Until now, the U.S and Russia have been on the same page regarding Afghanistan and together the two countries have cooperated on a number of fronts. But Russia now seems to be pulling back from cooperating with the U.S and the American-backed Afghan government, reports the New York Times.
According to the newspaper, Moscow has a new strategy on an old Cold War battlefield where Russia fought a ten-year war: the cold shoulder.
“We won’t join the useless events, and we’ve already told the Americans,” President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told Russian state news media this month. Russia, he said, would sit out any talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government; talks by the United States, Pakistan and China, reported the newspaper.
The article went on to quote Kabulov as saying: “Honestly speaking, we’re already tired of joining anything Washington starts.” The Kremlin, he added, “has no desire to participate in what the Americans organize ‘on the fly’ just for their own pre-election interests and where they give us the role of extras on the set.”
The newspaper reported that Putin’s administration has decided instead to address on its own the increased security threat from Afghanistan including the emergence of Daesh in the country.
The report indicated Russia has bolstered its largest foreign military base – in Tajikistan – and the Russian army reportedly holds regular exercises with Tajik soldiers. It went on to state that Putin’s government has committed $1.2 billion USD to train and equip the Tajik Army.
The newspaper stated that Kabulov also recently said Russia had opened direct channels of communication with the Taliban to exchange information about militants in northern Afghanistan allied with Daesh. However, the Taliban has denied these claims.
Meanwhile, according to the report, Afghan officials worry that moves by foreign governments over direct talks with the Taliban and a breakdown in consensus among international parties involved in Afghanistan could undermine the government in Kabul.
A senior Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was quoted as saying: “Bilaterally, we have struggled to convince the Russians on certain issues because they increasingly see us only as part of this larger game with the United States.”