Taliban in power: Moscow prepares for war in Afghanistan
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Special military exercises organised in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Russians have several bases in the region. The Kremlin's ties with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Afghan extremists likened to Ukrainian anarchists of the 1917-1921 period.

 

 


Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russia is preparing new military exercises in Central Asia to be ready for possible conflicts after the Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan. At the beginning of September, a number of maneuvers will be carried out in Kyrgyzstan by contingents of the "Collective Forces for Rapid Deployment" (Ksbr). This is a military coordination group created in 2001 between the countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (Csto), founded in 1992 by the Russians and some former Soviet nations.

Called "Border 2021", the maneuvers had been planned for some time, but given the turn of events in Central Asia, the goals have been recalibrated to take account of developments in Afghanistan. Military experts fear that a new Afghan civil war will begin, similar to the one that pitted the Taliban against the Northern Alliance nearly 30 years ago. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Šojgu places emphasis on the huge arsenal remaining in Taliban hands, and does not rule out instability spreading to neighboring states.

The Kremlin has mobilized over 400 soldiers from its mountain troops, mostly transferred from the Tuva Republic in Siberia: these are the units considered most suitable to face possible Afghan conflicts.

The Kyrgyz maneuvers follow two other similar initiatives in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, other states where there are several Russian military bases. Šojgu specified that all these facilities "will be used to defend the borders of the Csto countries in case of aggression from Afghanistan". Tajikistan's "Base 201" has been supplied with new "Verba" portable surface-to-air missiles and other state-of-the-art weapons, together with 60 armored vehicles, which will remain in Kyrgyzstan after the end of the exercises.

Tajikistan is the only country in the Csto that borders Afghanistan, with which it also shares a part of the same ethnic composition, but in post-Soviet history it has already happened that rebels and terrorists have poured into Kyrgyzstan through the mountains, and from there into other Central Asian countries. The internal conflict has already somehow started in Panjshir, a small province close to the mountains that wind their way to Tajikistan and Pakistan. Militias of opponents to the Taliban are gathered in the narrow valley. They are led by former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh and commanded by Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the leaders of the Northern Alliance killed by the Taliban in 2001.

Before the arrival of the USA in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance was supported by Russia, together with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Massoud has announced that he is now flanked by Abdul Rashid Dostum. Of Uzbek origin, he is a historic "warlord" and former Afghan vice-president, now a refugee in Uzbekistan. If a political solution is not found that guarantees ethnic minorities, the Uzbeks will also take up arms against the Taliban.

Russian-Uzbek Colonel Šamil Gareev, who participated 20 years ago in organizing support for the Northern Alliance, believes that inter-ethnic conflict in Afghanistan is possible only if the most radical members of the Taliban prevail, as he told Nezavisimaja Gazeta on August 29. He compared the Taliban "to the army of batka Makhno," an anarchist group of peasants in southern Ukraine who attempted to seize power between 1917 and 1921 during the Austrian occupation and also fought against the Soviets. For the Russians, it is an almost anecdotal example of disorganized militarism to indicate the general chaos that might emerge with Taliban rule.

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