Russian envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov warned on Tuesday that if the Taliban is not welcomed into Afghan politics and given enough influence to satisfy its leaders, “their takeover of the country will become a very real prospect.”
Kabulov said the Taliban has thus far been “unable to capture big administrative centers” in the provinces it has invaded, but warned they might be able to “establish long-term control of the country’s big provinces” if they keep winning on the battlefield against Afghan government forces.
Taliban leaders are prepared to seek a political solution instead of pushing for military conquest of the entire country, Kabulov said.
“Over the past 20 or so years, the bulk of the leadership certainly got fed up with the war, and understand that there is the need to search for political solutions to the current deadlock and the internal ones,” he said.
“I see this not only in words but also in intentions, which are translated in various forms, that they are ready for a political compromise. But it’s clear that from their viewpoint a political compromise should be decently presented to them,” he advised.
Kabulov perceived a generational conflict within the Taliban, as its younger fighters have “bigger ambitions,” remember nothing of a “calm, free, and unoccupied Afghanistan,” and have little patience for dealing with infidels or invaders.
“They are convinced that they are fighting for the liberation of their motherland from foreign invaders and for the values of Islam as they see them. This passionate young part of the movement, led by individual field commanders, is still radically minded. But they are killed in these combat actions that are ongoing,” he said.
Representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban issued a joint statement on Sunday that said they are “committed to continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached.”
The two sides have been meeting in Doha, Qatar, for the past few months, but negotiations were inconclusive and seemed to stall completely after the Taliban began making major advances in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban made no commitment to scale back its attacks and said nothing about a ceasefire for the approaching Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, although it did promise to reduce civilian casualties.
Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada nevertheless insisted his “Islamic emirate” is “strenuously” in favor of reaching a political solution.
Even as Kabulov emphasized the need for a political solution in Afghanistan, Russia was taking steps to contain the intensifying Afghan conflict. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that armored vehicles and crews have arrived at the Russian base in Tajikistan for joint drills in early August with forces from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan near the Afghan border.
A Russian military commander said the drills would focus on defeating “illegal armed units that invaded the territory of an allied country.” This could have been an oblique reference to either the Taliban or Afghan government troops, who have developed a habit of crossing the Tajikistan border while fleeing from advancing Taliban fighters.