Outreach to the Taliban pays dividends to Putin

Outreach to the Taliban pays dividends to Putin
The Taliban is — at least on paper — officially proscribed by Moscow, and the Russian government has yet to recognize the militant group as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

But on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry announced it had established working contacts with the Taliban, which it said had “started to restore public order” in Kabul and across Afghanistan.

And at the weekend, as the Taliban closed in on Kabul and US-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the Russians made clear they would not be packing up their diplomatic mission.

“The evacuation of the embassy is not being readied,” said Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, according to Russian state-run news agency RIA-Novosti. “I am in contact with our ambassador, they are working calmly and closely watching events as they unfold.”

That sort of calculated insouciance could play well for a Russian audience, particularly when Western diplomats are…