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Editorial: Playing both sides

The peace process has made the Afghan masses feel ambivalent feelings. Despite making somewhat progress, the process always faces setbacks that lead to painting an overall bleak picture. At a time when the intra-Afghan talks are very likely to be held next month, the New York Times quoted American intelligence officials as claiming that Russian spies offered bounties to Taliban militants for killing US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Russia has been accused of sabotaging the peace talks. On the other hand, Russia, while blaming the paper for inventing false stories, vehemently rejected the media report and insisted it had rather been cooperating with the US on promoting the Afghan peace process. Ironically, this comes as a couple of days ago, the US and Russia agreed on coordinating their positions on Afghanistan as Russian Ambassador in Washington Anatoly Antonov met US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. The timing of the NYT’s report is very problematic and seems politically-induced, given the progress made in the peace process and the apparent consensus achieved among the regional countries. Russia has been accused by the US of forging and growing ties with the Taliban over the years and of even quietly providing weapons to the insurgents. Despite the movement was declared a terrorist group by Russia in 2003, the Taliban’s political office members in Qatar has traveled to Moscow several times. Therefore, this matter of secret support to the Taliban is very sensitive and delicate – and if anything goes awry, the first victim will always be Afghanistan. If confirmed, these recent accusations that Russian intelligence incited the Taliban to attack US and NATO servicemen may jeopardize and derail the peace process. Playing both sides while pretending to support peace, on one hand, and providing support to the opposing side, on the other, indicate that all chants of backing peace in Afghanistan have been symbolic all this while. As stated in these columns in the past, as long as the countries that enjoy a considerable capability to exert influence on Afghanistan don’t agree unanimously and reach a consensus, peace would elude Afghanistan. If the recent NYT’s report has partial truth to it, this means Russia and the US are still continuing their power struggle games in Afghanistan and are serving as spoilers to each other’s plans – something whose by-product has been continuing war in Afghanistan.

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