As in the case of Syria, Russia’s MFA cautiously welcomed the US announcement of withdrawal of half its military contingent from Afghanistan, calling it a move in the right direction, but adding the caveat that its implementation in practice remains to be seen. However, Russia was less amused by the USs closed-door bilateral consultations on Afghanistan with the Taliban and selected countries, from which Russia was obviously excluded. Welcoming “in principle” talks of US Special Representative Khalilzad with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, in which Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan participated, the MFA spokeswoman said such talks should be transparent and should take into account the interests of Afghanistan, its neighbours and other states in the region that are directly affected by the threats coming from Afghanistan. FM Lavrov impressed this again in his public remarks during the Pakistani Foreign Minister’s visit to Moscow (specifically to discuss Afghanistan), cautioning against “too narrow” or “overly expanded” formats and suggesting that such talks should take into account the interests of all relevant stakeholders. He pointedly added that, with India and Pakistan both in the SCO, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact group is a “very promising format”.
The wheel seems to be coming round full circle since the Russian MFA told the US Ambassador in Moscow (August 29, 2017) that Russia does not agree with President Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia strategy of applying “selective pressure” on “certain states in the region” [read, Pakistan] and that the “interests of all states in the region” should be accommodated.
December 30, 2018