April 10, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11268

Following Moscow ISIS Attack, Russia Pursues Anti-Terrorism Cooperation With Afghan Taliban Government, Moving To Remove The Organization From Terror List

April 10, 2024
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 11268

A delegation of the Taliban movement has been invited to participate in the "Russia – Islamic World: Kazan Forum," scheduled for May 14-19, 2024. On April 1, 2024, Zamir Kabulov, the Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry's Second Asia Department, disclosed the Taliban invitation, according to Russia's state media, TASS.[1] The Taliban have been on the Russian list of terrorist organizations managed by the Federal Security Service (FSB). In the wake of the recent terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall in a suburb of Moscow, the plan to increase cooperation between Russia and the Afghan Taliban pose a legal conundrum, prompting public outcry.

The invitation to the Taliban to attend the "Russia – Islamic World: Kazan Forum," was extended after a terrorist attack in the Crocus City Hall in the city of Krasnogorsk (Moscow Oblast) which killed 137 people. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack at the concert. Amid growing wariness of the growth of radical Islamic terror, the invitation to the Taliban caused a public uproar.

However, Zamir Kabulov, the Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry's Second Asia Department, noted that "there is no special news here," as cooperation between the Kremlin and the Afghan Taliban government on anti-terrorism "is carried out on a regular basis."[2] This occurs despite the fact that, since 2003, the Taliban remains on the Federal Security Service's list of terrorist organizations.[3]

This situation presents a legal conundrum, especially for the security services, who will likely be responsible for security at the event. Additionally, on April 8, a representative of the Chargé D'affaires of Afghanistan in Moscow stated that Taliban representatives also plan to visit the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), which will be held June 5 – 8, 2024.[4]

A video clip from SPIEF-2022 of  the deputy head of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the head of the Afghan diplomatic mission visiting the event. (Source: "RIA Novosti" Telegram channel).[5]

This rapprochement prompted a renewal of the discussion of removing the Taliban from Russia's list of a terrorist organizations. In 2021, Russian president Vladimir Putin, during a plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club, stated that: "Russia is approaching a decision to remove the Taliban from the list of terrorist organizations." He noted, however, that this decision should be first passed by the United Nations Security Council.

At the beginning of the April, Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it was already working on withdrawing the Taliban from the FSB list of terrorist organizations, adding that the final decision rested on the shoulders of "Russia's top leadership."[6] The Presidential administration spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, however, was vague on the subject, and urged people to wait to see the results of ministry's work. The Taliban movement heartily welcomed Moscow's plans.

On April 5, the Taliban's representative, Zabihullah Mujahid, in an interview with TASS, stated: "Removing the name of the Emirate of Islamia [Afghanistan] from the blacklist is a good move from Russia, and we welcome this action (…) We seek to establish diplomatic relations with all countries and [establish] cooperation in the economic sphere… Moscow's step will provide every country with an opportunity to come here [to Afghanistan] and invest [in the Afghan economy]."[7]

This discussion sparked criticism and even mockery on social media. The criticism expanded beyond the legal status of the Taliban, but many other narratives, including women's rights and even homosexuality. For instance, on April 4, a Telegram channel, "kavkaz_leakbez," which focuses on the Caucasus region of Russia and has more than 23,000 subscribers, shared an item condemning the Taliban's view of homosexuality. The post added that if the Taliban is removed from the FSB list of terrorist organizations, it should immediately be put on the list of extremist organizations, for its stance on homosexuality. The Russian Justice Ministry manages the list of extremist organizations; as of November 30, 2023, "the international LGBT movement" is recognized as an extremist organization.[8]

The screenshot depicts a post by "kavkaz_leakbez" Telegram channel, including a TikTok video clip depicting a feminine man sitting on the lap of an older male. The title of the post is: "Taliban and homosexuality," hinting that the video clip depicts Afghani men.

A similar critical narrative was published by another Telegram channel, "Intuiziya podskazhet," and later shared by a popular "Tolkovatel" channel. The post features the same video, but openly blames the Taliban for homosexual practices. "Homosexual fun with boys and teenagers is very popular among the Taliban. There were cases (not isolated ones) when Taliban field commanders engaged in shootouts with each other and even started real battles over their young lovers. It is possible that at least some of the leaders and field commanders of the Taliban have their unmotivated hatred and cruelty towards women due to their peculiar sexual preferences," reads the post, quoting the Head of the Center for Afghan Policy Studies, Andrei Serenko.[9] Curiously, even the antisemitic "Chabad is the road to hell" channel criticized the Kremlin's plans, recalling the Taliban practice of stoning women for adultery.[10]

The neo-Nazi "Russian Grin | RO" ("Русский Оскал | РО") Telegram channel was even more straightforward in its criticism of the authorities: "It's complete absurdity, once again the authorities are shitting in everyone's mouth without taking off their pants. Just recently, the largest terrorist attack in the last 20 years was committed in Russia. And then they invite other terrorists to the forum, where they will promote tolerance for the fact that Russia will soon become one big village pigsty. (…) The country is suffocating from the abundance of filth, the number of people it doesn't need, the country has little left, it's at death's door, and they want blood, yours, and mine."[11]

It seems that the authorities' attempts to conduct an economic and diplomatic pivot towards the countries of "Global South" and "Global East" may face resistance in the form of growing interfaith tensions and fear of the growth of radical Islam.













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