Russia sees interests ‘coincide’ with Taliban on fighting ISIL
MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse
In this photograph taken on December 1, 2015, members of the Afghan security force patrol during an ongoing operation against ISIL groups in Achin district of Nangarhar province. AFP PhotoRussia is exchanging information with the Taliban and sees shared interest with the insurgents when it comes to counteracting the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a senior Russian diplomat said on Dec. 23.
“Taliban interests objectively coincide with ours,” Zamir Kabulov, head of the department at the Russian foreign ministry responsible for Afghanistan who is also a Kremlin special representative in the country, told Interfax news agency.
“I have said before that we have communication channels with the Taliban to exchange information,” he said.
“Both the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Taliban of Pakistan have said that they don’t recognise [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr] Al-Baghdadi as a caliph, that they don’t recognise ISIL,” he said.
“That is very important,” added Kabulov, an Afghanistan expert who held negotiations with Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the mid-1990s, when the group seized a Russian transport plane and held seven Russians hostage for a year in the Kandahar airport.
Contacted by AFP, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed Kabulov’s remarks were reported correctly. “It has to do with fighting ISIL,” she said.
Russia considers the Taliban a terrorist group and it is banned in the country, along with ISIL.
The fundamentalist Islamic movement is regularly flagged by officials as a threat, particularly since Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan border ex-Soviet Tajikistan, Moscow’s impoverished central Asian ally.
Moscow has been ramping up military presence in Tajikistan, most recently reinforcing its base near Dushanbe with helicopters in October.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Dec. 23 met with Tajik counterpart Sherali Mirzo and said ISIL presence in Afghanistan consists of yet another threat.
“There are grounds for us to say that ISIL groups have appeared there, and we have additional challenges added to everything that has been there [already],” Shoigu said.