Zamir Kabulov, who met with a Taliban delegation visiting Moscow last week, expressed confidence that the Taliban would focus on securing its gains in Afghanistan and would not try to challenge neighboring countries.
“They visited Moscow to give guarantees on behalf of the Taliban’s top leadership that the territory of Afghanistan will not be used against the interests of third countries,” Kabulov said in an interview with the state news agency RIA-Novosti. He said that he had previously received similar assurances from Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban.
The Taliban’s focus on fighting the Islamic State group is also in Russia’s interest, Kabulov said: “The Taliban are fighting the Islamic State, and Taliban gains are eroding the ground for any attacks and IS in Central Asia.”
The Taliban claimed last week that they controlled 85% of the territory of Afghanistan, as they quickly took advantage of the withdrawal of American troops, which should end on August 31. Earlier this month, Taliban advances forced hundreds of Afghan troops to flee across the border into Tajikistan.
Kabulov said that the retreating Afghan troops shot at the Taliban fighters after they crossed into Tajikistan, but that the Taliban did not return fire.
The Russian diplomat also said that he did not expect the Taliban to occupy the entire Afghanistan.
“They can take control of several provinces … but that would not allow them to become omnipotent rulers of Afghanistan,” Kabulov said.
The Kremlin envoy acknowledged that the Islamic State group and other combat groups in Afghanistan could pose a threat to Russia’s allies in Central Asia north of Afghanistan. He said that Russia would cooperate with the countries of Central Asia in coordinating the increase of their security and stronger protection of borders.
“That would be the most impressive signal to any force against encroaching on our security,” said Kabulov, who is due to attend an international security conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which begins on Thursday.
He predicts that there will be intense fighting in Afghanistan in the coming months until the Afghan government, the Taliban and other groups “are ready for substantive and fruitful negotiations.”
“Both sides have been preparing for the fight for too long, and before they run out of ammunition, it is difficult to expect anything,” said the Russian diplomat. “The fighting will continue for several more months before a new military-political balance is established.”
Kabulov said Russia had talked to all parties involved to encourage them to negotiate a political solution.
Moscow, which had been at war in Afghanistan for ten years, which ended with the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, returned as a diplomatic mediator, with contact with the warring Afghan factions and as the host of several rounds of their negotiations.
Although he criticized the results of the American mission in Afghanistan, Kabulov emphasized that Moscow and Washington have common interests in Afghanistan and closely cooperate in stabilizing that country.
“It is almost the only field in which we are fruitfully cooperating with the Americans,” the envoy said.
However, Russia warned the United States not to deploy its troops in the former Soviet countries of Central Asia after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.