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.”