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The West has fled from Afghanistan. Should Russia return there?

Local children do not spend hours on computers and smartphones.  The vast majority of parents simply do not have money for such equipment.  And the games here are specific: instead of Cossack robbers, teenagers play Mujahideen and Yankees.

Local children do not spend hours on computers and smartphones. The vast majority of parents simply do not have money for such equipment. And the games here are specific: instead of Cossack robbers, teenagers play Mujahideen and Yankees.

A photo: REUTERS

In August last year, the evacuation of the international coalition forces from Afghanistan announced by Joe Biden entered a decisive stage. It ended with the reckless flight of the Americans from Kabul and the return to power of the Taliban, whom the Westerners have not been able to defeat in 20 years of their presence in the country.

“That’s it, the last one flew away! I can’t express my happiness in words!” – a representative of the Taliban (an organization banned in the Russian Federation) rejoiced on live radio, telling how American military aircraft, plastered with abandoned Afghan supporters, soared into the sky over the Kabul airport.

A year has passed. The topic of Afghanistan has almost disappeared from the reports of news agencies. Very little is known about what is going on there. But the country, with which the interests of the main world powers have been connected in one way or another for the last four decades, can still have an unpredictable and unexpected influence on the situation in the vast region, including Russia, the former Central Asian republics of the USSR and many states of Eurasia.

THE MINISTRY OF VIRTUE RULES

In Afghanistan itself, going back 20 years was perceived differently.

– The majority of the population reacted to the new arrival of the Taliban either indifferently or with hope for changes for the better. For people, the departure of the Americans and NATO members, the flight of the corrupt pro-Western regime of Ashraf Ghani was important. It is no coincidence that the army and other power structures of Afghanistan did not resist the militants, as they understood the general mood of their fellow tribesmen, Stanislav Ivanov, a leading researcher at the Center for International Security at IMEMO RAS, believes. – The Afghans most closely associated with the former regime and representatives of the US administration preferred to emigrate, the rest are trying to adapt to new conditions. Of course, not everyone likes the new wave of Islamization of society, although the Taliban are trying to take into account their past negative experience and avoid extremes.

But obscurantism still breaks through again on the soil fertilized by radical Islam for centuries. Strict observance of Sharia law is monitored by a specially created Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Here are just a few of the restrictions introduced over the past year:

– girls can attend school only up to the sixth grade;

– women are allowed to move only in a hijab and accompanied by a man;

– you can not turn on the music in the car;

– the traditional spring holiday Navruz is prohibited;

– for male employees, the beard must be of a certain length, it is measured with a ruler – if the norm is not met, the person is expelled from work.

THE JIHADIST THREAT

Perhaps all this annoys someone, but so far the regime feels calm. However, even here there are pitfalls.

– The people of the Taliban support, – says Boris Dolgov, a leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. – But the fact is that they are heterogeneous – there are moderate figures, however, there are also enough radicals. The socio-economic situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, and it is possible that these two wings will blame each other and clash with each other, dragging the masses into civil strife. Another option is also possible – the organization of expansion into neighboring post-Soviet countries in order to distract their own population from failures in domestic policy.

– This is unlikely, – objected Stanislav Ivanov. – The Taliban is a purely Afghan movement, and its leaders have repeatedly stressed that their goals and objectives are limited to the territory of Afghanistan. In the country itself, new conflicts cannot be ruled out, but a civil war will not break out in the near future. Individual leaders and field commanders remain, as it were, in opposition and express their dissatisfaction with the dominance of the Taliban in the central government and law enforcement agencies, but so far they have not succeeded in putting together a broad anti-Taliban front.

This may be true, but there is a much more serious danger. Now there are about twenty international terrorist groups hostile to the Taliban in the country, the largest of which is the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (banned in Russia). According to Zamir Kabulov, the special envoy of the Russian President for Afghanistan, the number of ISIS militants has grown from 2,000 to 6,000 over the past year.

– Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (also banned in the Russian Federation. – Ed.), Other radicals also operate there. These jihadist fighters not only threaten the regime, but can also infiltrate the borders of neighboring states and commit crimes on their territories, explains Stanislav Ivanov. – A lot will depend on the ability of the new Afghan authorities to clear the country of these terrorists, and at the same time reduce the volume of drug trafficking.

BUT THEY FIGHT DRUGS

Afghanistan during the stay of the Americans and their allies became the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin. The poison, which brings huge profits to drug dealers, not only goes abroad (in particular, to Russia), but also found a huge number of victims among the Afghans themselves, which was previously unthinkable in the country of radical Islam. Now, according to the UN, there are about 3 million drug addicts in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, having come to power, zealously began to eradicate opium poppy plantations and returned the death penalty for the producers of the potion. Drug addicts themselves are also treated like criminals. Every night in Kabul, the police conduct raids on the green areas, catch dozens of people who like to “spread”, they are immediately brutally beaten and sent to “hospitals”, which are actually ordinary prisons. There, drug addicts are shaved bald and locked in a barracks for a month and a half. They are given primitive food and water, but the prisoners do not receive any medicine. Actually, this is the method of “treatment” – by weaning from drug addiction. Naturally, many stays in such a “hospital” do not stand up and die.

But neither the authorities nor the majority of the population are embarrassed by this. “We have broader goals in the fight against drugs. This is just the beginning. Later we will deal with dekhans who, despite the ban, grow poppies. We will punish them in accordance with Sharia law,” senior Taliban police patrol officer Kari Ghafoor threatened.

If the Taliban really manage to stifle drug trafficking from Afghanistan, then this, whatever one may say, will be a plus for them and will be very positively perceived by the world community.

TREASURE WORTH 3 TRILLION

“After everything that the West has done on Afghan soil, it simply has no right to continue playing its geopolitical games there,” Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, said at recent multilateral consultations on Afghan issues in Dushanbe. Nevertheless, a year after its shameful “exodus” from the country, the United States (by the way, still holding the assets of Afghanistan under arrest) quietly began to sell various economic projects to Kabul.

– They are attracted by rich deposits of mineral resources. Some experts estimate the cost of minerals in Afghanistan at 3 trillion dollars, emphasizes Stanislav Ivanov. – Especially the Americans will covet

strategic raw material – lithium. The Pentagon report, in particular, states that Afghanistan in the future could turn from the poorest country into “lithium Saudi Arabia.”

Well, what about Russia? Yes, we fought in Afghanistan, but no one helped the Afghans more than the USSR. Can old traditions be revived?

– Judging by the statements of the Taliban leaders, they are ready to develop cooperation with us, – points out Stanislav Ivanov. – It is no coincidence that representatives of Afghanistan took an active part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and a delegation of Russian businessmen visited Kabul. The Afghans do not hide their interest in deliveries of gas, oil, grain and other goods from the Russian Federation. The issue of transit of our products through the Afghan territory to India and Pakistan is being discussed.

WHAT TO DO?

Moscow should not wait

Now no one can say how the situation in Afghanistan will develop further. Therefore, Moscow’s position is twofold. Officially, Russia does not recognize the power of the Taliban government, believing that it should provide broader rights to the people. “There is no talk of this at the moment. It is useless to make any forecasts,” said Dmitry Peskov, the presidential press secretary. At the same time, the Russian side allows maintaining contacts with the Kabul regime. In March, the Foreign Ministry accredited a Taliban diplomat to Moscow.

– Afghanistan is going through a difficult moment in history. The West has failed in its mission of imposing the American model of democracy there. We can again take on the role of Kabul’s leading partner, it’s not worth waiting, Boris Dolgov believes. – We should focus on ties with the moderate Taliban, who are more open to cooperation with the outside world than the radicals. Private business will not rush to do business with Afghanistan – it is not known what and when the return will be. Therefore, the initiative should be taken by large Russian state corporations, in particular, those involved in the development of subsoil resources. But we must not forget about the terrorist threat that continues to emanate from our southern neighbor. It is necessary to strengthen ties in the CSTO, keep the gunpowder dry in case the local jihadists try to “rock” the post-Soviet states of Central Asia.

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