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Russia’s Return to Afghanistan: Signs of Intervention Rise After US Exit

Daniel Kim Views  

In August 2021, after the Islamic extremist armed group Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held discussions in Moscow regarding security issues related to the ongoing chaos in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops. /Kremlin

It has been three years since the Taliban, an Islamic extremist armed group in Afghanistan, regained power, and Russia is showing signs of re-intervening in Afghanistan after the US military left.

Zamir Kabulov, Director of the Second Asia Department at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drew attention by presenting a roadmap for cooperation with Afghanistan at the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Kazakhstan on the 4th. 

On the same day, Kabulov mentioned that the decision to exclude certain Taliban representatives who are under UN sanctions for terrorism from the Security Council sanctions list depends on the UN Security Council’s decisions but expressed support for this move. He also emphasized the possibility of cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and expressed fundamental support for Afghanistan’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

He urged caution against overinterpretation, explaining, “It indicates a strong possibility because the Taliban aligns with our stance in the international battle against terrorism and drug trafficking.” However, he noted that confirmation is still pending as some SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) member countries harbor doubts about Afghanistan. He emphasized that Afghanistan’s economic normalization is crucial for obtaining SCO members’ approval for its inclusion in the organization.

Kabulov’s remarks have led to assessments in the international community that Russia may be intervening in Afghanistan again in 35 years since the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in 1989.

The statement of Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, on the same day that “The Taliban is the real ruling power in Afghanistan, and the plan to exclude them from the UN sanctions list reflects reality” shows his friendly stance towards the Taliban.

After the withdrawal of US troops in August 2021 and the re-emergence of the Taliban, the security order became chaotic. At that time, some members of the CSTO, which shares geopolitical borders with Afghanistan, requested Russia’s intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin approached the Afghan issue only from a security perspective within the framework of the CSTO and SCO.

However, starting with Uzbekistan calling for the international community’s attention in 2022, neighboring countries bordering Afghanistan, such as Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are gradually increasing economic exchanges in the form of aid funds, albeit slightly.

Of course, Central Asian countries, including Russia, do not recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. However, given that there are no other political forces in Afghanistan besides the Taliban and that the Taliban regime is entering a period of stability, the movements of these Central Asian countries, including Russia, are interpreted as the first step towards recognizing the Taliban as the official government. 

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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