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The Taliban are quietly opening dialogues with the former Soviet states on Afghanistan’s border, and with Moscow.
KABUL — The Taliban are not as lonely as they once were. The pariahs who protected Osama bin Laden and quickly collapsed when the U.S. counter-attacked after September 11, 2001, have been developing contacts with neighboring states and even with Russia, driven out of Afghanistan in 1989.
There’s nothing simple about this picture, and, interestingly, it appears partly tied to Russian efforts to oppose the spread in Afghanistan of groups pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. That same concern has helped to forge links between the Taliban and their long-time enemies in Iran.
And the Russian connection is emerging, ironically, at the same time that Afghanistan’s Uzbek warlord and vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has openly warmed to his one-time allies in Russia and tried to strengthen ties to the former Soviet states on Afghan frontier.
Dostum visited Moscow and Grozny earlier this month and launched an offensive just last week in provinces near the Turkmenistan border. Dostum lumped the Taliban together with Daesh, a common Arabic acronym for the Islamic state, on his enemies list.
“The countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States from Russia to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, all these states are willing to stand with us against Daesh [one of the acronyms for the so-called Islamic State], against extremism, against the bloodthirsty Taliban,” Dostum declared.
But The Daily Beast has learned that Russia and some of these neighboring states may be playing a double game, or, at the very least keeping their options open if the Taliban manage to retake power.
A former Afghan Taliban governor and member of the group’s military committee, who does not want to be cited by name, tells The Daily Beast that “the American global attitude and the threat from ISIS makes for a convergence of Taliban and Russian interests, and we could not rule out further cooperation, depending on the emerging scenario in the Middle East.”
That is, if Russia proves successful in its Syrian venture to defend the Assad dictatorship (which is far from certain), the Taliban will be encouraged to increase their contacts and perhaps cooperation with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But for now the contacts with Moscow are being kept very quiet and often are conducted through cut-outs. The main venue for the talks is Tajikistan, just north of Afghanistan’s embattled Kunduz province, whose intelligence operatives may have been involved with a substantial shipment of arms to the Taliban. The government and intelligence services of Tajikistan are understood by the Taliban to have remained close clients of Moscow.
"Tajikistan is under the extreme influence of the Russians, so whatever happened, it’s not possible without Russians approval.’ said the former Taliban governor.
When the Taliban seized the city of Kunduz at the end of last month, the group’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor, was careful to say that the Taliban presented no threat and had not intention of infiltrating beyond Afghanistan’s borders.
Some sources suggest the contacts go back to 2013 and were opened at the request of the Russians, but the clearest narrative is much more recent.
originally posted by: robbeh
a reply to: Xcathdra
Valid point.. Either way both need to go but who will go first though.
originally posted by: the2ofusr1
a reply to: gps777
This is a very good comment by Cheny ... so the US did and we got what they new would come about by going to Bagdad ..a quagmire ....