Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in an exclusive, comprehensive conversation with SNI Associate Editor Amitabh P Revi in Moscow. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s co-founder who spent eight years in a Pakistani prison, was greeted with hugs and smiles by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and ISI spy chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed in Islamabad on October 3. In the first face-to-face since U.S. President Donald Trump called off talks with the Taliban, his special representative Zalmay Khalilzad has reportedly met a Taliban delegation led by founder and chief of the Qatar political office Mullah Baradar in Islamabad.
How does Russia view the developments over the last year in the U.S. attempt to reach a peace deal that will enable it to withdraw its troops? In a candid interview, Ambassador Kabulov outlines why Russia has been more active on this front. He details what Taliban leaders and U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad have told him and how he is trying to help in restarting talks between the two sides. The Russian Special Representative also talks about elections and how, though they are important, peace is more important. He discusses Pakistan and its role in supporting groups like the Taliban, India and its policy and accusations that countries like the U.S., Russia and China are responsible for legitimising the Taliban. Special Representative Kabulov does not rule out fundamentalist elements joining Daesh/ISIS/ISKP, but adds some of this talk is from those trying to sabotage the peace process. Looking back over decades of diplomatic involvement, he elaborates on reports that he headed the KGB mission in Kabul and remembers the time he met Mullah Omar.
Zamir Kabulov has spent a vast majority of his career dealing with Afghanistan. He was 2nd Secretary in the Soviet Embassy in Kabul (1983-’87) and Counselor at the Soviet/Russian Embassy in 1991-92 till it was closed down when the mujahideen took control of Kabul. He then shifted to the Russian Embassy in Pakistan. From 1996-’98, he served as senior political adviser in a special UN mission for Afghanistan, based in Pakistan. From 1998-2004 he was the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director in the Third Department of Asia. He served as the Russian Foreign Minister’s special representative during the Bonn talks on Afghanistan in 2001. From 2004-2009, he was the Russian Ambassador in Afghanistan.