Photo credit: Akorda. via the Astana Times

First in the Region, Kazakhstan Delists Taliban as a Terrorist Group

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan has announced the removal of the Taliban from the country’s list of terrorist organizations, with the aim of fostering economic cooperation with Afghanistan.

According to the Russian state news agency TASS, during a meeting with Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) authorities on Monday, June 3, President Tokayev said that involving Afghanistan in interregional cooperation will be a priority moving forward.

“Kazakhstan has removed the Taliban from the list of terrorists proceeding from the importance of developing trade and economic cooperation with present-day Afghanistan taking into account that this regime is here to stay,” he said.

Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court designated the Taliban as a terrorist organization in 2005, along with other groups such as Al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Despite the designation, Kazakhstan has been quietly fostering ties with the Taliban since the US and NATO forces withdrew and the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021.

Kazakhstan is one of the few countries in the region that has increased trade relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Last year, the country’s private sector signed over a $100 million trade deal with Afghanistan’s private sector, focusing on irrigation management, technology, and logistics sectors.

Although delisting the Taliban has been part of regional rumours even before the group reassumed power, Astana is the first capital following through with such a measure. The Central Asian nation removes the Taliban from its terrorist list despite ongoing terrorism and humanitarian concerns.

Last month, the Russian Foreign and Justice Ministries also recommended to President Vladimir Putin that the Taliban be removed from Russia’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized that establishing relations with the Taliban is necessary, given the group’s control and current authority in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has issues, they are undeniable and well-known to all,” the Russian leader said. “The issue of how to establish ties with the current power is another question. Yet they must be established somehow, these are the people who control the country and its territory, they are the current authority in Afghanistan,” he added.

“We need to proceed in accordance with reality and build relations accordingly,” Mr. Putin said.

While the Taliban welcomed the Russian intention to delist their regime from its terror list, the decision has garnered widespread criticism in Afghanistan and other countries, including the United States.

During a press briefing on May 28, John Kirby, spokesperson for the US National Security Council, warned that such an action sends a “terrible message” to other nations, noting that the Taliban has not fulfilled any of its commitments made to the international community.

Moreover, the factions opposing the Taliban in Afghanistan have also condemned Russia’s decision, arguing that it encourages terrorist and extremist groups around the world.

The Afghanistan Freedom Front (AFF), an armed anti-Taliban group, expressed that the decision encourages terrorist groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Tajikistan’s Ansarullah, and other armed extremist groups in Central Asia, whose terrorist activities have increasingly impacted Russia in recent months.