February 2, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9167

Taliban Delegation Visits Moscow To Enlist Russian Pressure On The U.S.

February 2, 2021
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9167

With the change of administrations in Washington, the Biden Administration announced that it is reviewing the agreement signed between the Trump Administration and the Afghan Taliban under which NATO forces would leave the country in spring 2021.  The reason for the review, administration officials claim is the series of Taliban violations of the agreement. "Without them meeting their commitments to renounce terrorism and to stop the violent attacks against the Afghan National Security Forces, it's very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said."[1]

A NATO official told Reuters "There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end... Conditions have not been met..." And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy."[2]

Sensing the hardening attitude in Washington, a Taliban delegation headed by headed by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, visited Moscow to enlist Russian support. The visit illustrated the Taliban's belief that on the issue of Afghanistan, the U.S. was sensitive to the Russian position. Kommersant's reporters Kirill Krivosheev and Alexandra Kovalskaya covered the Taliban visit. A translation of their article follows below: [3]

Taliban delegation in Moscow, Stanikzai is second from left. (source

"Members of the Qatar political office of Taliban movement (which is banned in Russia) visited Moscow yet again. Their visits to the Russian capital became frequent in 2018 and 2019, when a deal with the United States on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was elaborated.

"Now the new administration in Washington is letting it be understood that the deal may be reviewed. Taking this this scenario into account, the Taliban members, as they themselves told Kommersant, will ask Moscow to influence Washington.

"At the same time, they are not denying, that if the Americans will nevertheless violate the deal, then the Taliban ,will have no other option but to fight them, as it previously fought the British and Soviet occupation forces.”

"A Taliban delegation headed by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy head of the political office in Doha [Qatar], has paid a visit to Moscow, for the first time since September 2019. Back then the deal with the United States, signed on February 29, 2020, was just being discussed and the movement's representatives were trying to enlist the support of the region's countries, Russia included.

"According to representatives from the new US President Joe Biden's administration, Washington plans to review the agreement.

"While the Taliban delegation was in Moscow, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that the United States has not yet made 'any decision' on the future of US military forces in Afghanistan. Mr. Kirby said that Washington remembers the deadline specified in the agreement for the withdrawal of American troops that will expire in April. However, the press secretary added, that there 'is a big if'.

"Without going into details, the Pentagon press secretary certified that the Taliban had not fulfilled the terms of the agreement.

"Little is known about what exactly was discussed with the Taliban representatives in Moscow.

"The meeting with Taliban was held by Zamir Kabulov special representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Afghanistan, director of the Second Department for Asia at the Foreign Ministry. 'During the talks, the Russian side spoke in favor of an early launch of meaningful and constructive inter-Afghan negotiations, leading to the cessation of bloody civil war and the formation of an effective nationwide leadership in Afghanistan,' stated the Russian Foreign Ministry."

Zamir Kabulov (Source:

"The Taliban representatives, speaking to reporters on Friday, only spoke of 'exchanging views on the future of Afghanistan' and receiving support on the issue of lifting UN sanctions from some members of the movement. 'Zamir Kabulov also supports this process and believes that we should be deleted from the black list,' said Mr. Stanikzai.

"Taliban officials are optimistic about the future of the deal with the Americans. 'We signed a peace agreement with the American side, it was signed by the legally elected US government. Just because the Biden administration is evaluating the agreement, it doesn’t mean that they will nullify it. They assess it, according to their internal procedure,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told reporters. The diplomat also emphasized, that Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as a special envoy for Afghanistan under the Donald Trump administration and worked on the deal, will remain in his post under Joe Biden. “This is a good chance for the Americans to withdraw from Afghanistan under this agreement. Regardless of whether it will be done under the Biden administration or a different one,” added Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.

"According to Omar Nessar, director of the Russian Center for the Study of Contemporary Afghanistan, when the US administration talks about “assessment of the agreement,” they do not mean the document itself (which is rather short and clear) but some secret annexes to it.

“'Perhaps the Americans want to get some concessions,' suggested Mr. Nessar.

"Answering the Kommersant reporter's question on what will happen if the US does not withdraw its troops in the spring, Mr. Stanikzai said: 'We hope, that they will do it. America will go away according to schedule. I'm sure of it. Because both military and civilians [officials] are in contact with us. I don’t believe they won’t leave.' Afterwards the Afghan diplomat added, 'Should the Americans nevertheless violate the deal, we will have no other choice but to fight them, as we previously fought the British and Soviet occupation forces.'

"Meanwhile, in Kabul there is talk of and active preparations for a war. Moreover, it is effectively already underway. Let’s recall that under the terms of the agreement signed in Doha, the Taliban pledged not to attack Western troops leaving the country, but did not make any promises regarding the Afghan army.

"Therefore, the situation in northern and southern parts of the country has not changed for the better over the past year. Usually after the intensification of the peace process, new clashes flare up in the provinces.

"Hardly a day in the Afghan capital goes by without bombings and assassinations, for which no one takes responsibility, although the authorities still blame the Taliban.

"The center of Kabul is surrounded by a chain of checkpoints (the so-called Ring of Steel). It is presumed that security personnel should inspect vehicles, but considering Kabul’s traffic it is impossible to do this task properly. Men in uniform briefly glance at passengers as if they are capable of identifying a terrorist by eyeball, occasionally opening the trunks and checking passports.

"New checkpoints are being built in the center of the city in order to strengthen the Ring of Steel, as the government as it seems prepares for the Taliban's traditional spring offensive. Afghanistan's National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib recently announced that this time he expects not just local battles, but a real war.

'If the negotiations won’t emerge from deadlock, Afghanistan will ignite in the spring,” journalist Hussein confirmed in a conversation with Kommersant’s reporter, who used to work for the country’s most famous TV channel, TOLOnews.

"Only a very narrow circle of people knows what is actually happening at the inter-Afghan talks in Doha. At first glance, contacts between the republic’s authorities and the Taliban, which began in September 2020, have reached a dead end long ago. But recently, TOLOnews published a document, which was called a draft project on the division of powers between the current Kabul administration and the Taliban in key agencies and institutions.

"According to the document, 84 new representatives of former terrorists should be introduced to the lower house of the Afghan parliament. 34 out of 102 deputies of the Afghan Parliament of Afghanistan are also to be appointed by the Taliban. Presumably, the interim government should take the power in Afghanistan. However, the document soon disappeared from the web site, and disputes about its authenticity are still ongoing.

"It is worth noting that before arriving in Moscow, Taliban representatives also visited Iran (and before that Pakistan), where much more anti-American rhetoric were expressed.

"'The United States, in accordance with its strategy, supports the continuation of war and bloodshed between various Afghan political groups,' Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, said at a meeting with the Taliban. At the same time, Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the political office in Doha (who ignored Moscow’s visit), also visited Tehran.

"'All these countries are very close; they are our neighbors. And we seek their support in the Afghan peace settlement,' said Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.

"According to Omar Nessar, by visiting the region’s countries the Taliban expect to put pressure on Washington. 'Previous experience has shown that the meetings in Moscow significantly improved the Taliban’s position at the negotiating table. It is obvious, that the Americans are very sensitive to Russia's presence in the Afghan issue, even more than to Iran or China's [presence],' the expert told Kommersant."


[1], January 29, 2021.

[2], January 31, 2021.

[3], January 31, 2021.

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