Russia is partnering with the Taliban in the ongoing battle against Islamic State (Isis), a senior Moscow diplomat has said. Channels of communication between the two parties have been opened to share vital information.
Moscow's unusual step has come amid the growing presence of IS (Daesh) in war-torn Afghanistan, where the US has been fighting the Taliban Islamist insurgency since 2001. Russia claims the interests of Moscow and Taliban, which itself wages a deadly war in Afghanistan, "coincide".
"We have communication channels opened for sharing information," Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan and Russia's foreign ministry department chief, told the Interfax agency. The comments were later vetted by ministry officials.
"Both the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Taliban of Pakistan have said that they don't recognise (IS leader Abu Bakr) Al-Baghdadi as a caliph, that they don't recognise ISIL," said the Russian diplomat, referring to another acronym used for the Iraqi Sunni insurgent group.
Moscow would be willing to supply weapons to Afghanistan under certain conditions, the diplomat said. Moscow's partnership with the Taliban is riddled with contradictions as the Afghan group itself features prominently in the Russian government's list of extremist organisations. For several years, Russia has taken the position that Taliban is a serious cause of concern and instability in the region.
Russia's move has come at a time when the Taliban has begun to flex its muscle in Afghanistan, capturing key in an apparent show of strength against the IS. Though IS forces have begun to emerge in Afghanistan, the Taliban remains the dominant Islamist group in the country. As part of IS's growing campaign, the extremist group has launched a radio station named "Voice of the Caliphate" to recruit radicals including those in the Taliban.