Russia Sending Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan As Nation Hosts Taliban for Talks

During a Wednesday meeting with senior representatives of the Taliban and neighboring nations in Moscow, Russian officials said the country would soon dispatch a shipment of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, "forming a really inclusive government fully reflecting the interests of not only all ethnic groups but all political forces of the country" is necessary to achieve a stable peace in Afghanistan.

Lavrov made the announcement regarding humanitarian aid during his remarks. He also called on the international community to also provide resources in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the country following the exit of U.S. military forces at the end of August.

Before Wednesday's talks, another meeting was held earlier this week with diplomats from Russia, China and Pakistan attending. The United States is also part of the "extended troika" on Afghanistan, but no U.S. diplomats attended the meeting.

By hosting the talks, Russia showed its clout in international relations and its strong ties with the Taliban. Russia has reportedly worked hard to establish those ties with the Taliban, a group that the Kremlin designated as a terror organization in 2003.

Russia has never removed the Taliban from the terror list. According to Russian law, contact with groups on the list is subject to punishment, but when asked about the contradiction, Russia's Foreign Ministry has maintained its interactions with the Taliban are essential.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

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During a meeting this week, Russian officials said the country would soon dispatch a shipment of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Pictured, Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov (L) shakes hands with a member of the Taliban delegation Mawlawi Shahabuddin Dilawar prior to an international conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on October 20, 2021. Getty

Unlike many other countries, Russia hasn't evacuated its embassy in Kabul and its ambassador has maintained regular contacts with the Taliban after they took over the Afghan capital in August.

Lavrov commended the Taliban for their efforts to stabilize the military-political situation in the country and ensure the operation of state structures.

"We are satisfied with the level of practical interaction with Afghan authorities, which allows to effectively ensure security of Russian citizens in Afghanistan and unimpeded operation of our embassy in Kabul," Lavrov said in his opening speech at the conference.

At the same time, he emphasized the importance of respecting human rights and pursuing well-balanced social policies, adding that he discussed those issues with the Taliban delegation before the talks.

Abdul Salam Hanafi, a deputy prime minister in the Taliban's interim government, who attended Wednesday's talks, said "the meeting is very important for stability of the entire region."

The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with its troops withdrawing in 1989. In recent years, Moscow has made a strong comeback as an influential power broker in international talks on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban representatives and members of other factions for bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Along with the Taliban and other Afghan factions, the so-called Moscow format talks held since 2017 also include representatives of China, Pakistan, Iran, India and ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin noted that there must be no rush in officially recognizing the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, but emphasized the need to engage in talks with them.

At the same time, Putin and other Russian officials emphasized the threats posed by the Islamic State group and other militants based in northern Afghanistan and noted that drug trafficking from Afghanistan will continue to present a challenge.

"Numerous terrorist groups, notably the Islamic State and al-Qaida are trying to take advantage of the instability in the country mounting bloody attacks," Lavrov said. "There is a real danger of terrorism and drugs spilling into the neighboring nations under the guise of migration."

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Members of the political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

Russia's top diplomat urged the Taliban "not to allow the territory of Afghanistan from being used against the interests of any third countries, primarily its neighbors, our friends and allies in Central Asia."

Russia has vowed to provide military assistance to its ex-Soviet allies in Central Asia to help counter the threats, and held a series of joint drills in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that neighbor Afghanistan.

Another sweeping military exercise in Tajikistan involving 5,000 troops, more than 700 military vehicles and combat jets has started this week.