Analysis of Ahmad Massoud’s Trip to Russia

2023/09/09 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Interview: A researcher on Afghanistan affairs, recalling that NATO and other Western countries also declared that they do not support the armed resistance in Afghanistan, said: Russia, in a situation in which it is worried about the activities of ISIS and extremist groups in Central Asia, is much more cautious than changing its attitude towards those groups by annoying the Taliban.

Seyed Abbas Hosseini, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referred to Ahmad Massoud’s trip to Moscow and meeting with some Russian officials and raising some speculations from Russian analysts regarding Russia’s new message to the Taliban or the possibility of a change in approach to the developments and clarified: Ahmad Massoud’s visit to Moscow cannot be considered as a change in Moscow’s policy towards Afghanistan. Instead, such a measure is a continuation of Moscow’s past approaches and in line with the formation of intra-Afghan negotiations and dialogue between different Afghan figures and movements, which has continued before the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban.

He continued: Moscow was the first place to host the first round of intra-Afghan talks between the senior figures of the Taliban and the government of the previous republic and the leaders of some prominent political and ethnic movements of Afghanistan, even earlier than Doha and other countries. Since then, we have witnessed such meetings occasionally, and now Russia is trying to establish a dialogue between them.

Referring to the definition of the Moscow format by Russia and the beginning of a new round of intra-Afghan negotiations in this framework and the coming months, the analyst of Afghan affairs recalled: Last month, Russia officially invited the Taliban to participate in this meeting, this invitation was also extended to Ahmad Massoud to deliver a speech at the meeting.

Hosseini pointed to some unofficial reports about the trip of “Amrullah Saleh” and “Younus Qanooni” as serious figures of the Taliban opposition, as well as Ahmad Massoud’s trip to Russia in the past two years and said: Considering that the recent visit of Massoud was officially reported to the media and in that trip he also met with higher-ranking officials, it seems that Moscow is looking to give a fillip to the Taliban on the eve of the Moscow meeting and announce that Russia is not very satisfied with the current level of relations with the Taliban.

He stated that the Taliban is also not satisfied with Russia’s approach. In the past two years, we have increasingly witnessed a coldness in the relations between Russia and the Taliban with retreat, silence, and ignorance in regards, he continued: In the economic, commercial, and energy aspects, Russia provided assistance to the Taliban and with the contract to sell 2 million tons of fuel products at a very reasonable price, the price of fuel in Afghanistan decreased by 40%. Although this issue was also done in sending grains and was very important in drought conditions, in the political and security dimension, coldness in relations is evident.

The analyst of Afghanistan affairs stated that it was expected that the power vacuum caused by the withdrawal of NATO would be filled by regional powers so that this country does not go towards instability and chaos, creating initiatives and setting clear, practical, applicable criteria and avoiding inflexible conditions as necessary in facing the Taliban and added: In the current conditions, not only Afghanistan has not moved towards a nation-state, but there are still severe differences and deep gaps between ethnic, political and religious movements.

Referring to the published news about the possibility of Russia’s financial and military support for Ahmad Massoud, Hosseini said: The Taliban has moved towards restoring relations with the United States to be recognized and lift sanctions; in this situation, we are witnessing the Taliban’s distancing from regional powers. Due to the existence of different ranges of Taliban, a new range of Taliban has been formed under the name of Neo-Taliban, whose theorists believe that due to the global power in the hands of the US, they should have the consent and companionship of that country to advance their goals.

While referring to the overt and covert negotiations between the Taliban and even the Haqqani network team with the United States and expressing the concern of the regional powers regarding the increase in presence and influence in the region, he stated: However, Ahmad Massoud’s trip to Moscow does not mean a change in Russia’s approach. In the past two years, Ahmad Massoud’s faction has lost the areas and villages it had under its control. It has not made any progress in the resistance against the Taliban but has suffered a hefty and difficult defeat by losing its senior commanders.

According to the analyst of Afghanistan affairs, Tajikistan was practically the only option to support the resistance front. In the past year, we have seen a change in the approaches, especially in that country’s military, security, and intelligence aspects towards the Taliban. Considering the growth of radical and extremist groups on the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the formation of a new group called the Tehrik-e Taliban Tajikistan, on the one hand, and the other hand, the increase of the radical citizens of that country towards ISIS and other Takfiri groups has sounded the alarm for Tajikistan, which has no choice but to cooperate with the Taliban to deal with the extremist Tajik groups, and in the past year, it has been satisfied with this cooperation and we have seen security in the border strip between the two countries.

Hosseini referred to severe restrictions for the activities of the Afghan resistance in Tajikistan and the dismissal of Basmullah Mohammadi, the former Minister of Defense of Afghanistan and the head of the office of this front in Tajikistan from Dushanbe, as well as the application of severe and multilateral restrictions against the activities of resistance figures related to Ahmad Massoud and others in that country and added: Tajikistan has also emptied the back of the resistance front. Even the attacks against some Taliban barracks in the past months were individual.

He said that on the political side, we are witnessing severe disagreements between prominent figures of the Taliban opposition on the one hand. On the other hand, their clear and intense opposition to Ahmad Massoud explained that none of those figures accepted the leadership of Ahmad Massoud on the resistance front, as some figures in Turkey created the “Supreme Council of Resistance to Save Afghanistan.” Therefore, Ahmad Massoud has not been able to show progress in the military and political aspects.

The expert on Afghanistan affairs, recalling that NATO and other Western countries also declared that they do not support the armed resistance in Afghanistan, said: Zalmay Khalilzad stated in his position that if those political figures are waiting for us that once again, for the sake of protecting them, we should enter Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban for their interests, and the American soldiers will save them by risking their lives, they are making a big mistake! Therefore, Russia, in a situation where it is worried about the activities of ISIS and radical groups in Central Asia, is much more cautious than to change its approach towards those groups by annoying the Taliban.

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