Russia hosted a two-day conference in Moscow of senior Afghan political figures and Taliban representatives (see Review, 1/19). Though projected as a non-governmental meeting called by the Afghan diaspora in Russia and Central Europe, there was no doubt about Russian government backing for it – the final document showed diplomatic drafting expertise and Russian Presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, was close at hand to claim credit and to declare that the meeting had shown that US withdrawal will not leave a vacuum: all Afghans, including the Taliban, would reach a peace agreement and then fight ISIS together “in an Afghan manner”.
The attendance from Afghan politics included most strands of the opposition: former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Yunus Qanuni, former NSA (and Presidential hopeful) Hanif Atmar and others like Atta Mohammad Noor, Mohammad Ismail Khan, and Sayed Gailani.
The nine-point agenda they adopted is unexceptionable, though many elements have never been implemented in Afghan history: respect for the principles of Islam in all parts of the system … a powerful centralised government with all ethnicities having a role in it … protecting national sovereignty and promoting social justice … keeping Afghanistan neutral in all regional and international conflicts … protection of social, economic, political and educational rights of Afghan women in line with Islamic principles .. freedom of speech in line with Islamic principles, etc.
In sum, the meeting was probably intended to demonstrate that Russia still has some cards to play in the Afghan political process, and allowed the Taliban to claim further legitimacy as a dialogue partner in the process.
February 28, 2019