US and Russian military officials meet in Helsinki to discuss Afghanistan issues

The top military officials of the United States (US) and Russia held talks for six hours in Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday (22/9). The meeting, which was the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since 2019, was held to allow the two countries to adapt following the withdrawal of US troops and the Taliban’s takeover of power in Afghanistan.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, usually do not disclose details of their talks, and statements from both sides have been minimal.

Russia’s RIA news agency reported that the talks were aimed at discussing risk mitigation.

America and Russia often have competing military interests around the world, including in a country like Syria, where U.S. and Russian forces operate in close quarters. How Washington and Moscow control their next move in Afghanistan remains to be seen.

The US military is under pressure from Congress to shore up an anti-terrorism strategy to address risks from Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of US troops and the Taliban’s takeover of power in August.

President Joe Biden’s administration has said it will rely on “over-the-horizon” operations that can attack groups such as al-Qaida or ISIS in Afghanistan if they threaten the United States.

But, without troops on the ground, it’s unclear the extent of the US’ ability to spot and stop the terrorist groups’ dirty plans.

After 20 years of war, U.S. military officials also have a bleak view of the Taliban and note its links to al-Qaida.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow needed to cooperate with the Taliban government and world powers should consider disbursing assets held by Afghanistan. (ps/ka)

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