Russia to Send Taliban Fuels in Return for Access to Natural Resources

Russia joins Iran to formally establish commercial ties with the Taliban under a preliminary agreement signed last week. Taliban has been struggling to ease Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian crisis as its rule over the country remains unrecognized by the world. Taliban will get 1 million tons of gasoline, 1 million tons of diesel fuel, 500,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas, and 2 million tons of wheat a year, according to Taliban Commerce and Industry Minister Azizi.

While it is unclear what Russia would get in exchange from its poor partner, agricultural products and future prospects of access to Afghanistan’s natural resources could be on the cards.

The Taliban is cut off from the global financial system, mush like Russia. While it says the payments will be made in Russian roubles, it is considered unlikely as the country is having difficulty obtaining any foreign currency. Therefore it could be an informal agreement, in which Russia will supply oil and gas and Taliban will supply whatever it can in return.

Russia, like the rest of the international community, still does not recognize the Taliban government and officially considers the group as a terrorist organization. But Moscow on multiple occasions hosted Taliban officials amid peace talk efforts prior to the group’s forcible takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

Since the takeover, Moscow has kept its embassy in Kabul open and appointed a special representative to Afghanistan. Putin has said that Russia would take steps toward removing the Taliban from its terrorism list and instructed the country’s media to stop identifying the group as such.

The new deal was signed after weeks of discussions in Moscow following a visit last month by Azizi. Moscow’s special representative for Afghanistan confirmed that the sides agreed on a preliminary deal.

Azizi said that they would be receiving the commodities at a discount, and the fuel supplies will reportedly be delivered by road via Central Asia.

Azizi also said Afghanistan had received gas and oil from Turkmenistan and Iran. Prior to the Taliban takeover, Turkmenistan was the leading supplier of gasoline to Afghanistan.

To date, the export of and custom duties from coal have been a key source of revenue for the Taliban. Much of the coal has been trucked to neighboring Pakistan.

A potential trade chip for Taliban could be the country’s untapped mineral resources. Afghanistan holds vast mineral resources, including copper, iron, gold, lithium, cobalt and a host of rare-earth minerals. It is estimated that the country’s mineral wealth is worth between $900 billion and $3 trillion.

Other than Russia; China and India have also been interested in tapping Afghanistan’s potential. Taliban has been pursuing the resumption of China’s Aynak copper mine project, while also negotiating the mining of lithium and cobalt.

Afghanistan is also believed to have reserves of oil and natural gas.

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