists, with whom the group is ideologically allied and also suspected of materially – if not also militarily – supporting. Expelling the TTP might be a bridge too far for the Taliban to cross since it doesn’t want to lose face domestically or with its similarly extremist “fellow travelers” abroad, but it could at the very least crack down on their operations.

If the Taliban was inspired by Kabulov reminding them of Afghanistan’s promising geo-economic potential, which might be ruined for years if Pakistan launches its “special military operation” and sets into motion the scenario that its former premier warned about, then it might finally take action to remove the pretext upon which Islamabad could do Washington’s regional bidding. This could be done by stepping up security on its side of the Durand Line and banning the TTP from the border.

As the Taliban’s guests, the TTP are duty-bound to obey their hosts, meaning that they’d morally be in the wrong by refusing and could thus establish the pretext for the Taliban to crack down on them. It might very well be that the TTP has recently grown to be too independent of the Taliban and thus no longer possible to control (whether fully or partially), which might make the latter reluctant to ban them from the border, but that would be an entirely different problem in and of itself.

Read more: How Pakistani-Taliban tensions can lead to another never-ending war

For the time being, however, it appears from afar at least that the Taliban still exerts some degree of influence over the TTP. That presumably being the case, then the prerogative is on them to take the first step in tangibly ensuring Pakistan’s objective national security interests that its neighbor’s restored American overlord is exploiting to justify Islamabad doing its regional divide-and-rule bidding through a potential “special military operation” that might lead to another never-ending war.

Russia is a responsible regional stakeholder and therefore doesn’t want that worst-case scenario to transpire, yet it’s powerless to directly shape the dynamics for de-escalating this crisis in order to avert that outcome. Nevertheless, it’ll never give up trying, hence the real reason why Kabulov might have visited Kabul amidst spiraling Pakistani-Taliban tensions as part of a last-ditch effort to convince his hosts to contain TTP terrorist threats and thus possibly pre-empt a Pakistani “special military operation”.



Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. The article has been republished and the views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.