ISLAMABAD: The 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was a “tragic mistake”, Russia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y Dedov has said, but claimed that it is not similar to Russia’s support for the “legitimate regime” of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Addressing a seminar on ‘Russia’s position on Afghanistan and Syria’ at the Area Study Centre at Peshawar University in Peshawar, Deodov said Russian military support to Damascus was aimed at targeting violent jihadists, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda-linked Jabha Al Nusra.
Describing the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as a “tragic mistake”, Dedov said that there was no parallel between the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and Russia’s support for the “legitimate regime” of Bashar al Assad.
In 1979, the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan to back the Marxist government of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan to fight Mujahideens who were jointly backed by American CIA and Pakistan.
He said Russia considered ISIS a threat to its national security since around three thousands of its citizens had joined it, causing problems in the Russian region of Dagestan and other places.
Dedov acknowledged that his county was in contacts with the Afghan Taliban to promote reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“There have been limited contacts with the Afghan Taliban,” he told the participants.
The Russian envoy said that he was not aware of the level of engagements with the Afghan Taliban or whether his country had sought their help in countering the threat from the ISIS.
“It’s a delicate matter. I really don’t know the level of these engagements, but they have been there”, he said. The Russian ambassador laughed off reports that President Vladimir Putin had met Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
“Were there reports that President Putin had met Mullah Omar too?” he asked. He said that his country viewed the presence of ISIS in northern Afghanistan with concern. He also said that ISIS, which was present in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, had relocated to northern Afghanistan due to military operation. It was a matter of concern due to its proximity with Central Asian Republics and Russia, he added.
Speaking about Russia-Pakistan relations, he said that it was positive and positions of both the countries coincided on 80 per cent of issues. On President Putin’s much-speculated visit to Pakistan, he argued that there would have to be something sub-stantive for the Russian head of state to come to Islamabad.