Speed Reads

A dish best served cold

Russia is already tentatively cozying up to the Taliban after Afghan sweep

The U.S. and other Western nations evacuated their embassies in Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, but Russia and China stayed put — mostly. "We have a relatively large embassy in Afghanistan, it's about 100 people altogether," Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special presidential representative for Afghanistan, told Echo of Moscow radio Monday. "Some of our employees will be sent on vacation or evacuated in some other way so as not to create too much of a presence." He said the Taliban is now protecting Russia's Kabul embassy. 

Russia's ambassador is scheduled to meet with Taliban leaders on Tuesday. Kabulov said Moscow with decide on whether to recognize the Taliban-led government based on it's "conduct" and "how responsibly they govern the country in the near future." But "I have long decided that the Taliban is much more able to reach agreements than the puppet government in Kabul," he told Russian state television Monday.

"Russia had a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, so while taking some satisfaction in the U.S. failure, it's not gloating," exactly, NPR News reports. "Instability in the region is a danger to Russia's Asian neighbors," and thus to Moscow. "Russia has lots to lose," said Moscow-based military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer with the independent Novaya Gazeta weekly. "America can walk away from Afghanistan and forget it as a bad dream. They have that privilege. Russia cannot."

Beijing is taking a cautious approach, saying it views the Taliban as a transitional government, while Pakistan — the Taliban's biggest backer last time it held power, from 1996 to 2001 — appeared to celebrate the militant group's takeover. "They have broken the shackles of slavery in Afghanistan," Prime Minister Imran Khan said Monday.

Russia and China are concerned the Taliban's victory could encourage Islamist uprisings in their own spheres of influence, but both countries "already are moving to build ties with the Taliban and have hosted Taliban officials even before the U.S. military completed its troop withdrawal," The Wall Street Journal reports. The Biden's administration's "repeated threats to turn Afghanistan into a 'pariah state' if the Taliban commits human rights abuses could be undermined if Beijing and Moscow don't cooperate and if a Taliban-led government strengthens ties with Pakistan and Iran."