Why Russia wants to involve in Afghan peace process?
Russia has suddenly appeared on the stage with the initiative to establish peace in Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken steps to protect his country's interests in post-war Afghanistan. Doha, the capital of Qatar, has been hit by a stalemate over an Afghan peace deal signed by former US President Donald Trump. Russia convened a peace conference with the Afghan government, the Taliban and other leaders in Moscow on March 18, just as the administration of US President Joe Biden was about to adopt a new plan for Afghanistan. The question is why Russia suddenly becomes active in Afghanistan again?
Russia's peace offer calls for the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan. The civil war must end and a power sharing agreement must be signed. Once these processes are completed, Afghanistan will be included in the emerging Eurasian Economic Union. The United States, China and Pakistan have sent representatives to the meeting. The United States has backed Russia's peace initiative, although Russia's role in Afghanistan has become a cause of frustration for Washington.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope that the Moscow conference would help make progress in developing inter-Afghan relations. At the same time, he warned that any further delay in establishing peace would be unacceptable and that Russia's involvement in Afghanistan was due to its further integration of Moscow's role in the Central Asian Great Game.
Earlier this month, Uzbekistan announced that it would host a conference on the Central and South Asian Regional Interconnectivity Challenge and Opportunity this summer. The main objective of this conference will be to bring the countries of South Asia into a network. The other purpose of the conference is to focus the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that China is implementing through Pakistan to Central Asia through Afghanistan. Earlier, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan decided that they would jointly build a rail network between the three countries, connecting South Asia, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The implementation of this project depends on ending the war in Afghanistan. Russia is working to include Afghanistan in the larger Eurasian geopolitical scenario. Russia does not want IS or any other extremist group to infiltrate its borders that is why Russia is working to end the long-running civil war in Afghanistan. At the same time, the country wants to build good relations with the Afghan government, the Taliban and other influential groups.
Currently, relations between the United States and Afghanistan are at their worst. The United States has recently said that President Ashraf Ghani's government should share power with Taliban as an interim measure before new elections are held in Afghanistan. Consequently, Amanullah Salehi, Afghanistan's Vice President recently said he was grateful for the financial and military support the United States has provided to Afghanistan over the past 20 years, but said Kabul would not accept any instructions from the United States.
On the other hand, in response to the US proposal, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also made it clear that he will not relinquish power before the election--at a government function in Kabul after a recent meeting with US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmi Khalilzad. Ashraf Ghani said he would only hand over power after the election and would oppose the interim government at the cost of his own life.
Foreign troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan under an agreement signed by the Taliban with the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Trump withdrew some troops, but there are still 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban say any talks will not succeed unless the agreement calls for a speedy withdrawal of US troops.
US President Joe Biden has commented that it will be difficult to withdraw all US troops within the stipulated time frame. "Now I will decide when they will return to the country, but maybe in April, but it will be very difficult" Biden told US TV channel ABC. The Taliban immediately responded to Biden's remarks by saying that they would have to pay the price if US troops did not return to the country by May 1. A Taliban spokesman said that the United States must abide by the Doha Accords and that US troops must be withdrawn by May 1. He also told that, the Taliban will not be responsible for the consequences if they do not return.
According to some US officials and experts, a civil war could break out if US-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan before a peace deal is sighed. Trump has already reduced the number of US troops. There have never been so few US troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Biden says Trump's deal with the Taliban has not been negotiated very well.
In the midst of the Biden administration's dilemma over troop withdrawals, Russia initiated Afghan peace talks. Moscow is also using Afghan leaders to tactically put pressure on the United States because Russia wants to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan. Moscow maintains good relations with almost all of the influential groups in Afghanistan. In particular, they have close ties to leaders of various tribes in the Afghan provinces bordering the former Soviet Union.
On the other hand, Moscow has good relations with the Taliban. They are working for each other's interests. Taliban leaders visited Moscow in January this year. Russia views the Taliban as a real military and political force in Afghanistan. Russian officials say they want to reach a final agreement through a peace talks with all sides in Afghanistan to end the country's civil war. That is why Russia has included China and Pakistan in their peace initiatives. It is having regular discussions with the United States. Russia is well aware that it is not possible for them to end the war in Afghanistan alone and establish peace.
However, the United States has not been able to rely on Russia's peace efforts, so Washington has offered to hold a multinational meeting through the United Nations. Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran have been invited to the meeting, raising doubts about the success of Russia's efforts. As Russia maintains close ties with the Taliban, Russia's influence will continue to grow in any future government in the country.
Russia is on its way to building a strong foothold in Afghanistan. Let's see what unprecedented events are now going to happen in Afghanistan in the coming days.
The writer is a student of Rajshahi University