Is a New Era Beginning on the Moscow-Taliban Line?

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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban asked Russia for help because the United States of America (USA) intervened in Afghanistan within the framework of “Operation Enduring Freedom”; But Moscow turned down the Taliban’s request. Even at the first stage, Russia supported the American intervention. However, the fact that the US did not withdraw from Afghanistan after overthrowing the Taliban, and especially in 2014, when the terrorist organization Daesh al-Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS) began to pose a threat to Russia by operating in the north of Afghanistan, the Moscow administration decided against the Taliban. led him to establish a relationship with

As a matter of fact, it can be stated that Russia’s support played a decisive role in the start of the second Taliban era from Afghanistan in August 2021. In this process, Russia welcomed the second Taliban period and gave positive messages by keeping the Kabul Embassy open.

With the effect of the situation in question, Russia and the Taliban developed good relations in the first stage. In this context, Russia accredited the Taliban diplomats and handed over the Afghan Embassy in Moscow to the Taliban. In the eyes of the international community, the Kremlin administration has given messages that will be welcomed by the Taliban. For example, Russia states that the US should release Afghanistan’s national reserves and advocates that the Taliban should not be isolated from the international community. Moreover, by inviting the Taliban to the Moscow Format held in 2021, Russia tried to act as a bridge for the Taliban to establish dialogue with other actors.

Despite all this, the developments that took place after the leader of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was neutralized by means of an air operation in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, disturbed Moscow. First of all, the killing of Zawahiri has created the idea that the USA is still very powerful in Afghanistan in terms of intelligence and operation. In addition, the deaths of two Russian diplomats in the suicide attack organized by DAESH in front of the Russian Embassy in Kabul and the efforts of the Taliban to establish relations with the USA and its Western allies without consulting the regional states also created dissatisfaction in Russia. In particular, the contacts of the Taliban officials with the US officials in Doha and Abu Dhabi negatively affected Moscow’s approach to the Taliban.

These developments strengthened the opinion of the Russian decision makers that the USA’s surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban was a ruse, and strengthened the idea that the Washington administration was planning developments that would destabilize Russia through Central Asia. Therefore, the statements from the Moscow administration contained sentences criticizing the Taliban, and Russia did not invite Taliban officials to the Moscow Format meeting held in 2022.

At a time when relations between Western countries, especially the USA, and the Taliban were tense, Russia’s Afghanistan Representative Zamir Kabulov visited Afghanistan. Meeting with Taliban Foreign Minister Emir Khan Muttaki, Kabulov said that Russia has a special position in the foreign policy of the Taliban and that the Taliban wants to strengthen its diplomatic presence in Moscow. During the meeting, it was explained that issues such as bilateral relations, regional developments and the Taliban’s wheat and natural gas imports from Russia were discussed. In addition, Kabulov condemned the attack that took place in front of the Taliban Foreign Ministry and stated that some actors wanted to make Afghanistan insecure.

As can be understood, Muttaki gave the message that he would focus on regional states such as Russia and China, based on the fact that it is difficult for the Taliban to repair their relations with the West. It is not easy for the Taliban to meet the conditions expected by the West.

On the other hand, Kabulov clearly conveyed Russia’s expectations to the Taliban Foreign Minister. The remarkable point here is that the Russian diplomat declared that they would not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. According to Kabulov, Russia’s priority is to prevent Western actors from returning to Afghanistan. Therefore, for the Kremlin, the management style of the Taliban is an internal matter of Afghanistan and does not concern them. However, it is important that the Taliban do not weaken. In fact, natural gas and wheat supplies are also considered within the scope of preventing the weakening of the Taliban. By procuring these materials, it is aimed to eliminate the internal legitimacy debates in Afghanistan and to increase the living standard of the people to some extent. In addition to all these, Kabulov gave the message that Russia would support the Taliban in international platforms.

As a result, the meeting between Muttaki and Kabulov opened the door to the beginning of a new era between the parties. Because the Taliban could not achieve the desired results from its rapprochement with the West and turned to the region again. Russia, on the other hand, revealed that its priority is to limit the influence of the USA and its allies in Afghanistan.

Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar graduated from Kunduz University, Department of Law and Political Science in 2013. He received his master's degree from Ankara University, Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science in 2019 with his thesis titled "A Comparative Analysis on the Principle of Separation of Powers in the Constitutions of the Republic of Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan". Participating in various scientific events, Dawlatyar has presented papers and articles on the Afghanistan problem. In this context, his presentation titled "Religious and Ideological Causes of the Afghanistan Problem" was published. He is currently continuing his doctoral studies at Ankara University, Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, who contributes to the studies carried out within ANKASAM, mainly works in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dawlatyar is fluent in Farsi, Uzbek, Turkish and Pashto. He also has an intermediate level of English.