Russia, China and Central Asian nations prepare for Taliban victory
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The threat is the focus of the SCO summit being held today and tomorrow. Afghan refugees are taking refuge in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan after the start of the US withdrawal. The Afghan president promises to defeat the Taliban militias. Moscow is batting for both teams and is also negotiating with Islamist guerrillas.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - China, Russia and the other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) are meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe to tackle the problem of the Taliban advance in Afghanistan. The two-day summit opens today; the participants held a preliminary summit on 14 July.

Afghanistan borders four of the six countries of the Organisation (SCO) and involves the entire Central Asian region. After clashes in recent days between government forces and Taliban militia, and the flight of Afghan soldiers across the borders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Afghan civilian and military refugees are also fleeing to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Bloomberg reports that after their withdrawal on 2 July from the Bagram base, the US approached the Central Asian governments with a request to take in tens of thousands of Afghans: essentially all those who were collaborating with Washington and NATO forces. If the Taliban conquer Kabul, all Western collaborators risk their lives. Kazakhstan has denied having adhered to this proposal, which has caused a great stir in the country.

The SCO meeting is also attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar. Afghanistan is a candidate to join the organisation led by Beijing and Moscow; after 31 August, when the US withdrawal draws to a close, the reality on the ground could be very different. Despite reports of the Taliban's continued advance, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has tried to reassure his partners that he is in control of the situation. Ghani believes, 'the Taliban will not need 100 years to achieve victory'.

The Islamist guerrillas have been clear that their conquest of Kabul is only a matter of time. Their political representative, Mohammad Sohail Shakhin, issued a declaration, mostly directed to the States of the SCO, stating that the Taliban will not allow foreign forces to use the Afghan territory as a base to strike other Countries: "We have committed ourselves not to welcome either single persons or groups hostile to any other neighbouring Country, including China. We will not allow recruitment campaigns or training or fundraising for any of these groups to take place in Afghanistan".

The mention of China is not accidental, given Beijing's great concern about the involvement of Uyghur separatists in the conflict, organised into autonomous militias ready to work for the highest bidder, either against or together with the Taliban. The latter are trying to accredit themselves as a national political force, not interested in broader geopolitical games.

The Taliban ideology is based on a radical interpretation of Islam, close to that of Pashtun nationalism, whose original territories are also those that have given most impetus to the fundamentalist movement. However, the clashes in recent days have mainly affected the northern territories, where the inhabitants are of a different ethnic group from the Pashtun: mostly Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

Russia has tried to explain the contacts it has had in recent days with Taliban representatives, with whom Moscow had established relations seven years ago, by insisting on the need to establish forms of dialogue with all parties in the Afghan conflict. Since the Russians have not had direct clashes with the Taliban in the past, it is now possible to talk to them, as Putin's special representative in Kabul, Zamir Kabulov, explained. "We had foreseen this situation, which is why we had made contact with the Taliban in 2014. We are talking about tactical moves," Kabulov told Ria Novosti.

The Russians maintain that the US bases were not "strategically" designed to contain the Taliban, but rather to control Central Asia and countries such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China. This is why the Kremlin wanted to remain neutral, and today intends to take advantage of this position to avoid the catastrophic outcomes of the conflict.