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Russia and the Taliban Make Amends

Moscow's New Ally in Afghanistan

A Taliban fighter pulls the lanyard to fire a Soviet-built 122mm artillery piece about 20 km north of the Afghan capital November 24, 1996. Reuters

The Taliban, once a pariah, now finds itself courted by several powerful regional players. Even Russia, the group’s historical enemy, has recently turned to the group for intelligence sharing against a common foe: the Islamic State (also called ISIS). Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, recently said, “Taliban interests objectively coincide with ours.” Kabulov, a former KGB officer who negotiated with Taliban leaders in the mid-1990s after the group captured a Russian plane and took seven Russians hostage, rationalized the new cooperation by adding that “the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have said they don’t recognize [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi as the caliph; that is very important.” However, such a shortsighted alliance carries critical security risks for Afghanistan and the region.

Russia has long fretted that jihadists from its Caucasus region and the former Soviet republics would join ISIS’ ranks in Syria in Iraq and then return

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