Taleban says it controls 85% of Afghanistan, dismisses threat to neighbours

An Afghan soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Alishang, Afghanistan, on July 8, 2021.
An Afghan soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Alishang, Afghanistan, on July 8, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - A Taleban delegation in Moscow said on Friday (July 9) that the group controlled over 85 per cent of territory in Afghanistan and reassured Russia it would not allow the country to be used as a platform to attack others.

Foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing after almost 20 years of fighting, a move that has emboldened Taleban insurgents to try to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan.

That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that Islamist extremists could infiltrate Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard.

At a news conference in Moscow on Friday, three Taleban officials sought to signal that they did not pose a threat to the wider region however.

The officials said the Taleban would do all it could to prevent Islamic State operating on Afghan territory and that it would also seek to wipe out drug production.

"We will take all measures so that Islamic State will not operate on Afghan territory... and our territory will never be used against our neighbours," Taleban official Mr Shahabuddin Delawar said through a translator.

The same delegation said a day earlier that the group would not attack the Tajik-Afghan border, the fate of which is in focus in Russia and Central Asia.

Moscow has noted a sharp increase in tensions on the same border, two-thirds of which the Taleban currently controls, the Interfax news agency cited Russia's foreign ministry as saying on Friday.

Russia's foreign ministry called on all sides of the Afghanistan conflict to show restraint and said that Russia and the Moscow-led CSTO military bloc would act decisively to prevent aggression on the border if necessary, RIA reported.

The Taleban delegation told the same news conference that the group would respect the rights of ethnic minorities and all Afghan citizens should have the right to a decent education in the framework of Islamic law and Afghan traditions.

"We want all representatives of Afghan society... to take part in creating an Afghan state," said Mr Delawar.