Diplomat: Russia moving closer to delisting Afghanistan's Taliban as terrorist group


Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, left, speaks with Taliban representatives before their talks in Moscow, May 28, 2019. [AP Photo]

A senior Russian diplomat says Russia’s foreign and justice ministries have told President Vladimir Putin that Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban “can be removed” from the list of Moscow-designated terrorist organizations.

Zamir Kabulov, the special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, told state-run TASS news agency Monday that the delisting would enable Moscow to decide whether to recognize the Taliban government.

“Without this [removal of the ban on the Taliban], it will be premature to talk about recognition,” he was quoted as saying. “Therefore, work on this issue continues. All considerations have been reported to the top leadership of Russia. We are waiting for a decision."

Separately, TASS quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying Monday that the Taliban is the “real power” in Afghanistan and that the group’s possible removal from Moscow’s list of banned organizations reflects “objective reality.”

Russia formally labeled the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, when the radical group was waging a deadly insurgency against the United States and allied troops in Afghanistan.

The insurgents stormed back to power on August 15, 2021, and established a men-only Taliban government as the U.S.-led foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

No foreign country has formally recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers, mainly due to human rights and terrorism-related concerns. However, several neighboring and regional countries, including Russia, have retained their embassies in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and allowed the de facto government to run Afghan embassies on their respective soils.

Kabulov noted Monday that the Taliban had “come a long way towards being recognized” since seizing power. "But there are still a few hurdles to overcome, after which the Russian leadership will make a decision," he said, without elaborating.

The Russian envoy was also quoted as saying Monday that his government had extended an invitation to the Taliban to attend a June 5-8 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The event, which once hosted top Western business leaders and investment bankers from London and New York, has changed significantly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Moscow and the international community at large have been urging the Taliban to govern the war-torn South Asian nation through a politically inclusive government and remove bans on Afghan women’s access to education and work.

The hardline de facto rulers have rejected criticism of their governance as interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, saying their policies are aligned with local culture and Islamic law.

Russia has been developing ties with the Taliban for years and reportedly provided them with weapons while they were waging insurgent attacks on the U.S.-led foreign troops and their Afghan allies. Taliban officials say trade ties between Kabul and Moscow have rapidly grown over the past couple of years.