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Russia Denies Rumors of Alliance with the Taliban

Russia’s envoy to Afghanistan denied reports that Moscow had provided support to the Taliban in the terrorist group’s turf battles against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

“Russia has no secret plan with Taliban regarding Afghanistan, but a number of countries including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and even Germany have ties with the Taliban. Moscow calls on this group [Taliban] to join the intra-Afghan peace talks,” Alexander Mantytskiy, the Russian ambassador, told reporters in Kabul on Monday, TOLOnews reports.

In December 2015, various Russian news outlets reported that Russia was cooperating with the Taliban to fight ISIS in Afghanistan.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Zamir Kabulov, a department chief at Russia’s Foreign Ministry and President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Afghanistan, as saying that Moscow’s interests against ISIS in Afghanistan “objectively coincide” with those of the Taliban.

“Russia has established communication channels to exchange information with the Taliban,” Kabulov reportedly told Interfax.

Reuters also quoted Kabulov in December 2015 as saying Moscow is ready “to show flexibility” on possibly easing United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Afghanistan’s Taliban.

“He appeared to be suggesting that major powers should consider an accommodation with the Taliban to stop the spread of rival Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] militants, deemed a much bigger, international menace by the West,” Reuters reported, referring to Kabulov.

“We are ready to approach in a flexible way the issues of a possible easing of the regime of sanctions under Security Council Resolution 1988 on the Taliban, if this does not contradict Afghanistan’s national interests,” the Tass news agency reportedly quoted Kabulov as saying.

On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Mantytskiy, noted that Moscow will not cooperate with the United States on Afghanistan’s issues.

However, Mantytskiy did say that Russia hopes the Kabul-Moscow talks on military cooperation will move forward.

“Afghanistan and Russia are busy in discussions on a military cooperation agreement. We hope that the talks will be finalized soon and that the two countries sign the agreement,” he said.

“The Russian envoy called on the Afghan government to increase intelligence exchange between the two countries in order to prevent Daesh activities in Afghanistan,” reports TOLOnews, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Russia is already helping to strengthen the U.S.-trained Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), Kabulov indicated in October 2015.

“Russia is already providing certain assistance in strengthening the capabilities of the Afghan government forces,” said Kabulov, according to Khaama Press.

The Taliban and ISIS have been fighting each other for territory and influence in Afghanistan.

Some analysts suggest ISIS is expanding its footprint in the country, but the Taliban remains the largest terrorist group there.

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