MOSCOW, September 22 (Reuters) – U.S. and Russian top forces held six-hour talks in Helsinki on Wednesday, the first face-to-face meeting since 2019 as both countries adjust to the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban conquer Afghanistan.
General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Staff of Russia Valery Gerasimov, typically did not disclose the details of his discussions, and statements by both parties were limited.
A statement from the U.S. military, which included details of the duration of the meeting but not the agenda, said the purpose of the talks was “risk reduction and operational conflict.”
Russia’s RIA news agency said the talks were intended for discussions on risk reduction.
The United States and Russia often have competing military interests around the world, including in countries like Syria, where U.S. and Russian forces have operated close. It remains to be seen how Washington and Moscow will proceed in the next stages in Afghanistan.
Congress is pressuring the U.S. military to strengthen its counter-terrorism strategy to address the risks posed by Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban coup in August.
President Joe Biden’s government has said it will rely on “over the horizon” operations that could strike groups like Afghanistan’s al-Qaeda or an Islamic state if they threaten the United States.
But without troops in the country, Washington’s ability to detect and stop plots is unclear. After 20 years of war, U.S. military officials are also vague about the Taliban and notice its ties to al-Qaeda.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow must work with the Taliban government and that world powers should consider freezing Afghan funds.
Reporting by Phil Stewart and Maxim Rodionov; Screenplay: Phil Stewart and Olzhas Auyezov; Editing: Kevin Liffey and Grant McCool
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