Mr. Kabulov, a prominent figure in Russia’s foreign policy regarding Afghanistan, has informed the media that the Moscow Session on Afghanistan will proceed without inviting the United States. Russia’s objective in organizing such sessions is to assert its influence and presence in Afghan affairs, notwithstanding its traditionally reactive role since the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Russia’s ultimate aim in these diplomatic endeavors is to create opportunities for intervention in crises, similar to its actions in Ukraine, and to gain advantages across various domains.
During this session, Russia will endeavor to establish trust with the Taliban and explore avenues for long-term cooperation with this group. If successful, this achievement will hold great significance for Moscow, as it solidifies its position in one of the world’s most volatile and challenging regions. One approach Russia employs to cultivate the Taliban’s favor is its commitment not to oppose the group’s policies towards the Afghan people, characterizing it as a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. The Taliban prefers working with governments that refrain from suppressing the group, asserting it as their prerogative. However, this leverage is not as critical as securing financial support and resources.
Another strategy in Russia’s repertoire involves preventing anti-Taliban factions from conducting operations within and beyond Afghanistan, a policy that has been partially pursued over the past two years. In return, the Taliban assures Russia that it will not allow extremist armed groups in Central Asia and the Caucasus to launch operations beyond Afghanistan’s borders, thereby addressing Russian and its sphere of influence countries’ concerns.
These actions primarily revolve around refraining from certain activities and may not suffice for Russia to transition from a passive to an active role. Should Russia aspire to transform its role in Afghan affairs, it must shift its policy from passive to proactive, necessitating substantial investments, such as providing substantial financial aid, arms, logistical support, and investments that significantly impact the Taliban’s revenue streams. Apparently, Russia lacks the capacity for such actions, a fact acknowledged by the Taliban. Consequently, the Taliban tends to engage in most of its behind-the-scenes negotiations with countries possessing vast financial resources and extensive capabilities.
The benefits that the Taliban derives from participating in the Moscow Conference primarily encompass two key areas. Firstly, it secures confidence that its adversaries will struggle to garner Russia’s support or engage in activities against it. Secondly, it enhances its international standing and signals to the United States and Europe that if their assistance diminishes, the group can seek support from other potential backers. Even prior to assuming power, the Taliban had embraced this policy, endeavoring to demonstrate to the United States and Europe that they have numerous potential allies by cultivating relationships with Russia and China. Once again, the primary advantages are poised to accrue to the Taliban, while Russia, much as in the past, will likely reap limited rewards.