MOSCOW - International terrorism is a force that causes security in Afghanistan to deteriorate and should not be written off, as was the case in Syria four years ago, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council has warned.

Afghanistan has been gripped by a decades-long war. Today its internationally-recognized government controls only a portion of land, with the rest infested by the Taliban and Islamic State, a terror group that gained prominence in Syria and Iraq in 2014 (both banned in Russia).

REPEAT OF SYRIAN SCENARIO

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who attended Wednesday consultations on Afghan peace in Iran’s Tehran together with counterparts from Afghanistan, Iran, India and China, cautioned about a repeat of the Syrian scenario in the war-torn Central Asian country.

Patrushev said national security chiefs had “the same or similar views of international terrorist activities in Afghanistan.” He said the IS had not been considered a serious threat when it emerged in Syria and Iraq four years ago.

“Militants have leashed a full-scale terrorist war against authorities and civilian population. This year has already broken the record of bloody terror attacks, with thousands of Afghan civilians killed,” he said.

A UN Security Council meeting on September 18 confirmed a hike in violence in Afghanistan, with rising IS insurgency in the country’s north risking a spillover across the border.

RISE IN TALIBAN VIOLENCE

Patrushev said clashes were reported almost daily across Afghanistan, with police, military, national security officers and civilians being killed indiscriminately.

He pointed to a rise in Taliban might, which is estimated to have a 60,000-strong presence in the country. The Russian official cited a report by the General Staff of the Afghan National Army that put Taliban presence in border areas alone at 15,000 fighters. “It is necessary to note the increased military potential of the Taliban, particularly, its ability to stage massive and well-prepared attacks on administrative centers of the Afghan provinces,” he added.

DIPLOMACY AND COOPERATION

Only internationally-backed nationwide political process can yield a lasting peace in Afghanistan, the Russian official emphasized, adding there was no military solution.

“Taliban’s gains are a sign that forcing the traditional Afghan opposition to talks is not a way forward … One can surely say that this is happening despite more than 17-year-long US presence in Afghanistan,” Patrushev said.

He reaffirmed Russia’s readiness to step up police cooperation with Afghanistan in the fight against drug smuggling and international terrorism. “We are interested in a continued cooperation. We are ready to conduct a dialogue in all kinds of formats,” Patrushev said.

MOSCOW TALKS

Last year Russia created a Moscow-based mechanism for Afghan security talks based on a consultation group of special envoys from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran, and India. Russia repeatedly said it wanted to see the United States at the negotiating table.

A meeting in Moscow was set for September 4, 2018 but was called off at Kabul’s request. The Russian Foreign Ministry is in talks with Afghan diplomats on a new date and modality of the future gathering. Shabaz Naseri, the chairman of the defense and security committee in Afghan parliament, told Sputnik earlier the decision to postpone Kabul’s participation in the talks was made under pressure from Washington.

Gross miscalculations by US

NATO’s “erroneous” strikes in Afghanistan are the result of gross miscalculations by the US leadership and the White House’s stake on military solutions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

“The increasing number of civilian deaths as a result of coalition forces’ air strikes in Afghanistan cause serious concern. Three such incidents were registered in the past week alone,” the ministry said.

“We consider the situation the result of gross miscalculations by the US leadership in Afghanistan and the erroneous stake of the White House on the military solution to problems in that country. We are calling on Washington to reconsider its short-sighted policy in favor of diplomatic efforts to launch an intra-Afghan dialogue. We demand that those guilty of criminal acts against civilians be held accountable,” it said.