Russia to Remove Taliban from Terrorist List Soon

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian media on Tuesday that his government plans to remove the Afghan Taliban from its list of designated foreign terrorist organizations to facilitate diplomacy with Afghanistan.

Lavrov described delisting the Taliban as a terrorist organization and establishing formal diplomatic ties as necessary to “accepting reality.”

“The Afghan Ambassador presented his credentials to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing along with other ambassadors. Kazakhstan has recently decided to remove them from the list of terrorist organizations,” Lavrov reportedly said. “We are going to do this, too.”

The Taliban, which have directed significant efforts in the past three years towards expanding business and diplomatic ties with neighbors, reacted to the potential improvement of relations with Russia with enthusiasm.

“We commend Russia’s action and hope it is implemented as soon as possible. Afghanistan wants to have good relations with all countries, including Russia,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s top spokesman, told Tolo News.

“The above-mentioned decision by the Russian [leadership] undoubtedly means the removal of obstacles to [the establishment of] official relations between Afghanistan and Russia,” Taliban “foreign ministry” adviser Zakir Jalali said in a message posted to the social media outlet Twitter, which the Taliban often use to public official declarations.

Jalali also reportedly confirmed that Taliban terrorists were invited and will likely attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June, where they will have the opportunity to pursue business opportunities with Russia.

The Taliban, a Sunni jihadist terror organization, is currently the uncontested government of Afghanistan. While once wielding power there in the 1990s, the Taliban lost control of the country after the American invasion in 2001, following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001.

Taliban jihadists waged a two-decade-long war against America and its allies that culminated in a victory when President Joe Biden broke an agreement with the terrorists to prolong the war. Former President Donald Trump had agreed to withdraw troops by May 1, 2021, but Biden refused, attempting to extend the war into September.

FILE – In this Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second right, and Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, right, arrive to attend a conference on Afghanistan bringing together representatives of the Afghan authorities and the Taliban in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

Despite no rivals credibly contesting the Taliban’s claim to being the government of Afghanistan, few countries have maintained formal relations with Taliban-controlled Kabul. In October 2021, two months after the fall of Kabul, a coalition of nine countries – including Russia and its allies, China and Iran – issued a statement in which they informally accepted the Taliban’s status as the government of Afghanistan.

In March 2022, the United Nations took a similar step, passing a resolution through the Security Council that approved of working with “relevant Afghan political actors” to restore stability in the country. The resolution did not name the Taliban but, following the August conquest, the Taliban became the only “relevant” political actors with any significant measure of power in the country.

Some countries, including Iran and China, have accepted the Taliban as an “interim” Afghan government, rather than fully backing it as legitimate. China has moved the furthest along in legitimizing the Taliban, accepting a Taliban ambassador to Beijing, Bilal Karimi, in December 2023. Taliban jihadists have expressed extreme interest in joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure project in which China offers poor countries predatory loans to be used to build roads, bridges, and railways. In October, a Taliban official confirmed that the regime seeks formal entry into the BRI.

Unlike Russia, China had not designated the Taliban a terrorist organization, facilitating diplomatic ties more quickly than with Moscow.

The step Lavrov announced this week followed years of speculation that Russia would amend its laws to strengthen its relationship with the Taliban. In April, top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that delisting the Taliban was “under consideration” to maintain a reasonable level of diplomacy with Afghanistan.

“The fact is that this is our neighboring country. In one form or another, we maintain communication with them. We have to resolve pressing issues, which also requires dialogue,” Peskov said, according to the Russian news agency Tass.

Taliban representatives have been cordial to Russia and backed its foreign policy agency. On Wednesday, Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov noted that the Taliban even backed Russia’s ongoing invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

“They unequivocally support Russia’s position on the Ukrainian crisis,” Kabulov claimed. “They understand the root causes and consequences of this process. They are on our side, on the same wavelength as us.”

Frances Martel
Frances Martel
Author and editor specializing in international current events.

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