Photo: TASS News Agency

Russia Says Delisting Taliban Is Crucial for Combating Terrorism

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Russia says that removing the Taliban from the country’s list of terrorist organizations is crucial for maintaining contact with the regime in Afghanistan, particularly in areas such as combating terrorism and drug trafficking.

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Sunday, June 9, that the questions of when, how, and in what form the delisting will occur involve interdepartmental work. She noted that the process requires input from experts in various fields.

The Russian diplomat also criticized “certain bloggers and journalists” for reacting nervously to Russia’s continued contact with the Taliban. She said, “apparently, those who write about these issues do not realize that the solution to such problems as the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime actually requires contacts.”

Following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, Russia, like many other countries in the region, maintained its diplomatic ties with the group. The country kept its embassy open in Kabul and permitted Taliban diplomats to assume control of the Afghan embassy in Moscow.

Recently, Russia announced that it is considering removing the Taliban from its list of designated terrorist organizations. The group was listed in 2003 following its endorsement of Chechnya’s bid for independence and its attempt to sell 500 heavy weapons to Chechen rebels through the Saudi charity, Al-Haramain.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the decision, saying that building relations with the Taliban is necessary because the group controls Afghanistan and currently holds authority in the country.

“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.

Recently, in a similar move, Kazakhstan removed the Taliban from its list of designated terrorist organizations to foster economic cooperation with Afghanistan. This move made Kazakhstan the first country to delist the Taliban despite widespread concerns about terrorism and human rights.

Russia’s decision to remove the Taliban from its terrorist list has faced widespread criticism from Afghan activists, groups opposing the Taliban, and countries like the USA. Critics argue that this move encourages other terrorist and extremist groups around the world.

Earlier, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, commented that Russia’s intention to remove the Taliban from its list of designated terrorist organizations sends a “horrible message” to other countries.

American officials criticized Moscow while Washington does not classify the Taliban as a terrorist organization despite its two-decades of military campaign against the group in Afghanistan. Although the Haqqani Network, an informal subdivision of the Taliban, is considered by the US government as a terrorist organization and several of Taliban leaders are in American sanctions lists, Washington has repeatedly refused to consider the Taliban a terrorist organization, a reluctance that helped the US sign a peace deal with the group in 2020 which helped bring them back to the helms of power in Kabul.