Sputnik – The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.
“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.
According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.
“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.
The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban* by force.
Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.
“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.
The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.
“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.
Afghanistan Parliamentary Election
The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.
“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.
The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.
“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.
Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks
“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.
Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.
“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.
In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.
Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.
The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.
*Taliban and Daesh are terrorist organizations banned in Russia