Russia set to ship aid to Afghanistan, eyes next round of talks

Russia will deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in the coming days, a senior Russian official said on Monday, as regional powers prepare to discuss the crisis in the country at a new round of talks next month.

The comments by Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's special representative on Afghanistan, came days after Russia hosted the Taliban for international talks that called for a UN-sponsored donor conference to support the country.

"On the president's orders, another humanitarian operation is being prepared to provide emergency assistance to the Afghan people," Kabulov told a news conference. "I cannot announce an exact date (for the deliveries)... but I think this will happen in the next few days."

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August has prompted donors to hold back billions of dollars in assistance for the aid-dependent country. The UN food agency is warning that millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken.

Moscow is keen to boost its influence in Afghanistan after the United States pulled out troops, but worried that instability there could spill over to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, a zone of strategic importance to Russia.

Kabulov said Pakistan hoped to hold a meeting of the "extended troika" on Afghanistan -- which includes Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan -- in Islamabad in the second half of November. He added he expected the United States, absent from the talks in Moscow, to attend this time.