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World: Russia hosts Afghan talks, calls for inclusive government

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  Afghan forces fold as rapid Taliban advances test will of government troops WE’VE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE: The rapid territorial gains of the Taliban in Afghanistan has eerie echoes of the 2014-2015 ISIS takeover of much of Iraq. Then, as now, a vastly smaller, ideologically driven force defeated a numerically superior and better equipped U.S.-trained Army by breaking the will of their enemy. © Provided by Washington Examiner DOD header 2020 As of this morning, at least four provincial capitals have fallen to the Taliban over the past four days, and the key northern city of Kunduz appears to be the fifth.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia hosted talks on Afghanistan on Wednesday involving senior representatives of the Taliban and other factions, a round of diplomacy that underlines Moscow's clout.

Members of the political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Members of the political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

Opening the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized that “forming a really inclusive government fully reflecting the interests of not only all ethnic groups but all political forces of the country” is necessary to achieve a stable peace in Afghanistan.

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Russia had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it has designated the group a terrorist organization in 2003 and never took it of the list. Any contact with such groups is punishable under Russian law, but the Foreign Ministry has responded to questions about the apparent contradiction by saying that its exchanges with the Taliban are essential for helping stabilize Afghanistan.

Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, left, speaks to a member of political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement Mawlawi Shahabuddin Dilawar, right, before the opening of talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, left, speaks to a member of political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement Mawlawi Shahabuddin Dilawar, right, before the opening of talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with its troops withdrawing in 1989. In recent years, Moscow has made a strong comeback as an influential power broker in international talks on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban representatives and members of other factions for bilateral and multilateral meetings.

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Members of political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Members of political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

Unlike many other countries, Russia hasn’t evacuated its embassy in Kabul and its ambassador has maintained regular contacts with the Taliban after they took over the Afghan capital in August.

Lavrov in his opening speech at the conference commended the Taliban for their efforts to stabilize the situation in the country and ensure the operation of state structures.

Members of the political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Members of the political delegation from the Afghan Taliban's movement attend talks involving Afghan representatives in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Russia invited the Taliban and other Afghan parties for talks voicing hope they will help encourage discussions and tackle Afghanistan's challenges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that there must be no rush in officially recognizing the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, but emphasized the need to engage in talks with them.

At the same time, he emphasized the security challenges posed by the Islamic State group and other militants based in northern Afghanistan, and noted that drug trafficking from Afghanistan will continue to present a challenge.

Russia has vowed to provide military assistance to its ex-Soviet allies in Central Asia to help counter the threats, and held a series of joint drills in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that neighbor Afghanistan.

Another sweeping military exercise in Tajikistan involving 5,000 troops, more than 700 military vehicles and combat jets has started this week.

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