WASHINGTON: The US State Department, while commenting on reported contacts between Russia and the Afghan Taliban, says it hopes to find ways to work with Moscow for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry told a news briefing in Moscow that Russia was cooperating with those Taliban groups who were fighting the militant Islamic State (IS) group — also known as Daesh — in Afghanistan.

However, in a statement posted on their website, the Taliban denied any cooperation with Russia, saying that they “do not see a need for receiving aid from anyone concerning the so-called Daesh”.

But according to Afghan experts in Washington, the Taliban always deny such contacts but later acknowledge them.

Asked to comment on the reported contacts between Russia and the Taliban, US State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said: “Russia and other regional actors all have a shared interest in supporting continued security and increased stability in Afghanistan. We certainly hope we can find ways to work with Russia to promote Afghanistan’s security and stability.”

On Tuesday, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Afghanistan, as saying Russia supported Kabul’s efforts for reconciliation with the Taliban.

Mr Kabulov, who was Moscow’s ambassador in Kabul from 2004 to 2009, said that Russia had a shared interest with the Taliban in counteracting the spread of IS in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2015

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