Russia Tries to Bring the Taliban into Its Anti-U.S. Alliance

Russia, after years of claiming that the West must not interfere with the Assad regime since it is fighting Islamic State (IS), is now attempting to apply the same logic to the Taliban. At a recent gathering in Moscow, Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani officials called on other countries to develop “flexible” policies toward the radical group, pushing it as the less “extremist” alternative. Russia’s real goal, writes Thomas Joscelyn, is to advance its fight against America and NATO:

[Contrary to Russian claims], the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace. . . .

Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that IS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year.
Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, . . . even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information.”

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all. During a press briefing on December 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, [declared that the] “public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents.” While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted [that] “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

Read more at Daily Beast

More about: Afghanistan, ISIS, NATO, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy