Afghanistan's Future and Russian Interests

Hamid Karzai emphasized that Russia played a crucial role in maintaining stability in Afghanistan.The events in Afghanistan affect Russia and, vice versa, Russian events affect Afghanistan.

The International Information Agency Rossiya Segodnya hosted a press conference entitled "Afghanistan's Future and Russian Interests". The withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014 was supposed to symbolize the beginning of a peaceful period. However, the risks of destabilization of the situation in the country and neighbouring regions are still topical, especially in light of the new wave of outspread of Islamic radicalism.

The press conference was attended by Hamid Karzai, former President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2004-2014), and Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998-2004).

Hamid Karzai emphasized that Russia played a crucial role in maintaining stability in Afghanistan. He believes that Russia and Afghanistan have always been close neighbours. The events in Afghanistan affect Russia and, vice versa, Russian events affect Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan can only be achieved with the help of neighbours: Russia, China and India.

Karzai said that at a meeting with Russian President they discussed his specific proposal to Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov: "Russia and Afghanistan should counter extremism collectively, wherever a threat would come from. Usually, it comes from external sources. Furthermore, closer cooperation between Russia and China, on the one hand, between Russia and India, on the other hand, and amongst the three countries in the region would have great significance for Afghanistan."

The ex-president also thanked the US for the economic aid provided, albeit added that NATO's military presence did not improve the situation, because peaceful citizens were still dying and losing property. The military situation in Afghanistan has not changed since 2005. Nevertheless, Afghanistan was provided with social and economic assistance that raised the living standards, improved the economic infrastructure. Afghanistan has become a much more stable country as compared with 2001.

Karzai is confident that the US and its allies should speak honestly about the problems they face. They encounter problems in combating terrorism in Afghanistan and the region, and they must explain why their failures happen. They need to seek assistance of countries like Russia, China. Why does extremism occur? Why do attacks continue? It is time for a very frank talk about the ordeals. Solutions and methods of cooperation in partnership with major countries capable of providing assistance should be developed.

Karzai reckons that peace talks with the Taliban movement are crucial for settlement of the situation in the country. The Taliban do not threaten Russia. Unlike ISIS which is controlled by external forces. The former president of Afghanistan also said that the Islamic State terrorist group was not associated with his country in any way. "They are alien to us, not kindred, and their amplification is doubtlessly caused by support from external forces," Karzai emphasized. ISIS was not created for Afghanistan, they use Afghanistan as a springboard, a starting platform to spread influence all over the region. ISIS is a result of developments in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, if they gain ground and reinforce their presence in Afghanistan, it will mean a covert scenario for the region and for Afghanistan.

RIAC President Igor Ivanov noted that modern problems had a cross-border nature. They cannot be dealt with single-handedly. Russia is open for cooperation, despite various disagreements, including those around the Ukrainian crisis. The disagreements should not hinder cooperation in other regions. Collaboration in combating terrorism helps countries to reach agreements in other challenging issues. If there are problems, countries should conduct a dialogue and search for common solutions. The prompt destruction of chemical weapons of Syria in the midst of war can serve as an example. Russia is successfully conducting negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program. Such cooperation can facilitate arrangements in other controversial issues.

All the developments near Russia's southern borders bear potential threats to both countries. They are being combated by enforcement of the country's security and activation of contacts with countries and international organizations that share Russia’s position on key problems of international politics. SCO mechanisms play a prominent role in such cooperation.

Hamid Karzai's visit to Moscow has demonstrated that Russia’s efforts to bring peace to the region are highly appreciated by many countries and politicians of the region. It is a good sign for Russia as a state interested in close cooperation with countries of the Middle East to solve the current problems of the modern world. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.