After the Taliban took control of the Kunduz City for a while, the Afghan government regained it, later; however, in the aftermath of fall of Kunduz, rumors about the contacts between the Taliban and the Russian authorities are heard in Afghan media. It is said that these talks have taken place on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Afghan officials expressed their concerns on this process, and some MPs have considered it as intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
However, neither the Russian official authorities in Russia or Tajikistan have expressed any reaction over this and nor the Taliban has confirmed or denied this news. Moreover, if we assume that they had contacted recently, however it wouldn’t be fresh news by any mean because there are contacts between the Taliban and Russians since several years especially after the Taliban’s political office was shifted to Qatar.
The Afghan-Russia relations during the Taliban Regime
The start of the Taliban activities in Afghanistan in 1995 prompted Russian concerns. Russians considered Taliban movement as a conspiracy of Western countries to destabilize Central Asia and as a result they make contacts with the government of Prof. Rabbani in Kabul.
The government of Mujahedeen led by Prof. Rabbani that was increasingly vulnerable against the Taliban movement extended its hand to Russian and in an important step, it hosted the negotiations between Imam Ali Rahman, the head of the Tajik government supported by Moscow, and its opposition, and the Tajiks Peace Treaty was signed between Said Abdullah Noori, the leader of the opposition and Imam Ali Rahman, the President of Tajikistan.
Akbar Toorajanzada, one of the former leaders of the Tajik opposition on 14 May 2013 in a program of BBC Persian TV named (On the Other Word) said: “Prof. Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud helped us in the beginning, but when the pressure of The Taliban increased on them, they became increasingly dependent on Moscow and therefore, they put pressure on us to deal with (Rahman). We became sacrificed of the war of Prof. Rabbani with the Taliban.”
At that time, the Russian Federation, despite having economic problems, helped the government of Prof. Rabbani. After the Taliban took control of the Kabul and the government of Prof. Rabbani moved to the North, these aids continued to be supplied through Tajikistan.
After the Taliban took power, it sheltered the armed oppositions of the Central Asian Regimes; however, it did not allow them to cross the border and fight inside those republics. After the Taliban, entered for the first time to Kunduz and Mazar-e Sahrif, it issued a statement and ensured the Central Asian countries that they will not face any danger from the soil of Afghanistan and the Taliban wishes that its borders with its entire neighboring countries will be the borders of peace and friendship forever.
However, the Taliban responded the Russian Federation that was supporting the anti-Taliban forces by making contacts with the government of Aslan Maskhadov in Chechnya that were fighting against the Russian Federation and eventually, the Taliban, was the first and the last regime, which officially recognized the Chechen government.
The Russian Federation, through the Taliban Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, officially informed the Taliban that Russia wants its loans worth $11B from Afghanistan since 1979, (These $11B were the cost of Russia’s war in Afghanistan). Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the Taliban Foreign Minister wrote in response that not only Afghanistan owes any penny to Russia but it also reserves the right to take compensation of war from the Russian Federation. From a hand, the Russian Federation claims that the Soviet Union is responsible for war in Afghanistan and destruction of this country, however, on the other hand, when it comes to material interests, consider himself an heir to the Soviet Union.
After the fall of the Taliban
United States of America’s war on Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban regime provided the opportunity for the Russian Federation to take a deep breath; still, it had concern about warriors for Central Asia and Caucasus present in the ranks of the Taliban. However, these concerns paled when these elements taken refuge in the tribal areas of Waziristan far from the Northern areas of Afghanistan and the borders of Central Asia.
From the Russian perspective, the continuation of war in Afghanistan wasn’t considered as a threat to Russia and as long as the war continued, the Central Asian countries were secured from being intervened by Western countries. Afghanistan’s insecurities also impact China’s investment in Russia’s exclusive preserve “Central Asia” to remain stalled.
Russia’s major concern was related to the increasing drug cultivation and production under the control of foreign forces in Afghanistan, which the Russian was considering as an Opium War against them. A few years ago, the US to give confidence to Russians, allowed their forces to participate in several counter-narcotics operations along with American and English forces in Afghanistan.
Taliban and Russian Contacts in Recent Years
The first contacts between Russians and the Taliban occurred in 2006 and 2007; these contacts were in relation to the prevention of drug trafficking to Central Asia that eventually comes out from Russia, and that Russians were urging the Taliban to prevent this work. These contacts can be considered as a testing Taliban, where the Taliban were not so successful and, then, the contacts were cut off.
In 2013, the Taliban seized a helicopter for a foreign private company that had to land due to poor weather conditions in Arza, locality of Logar. The pilot of this helicopter was a Ukrainian holding Russian citizenship. The release of these hostages provided an opportunity for Taliban and Russia to contact with each other in Dubai and eventually, after several months, the Taliban freed Russian hostage.
Hence, it can be said that the Russian have contacted the Taliban in limited cases, for example, when they have a problem or need, these contacts are occurred but the Russians have never provided assistance especially the military assistance to the Taliban in order to make problems to the foreign forces in Afghanistan. The Russian officials have repeatedly warned about the early withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Concerns over spreading insecurities to Central Asia
Recently, Taliban’s activities in the North have caused concerns to the Russian Federation. These concerns were originated from that the Afghan military officials claimed that the war of Kunduz was leaded by foreign warriors in the ranks of the Taliban which most of them were from the Central Asian countries.
However, the Taliban had previously announced that they have no plan for war outside Afghanistan, but with the emergence of “The Islamic State” group or Daesh and its fight with the Taliban in the East of Afghanistan has changed the situation. “The Islamic State” group consider the entire Islamic world as its territory and has included seizing these areas in its priorities.
On the other hand, the largest and the most powerful front of “The Islamic State” group is consisted of volunteer fighters from Central Asia which has made Russia to adopt a preventive strategy in order to prevent their influence and ultimately their return to Central Asia and, through military presence it is trying to eliminate them at the battlefield of Syria.
Russia is worried due to uncertainties about the emergence and spread of ISIS in the world that whether this group may start its operations in the Central Asia and, in this regard, the role of Afghanistan as the gateway and the opening of Central Asia are very important.
On the other hand, controlling some part of the Northern borders of Afghanistan with the Central Asian countries by the Taliban, especially some districts in Badakhshan and Darqad District of Takhar compels the Russian to have contacts with the Taliban.
Therefore, a number of analysts believe that if the Russian see any threat to Central Asian countries from Afghanistan; it would perhaps carry out a similar operation in Afghanistan as it has done it in Syria. However, the military assistance of Moscow to the groups other than the Afghan government including the Taliban and with the aim of preventing the closeness of ISIS to the borders of the Central Asia resembles more anecdotal and it does not seem practical.