Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of the "return of military infrastructure" of the US or NATO to Afghanistan or neighboring countries in Central Asia, while hosting a regional conference attended by Taliban officials.
Lavrov said – in a speech at a conference of Afghanistan's neighboring countries held in the central Russian city of Kazan within the framework of what is known as the Moscow formula – "We will continue to develop different-faceted contacts with Afghanistan."
"We consider the return of the military infrastructure of the United States and NATO on the territory of Afghanistan and neighboring countries unacceptable, whatever the pretexts," he said.
He noted that Moscow was "concerned about attempts by non-regional actors to engage further in Afghanistan. We will be vigilant specifically about this," he said, calling on other countries to do the same.
For his part, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said in his speech during the conference that his country will not allow it to be a source of threat to neighboring countries, and that it is working to stabilize the region.
Russia, Afghanistan and large parts of Central Asia are among the areas of influence associated with their national security. Since Washington withdrew its troops from the country in the summer of 2021, Moscow and Beijing have sought to fill the vacuum by reaching out to the returning Taliban, despite deep differences with them.
Washington and Tashkent
Lavrov's comments came days after Afghanistan's northern neighbor Uzbekistan welcomed the "strengthening" of its military cooperation with the United States.
"Friendly relations between the two countries in the field of defense are strengthened every year," Uzbekistan's Defense Ministry said after a meeting between Minister Bakhudir Karbanov and U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Michael Corella in Tashkent on Tuesday.
The ministry statement said the two sides discussed "achievements in the military field and the possibility of continuing cooperation".
Despite withdrawing more than 10 years ago from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes several former Soviet republics, Uzbekistan remains closely linked to Moscow in several areas, including armaments, but also cooperates with Western countries.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Uzbekistan temporarily hosted military bases for the Washington-led coalition in Afghanistan.
In late August 2021, the United States completed withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in a chaotic operation.
Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan during the eighties. Russia still classifies the Taliban, who first ruled Afghanistan from the mid-nineties until the US invasion in 2001, as a "terrorist" organization, but has kept in touch with them since returning to power in Kabul from 2021.