Russia won't leave its allies in Central Asia out in the cold / News / News agency Inforos
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Russia won't leave its allies in Central Asia out in the cold

Moscow is ready to support the countries in the region amid the sticky situation in Afghanistan

Russia won't leave its allies in Central Asia out in the cold

On July 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed a press conference following his talks with Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith and said that despite the rapidly deteriorating Afghan situation, Moscow would allow of no bellicose moves against its allies. He also noted that US and NATO troops have been deployed in the republic for decades but they "have not achieved any visible results in terms of stabilization".

According to Lavrov, representatives of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretariat are monitoring the situation in Afghanistan, while Moscow is ready to engage its military base at the Tajik-Afghan border. The Minister recalled that the other day, Russian President Vladimir Putin had talks with his counterparts from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Emomali Rahmon and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and he also maintains contact with other Central Asian leaders. In light of the Russian leader's latest conversations, one must assume that Moscow will have the back of not only Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but of other Central Asian countries as well, particularly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that are CSTO members.

The Kremlin also commented on what is happening in the DRA. "After the withdrawal of the Americans and their allies from Afghanistan, the development of the situation in this country is a matter of our heightened concern," Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov said recently. At the same time, he stressed that Moscow was not going to introduce a military contingent into the DRA and did not discuss the issue with local authorities. According to the media, Russia will provide the necessary financial aid and engineering support primarily to Tajikistan both on a bilateral basis and under the CSTO, to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan border.

Truth be told, the Afghan situation itself is becoming increasingly tense with every passing day. Earlier, US President Joe Biden said American troops would leave the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan by September 11. As evidenced by the recent developments, this will most likely happen until the end of August. Thus, July 1 saw the Americans urgently leave the Bagram Airfield being the heart of US missions, and hand over control of the air base to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Washington's NATO allies are also hastily leaving Afghanistan.

Be it noted, the withdrawal of troops with the international coalition is accompanied by a powerful offensive on the part of Taliban militants (a terrorist organization banned in Russia – ed. note) in the north of the country, i.e. at the border with the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia. According to the Afghan Tolo News TV channel, the fighting caused traffic diversion on the road and rail Friendship Bridge connecting across the Amu-Darya River the cities of Hairaton (Afghanistan) and Termez (Uzbekistan). The situation is even worse at the border with Tajikistan. On July 3, another group of Afghan soldiers retreated to Tajik territories after a battle with the Taliban; the largest accounted for over 300 people. In total, the number of DRA soldiers to have crossed the border exceeds one thousand people. If the Taliban occupy the entire northern border areas of the country, not only Afghan servicemen and refugee flows, but also radical Islamists may start pouring into the southern CIS states, which will become a blow to both the Central Asian countries and Russia.

By the way, experts believe that the most dangerous thing for our country is not the unlikely direct armed aggression by illegal armed groups, but an Islamist penetration and subversive terrorist activities in the border territories of Central Asian countries. Moreover, the main purpose of such moves by the Taliban may be recruitment among residents of the southern CIS countries, terrorist sabotage against vital infrastructure, as well as intimidation of people and authorities, fraught with destabilization, credibility erosion of the Central Asian states' leadership and a humanitarian catastrophe.

The American FDD's Long War Journal portal has recently reported that the Taliban now controls almost all the counties in the provinces next to the Turkmen, Uzbek and Tajik borders. This is a far cry from the early 2000s, when the north-east of the country was a kind of stronghold for the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. In general, the Taliban already control 188 counties across Afghanistan and are fighting for another 135, while the number of those overseen by the Kabul government is 70.

It is worth noting here that mass motion of the Afghans and Taliban militants to the country's north may be looked upon as a kind of hybrid war aimed to create hotbeds of tension in the south of the CIS and Russia. At the same time, the United States does not abandon its intentions to strengthen itself again in the Central Asian countries, as it was before. An indirect indicator of such a scheme is media information that the Pentagon intends to allocate up to $240 million for new military facilities in 20 countries, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Washington is already doing work in that direction. For instance, recent reports by Bloomberg and Reuters say that the Americans have asked Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to temporarily accept about 9 thousand Afghans who did play catch with NATO and who might face danger coming from the Taliban. In its turn, CNN reports that Washington's plans stipulate a resettlement of some 18 thousand Afghans who worked for the United States and its allies to these countries, which will amount to almost 50 thousand people, if we count their families.

It is still unclear what will happen in Afghanistan itself after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces. Some experts tend to believe that the Taliban's coming to power is highly questionable, since they do not have sufficient resources to hold the occupied territories and simultaneously proceed with the offensive. For the time being, much is believed to depend on the government of President Ashraf Ghani: if it agrees to form a coalition government, the Taliban will eventually sit down to talk. At last check, such negotiations are already underway, although not overpublicized.

Most analysts do not see an alternative to negotiations whatever the case, even if we accept the seizure of power in Kabul as an option, since the frontlash to the Taliban offensive is quite strong inside the country. And this is about both government performance and pushback in the Afghan society itself, namely among the political elite who don't belong to those in power.

A number of analysts believe that in its quest for international recognition, the Taliban movement faces the task of establishing normal relations with neighboring countries, for which reason stirring the pot would be counterproductive. East is East, however. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict the way things will keep developing in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

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