Top US military officials from the United States and Russia held six-hour talks in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday, the first one-on-one meeting between them since 2019, as the two countries adjust to a US pullout and Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Huh. .
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, usually do not disclose the details of their discussions, and statements from both sides were minimal.
A US military statement, which included details on the length of the meeting but not the agenda, said the talks were aimed at “risk reduction and operational de-conflict”.
Russia’s RIA news agency said the talks were aimed at discussing risk mitigation.
The United States and Russia often have competing military interests around the world, including in countries such as Syria, where the US and Russian military have worked closely. How Washington and Moscow take the next steps in Afghanistan remains to be seen.
The US military is under pressure from Congress to devise a counter-terrorism strategy to address the risks from Afghanistan following the US withdrawal in August and the takeover of the Taliban.
President Joe Biden’s administration has said it will rely on “over-the-horizon” operations that could attack groups such as al-Qaeda or Islamic State in Afghanistan if they threaten the United States.
But, with no troops on the ground, Washington’s ability to locate and intercept the plots remains unclear. After 20 years of war, US military officials have also taken a dim view of the Taliban and its ties with al-Qaeda.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow needs to work with the Taliban government and that world powers should consider stabilizing Afghanistan’s assets.