Russia & the Taliban

Russia and China have been far bolder than other countries of the world in engaging with the Afghan Taliban as they kicked the Americans out and regained control after their last in the 1990s. The former, however, has been more distracted into the Ukrainian front and so three years on, relations with the Taliban are neither hostile nor very warm. It is natural for the world to be taken aback by a group, that otherwise qualifies on the terror lists, to become a de facto government of a sovereign territory called Afghanistan. That initial shock is now merging into a desire to accept them for what they are and establish working relations with them, for Afghanistan is nonetheless the transit crossroad.

Russia, being an open opponent of the West, makes its own rules and these rules now are bending in favour of the Taliban as President Putin considers removing the group from Russia’s terror list. Not just that, the Taliban have been invited to Russia’s biggest, most significant annual economic gathering - St Petersburg International Economic Forum. The forum that was once lit by the cheers and laughter of Western friends, is now a more Asian affair as Russia makes new friends and creates alternatives to Western-led markets and businesses.

Russia’s decisions pertaining to the Taliban need to be replicated across the globe. Like it or not, the Afghan Taliban, after decades of insurgency against the US coalition, have managed to kick foreign forces out, and now form the legitimate government in Afghanistan. Isolating it and treating it as a pariah will only push it to its militant past. Instead, the world needs to re-engage, unfreeze assets, re-open embassies, and resume aid and relief work. This is the only way to transition the Taliban government from a militant regime to a bonafide modern government. The process is long and difficult, but the world owes the country its support after bombing it to the ground.

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