Chechens and Taliban, the new post-Kabul balance
by Vladimir Rozanskij

As with ISIS there is a considerable post-Soviet diaspora among the Afghan guerrillas. The problems of ties between the Taliban and the galaxy of jihadist movements in the Caucasus and Central Asia.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - In Russia and throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia everyone is waiting to see the evolution of the new Taliban government, installed in Kabul. Many believe the Russian government's attempts to maintain good relations with the new masters of Afghanistan will legitimise the jihad and radical Islam among the youth of these countries.

Others, instead, maintain that the consequences of the events in Afghanistan will fail to undermine the solidity of the Russian-Asian Muslim Umma, and the Taliban itself may distance itself from its more radical allies. In an interview with Rossijskaja Gazeta on August 18, the Russian ambassador in Kabul, Dmitrij Zirnov, claimed  that "with the Taliban we are already better off than in the past days, and not a single shot can be heard".

President of the Moscow-based European Analytical Club Nikita Mendkovič, an expert on Central Asian economics and the fight against international terrorism, gave an interview to Kavkaz.Realii, pondering how far the consensus that the Taliban enjoys inside and outside Afghanistan goes. He says: "They have a certain support, otherwise they would not have put together an army of 100 thousand people, but it is difficult to say which side the majority of the Afghan people is on. Many have accepted them only out of distrust of Ashraf Ghani's government."

The Taliban are members of a nationalist movement with a religious ideology, coming out of schools where the youth cadres of the so-called mujaheddin were prepared, fighting against the communist regime of Najbullah and its Soviet sponsors (which according to the Russians today would have resisted the attacks of the Taliban "at least three more years").

Combining the nationalism of ethnic Pashtuns, the idea of a united Afghanistan and radical Islam, they began a war of national unification, waged with rare violence and ferocity. The problem, according to Mendkovič, is that "the old mujahideen had already held important government roles, while the current Taliban are an unknown in this regard."

A key question concerns the Taliban's relationship with al-Qaeda and other extremist movements. There are a number of groups active in Afghanistan, such as Jamaat Ansarrulah, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Tekhrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Imam Bukhar's commando and others, all banned in surrounding countries and very interested in relaunching themselves in the new Taliban Afghanistan. If it does not want to lose the international funding aimed at a "legal" economy and peace, the new government will have to cut its ties with these movements.

Many Russian sources also speak of a great activism together with the Taliban of the exiles from the North Caucasus, especially from Chechnya, therefore originating in the Russian Federation. According to Mendkovič, "these are extremists who could not realize their plans in their homeland, and sought their fortune elsewhere." The advisor to the president of Chechnya for religious affairs, Adam Šakhirov, has also declared on Instagram that "maturidity-khanafity (Chechens close to the Taliban) are great guys".

They are a sizable post-Soviet diaspora who have militated in the ranks of Isis, bringing knowledge and experience far superior to that of young Arab militants, thus achieving leadership roles in the armies of terrorism. In Syria, Chechens were the instructors, as they were also for the Taliban, and now it is not known what role they will play in the new scenario.

Mendkovič does not believe that the radical Taliban will be able to significantly attract the Muslim community in Russia, "no more than the Mormons in Utah attract other Christian communities around the world." If anything, the radicalization of Muslims from the Caucasus or the Oltrevolga may occur behind the impetus of social discontent, which is increasing due to the various dimensions of the economic crisis in Russia and countries in the area.

Will Russia recognize the Afghan regime? As another Central Asian expert, Arkadij Dubnov, suggests, "For now it cannot recognize a regime formed by a movement prohibited by its own legislation, as terrorist." The question is whether to recognize Taliban Afghanistan unilaterally, or together with the international community, depending on what is most convenient.

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