Afghan foreign minister to wrap up Russia trip

taliban afghan russia peace talks
Photo: Sergei Chirikov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar will conclude a three-day visit to Russia today.

Russian involvement in Afghanistan’s peace process has intensified recently as Moscow attempts to mediate the conflict between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban. Last month, Moscow hosted Afghan politicians and the Taliban’s chief negotiator for peace talks. Notably, such discussions lacked delegates from Afghanistan’s current government.

Russia’s increased mediation efforts follow a 2020 US-Taliban agreement that conditioned an end to US-Taliban hostilities on US withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 2021. The Taliban has largely observed the terms of the agreement by avoiding skirmishes with US and NATO troops. However, its long-running conflict with Afghanistan’s US-backed government has escalated.

Expect Moscow to press Kabul to enter into direct dialogue with the Taliban. Kabul is likely to resist, as such conversations might grant the Taliban greater political legitimacy. Because Moscow’s diplomatic strategy in Afghanistan has elevated the Taliban at the government’s expense, Kabul is unlikely to permit Russian mediation if alternative mediators, including the US, remain available. As the US reassesses the 2020 deal, Kabul will likely look to the US for further support, lessening Moscow’s chances of exerting influence in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban will continue participating in Russian-led negotiations.

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