On Friday Russia hosted a peace talk with representatives from the Taliban, the Afghan government, China, Iran, Pakistan, and observers from the United States and India, according to Wall Street Journal.
The meetings had been postponed at least twice since Russia publicly announced them in August, mainly due to diplomatic gesturing by the three major parties in the Afghan war: Taliban, the government of Afghanistan, and the United States.
What Came Out Of The Talks
The conference took place in Moscow, the participation of Taliban officials is the first time the controversial fundamentalist Islamist group has traveled to the Russian capital for official diplomatic measures.
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While the meeting on Friday didn’t appear to result in any significant improvement in diplomatic relations, bringing the parties to the table was a small win for Russia.
Initially, neither the United States nor the Afghan government had any intentions of attending the conference, yet Russian officials were keen to host an independent discussion with the Taliban, which moved the other parties to concede on their demands and join the meeting.
To cover the United States State Department announced on Thursday U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad was departing for talks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
“I think what they [Russia] are trying to do is they are pursuing a strategy which is to compete with us by trying to exert their influence wherever they can, whether it is in Afghanistan or Syria or anywhere else,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command,” told Voice of America last month.
It’s yet to be seen what future role Russia will attempt to play in Afghan peace talks to put an end to the nearly two-decade-long conflict in the nation.
Russian History In The Region
Under the communist Soviet Union the country invaded Afghanistan on December 25th, 1979 to support the Afghan communist government against anticommunist guerrillas during the Afghan War (1978 – 1992). Britannica provides further details:
In April 1978 Afghanistan’s centrist government, headed by Pres. Mohammad Daud Khan, was overthrown by left-wing military officers led by Nur Mohammad Taraki. Power was thereafter shared by two Marxist-Leninist political groups, the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party—which had earlier emerged from a single organization, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan—and had reunited in an uneasy coalition shortly before the coup. The new government, which had little popular support, forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anticommunist population. Insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these—known collectively as the mujahideen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those who engage in jihad”)—were Islamic in orientation.
The Soviet Union would withdraw from Afghanistan on February 15, 1989. The Soviet involvement and occupation resulted in the deaths of approximately 15,000 Soviet military personnel and between 600,000 to 1.5 million Afghan citizens. In 1980, the then Soviet Union developed diplomatic ties with Syria, creating the foundation for current Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. Huffington Post details:
On October 8, 1980, Syria and the USSR signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which contained an article that stipulated military consultation and cooperation in case of threat and peace of one of the parties. The article in question (Article Six) reads “In the event of situations arising which threaten the peace or security of either side or pose a threat to peace or violate peace and security throughout the world, the High Contracting Parties shall immediately enter into contact with each other with a view to co-ordinating their positions and co-operating in order to remove the threat which has arisen and to restore peace.”
According to Afghan government officials during the duration of the current war in Afghanistan, Russia has supplied the Taliban with small arms, contributing to the currently difficultly in the nation.