- Putin on Thursday said Biden made the right call by pulling US troops from Afghanistan.
- The withdrawal of US troops coincided with the Taliban regaining control of the country.
- Putin also called on the US to unfreeze billions of dollars the Afghan central bank holds in reserves.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that President Joe Biden was right to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, Reuters reported.
Putin’s comments, which were directed at journalists and Russia experts, came during a week in which Russia hosted talks with senior representatives from the Taliban in Moscow. It’s unclear why Putin offered this somewhat unexpected approval of one of the most significant foreign policy moves Biden has taken so far.
Russia, like the US, has not formally recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan. But the Moscow meeting did result in the Taliban winning the backing of Russia and nine other regional powers in calling for a UN donor conference aimed at bolstering Afghanistan’s fledgling economy and preventing a humanitarian disaster.
The Russian president on Thursday also called for the US to “unfreeze Afghan assets and give Afghanistan a possibility to solve top priority social and economic tasks,” per the state-owned TASS news agency.
After the Taliban regained control of the country, the US froze billions of dollars the Afghan central bank holds in reserves, which are mostly stored in the US. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Tuesday signaled the US would not budge in this regard, and that the Taliban would not gain access to the reserves.
“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.
“Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country,” Adeyemo said.
Though Putin apparently approves of Biden’s decision to pull all US troops from Afghanistan, the president has faced fierce, bipartisan criticism in Washington over his handling of the withdraw. The pullout coincided with the Taliban regaining power in Afghanistan for the first time since 2001.
In the weeks following the Taliban takeover, the US evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from the country via the Kabul airport under extraordinarily chaotic circumstances.
Amid the evacuations, ISIS-K staged an attack that killed 13 US service members and 169 Afghans. The US retaliated with drone strikes, but in one instance mistakenly targeted an aid worker and killed 10 civilians, including seven children, in the process. When the last US troops left Afghanistan in late August, a number of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies were left behind – though some have since been evacuated.
The US war in Afghanistan, which lasted 20 years and was the longest conflict in US history, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans – including over 47,000 civilians – and 2,448 US service members, per Brown University’s Costs of War project. It’s also estimated to have cost roughly $US2.3 ($AU3) trillion.
Last month, Putin said the US achieved “zero” via the war in Afghanistan and that the conflict resulted in “only tragedies.”
The relationship between Russia and the US has hit a historic low in recent years, with tensions rising to heights not seen since the Cold War – largely stemming from Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and interference in US elections. Putin and Biden met in Geneva, Switzerland, in June to address the contentious dynamic. The meeting was largely fruitless, but Putin on Thursday said the Geneva summit was productive and a positive step forward for US-Russia relations.