08/17/2021, 11.17
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Moscow and the Taliban: Revenged of Washington and anxious over Central Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Russia's Ambassador in Kabul, Zhirnov: "The impression of the first day is good." Putin spoke on the phone with the president of Uzbekistan. Concern over repercussions on former Soviet republics of the "redefinition of the Islamic fundamentalism".

Moscow (AsiaNews) -  In the aftermath of the conquest of Kabul by the Taliban and the proclamation of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, all countries are scrambling to reassert their positions towards an old and new state at the same time. Russia had for some time already established fruitful relations with the representatives of the movement, which even in Moscow is defined as a "terrorist organization".

Russian diplomats have only partially left the Afghan capital, as announced in a note from the Moscow Foreign Ministry, having received guarantees for their safety from the Taliban. For now, the Russian government waits to recognize the new government of the Taliban: "everything in its own time", reads the note of the ministry, which in case of non-compliance with the agreements is ready to implement "plan B, which we keep in mind and in our hearts".

The Russian embassy in Kabul has been surrounded and "taken into custody" by the Taliban, as communicated to Ekho Moskvy by diplomat Zamir Kabulov, who also stated that he "does not fear that Afghanistan will become the new Isis." In the evening from Kabul it was the Russian ambassador Dmitrij Zhirnov who spoke: "I do not pretend to draw conclusions at the moment. I just assess the first day of Taliban control in Kabul: the impression is good. I think there is a good chance for cooperation in the government of various political forces, because the Taliban needs support from everyone." Zhirnov also stressed the importance of humanitarian aid for all Afghans, assuring that this will be Russia's priority in Afghanistan these days.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with the President of Uzbekistan, Šavkat Mirziyoyev, to assess "according to the circumstances" the development of the situation in Afghanistan. According to some, the now ex-Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has taken refuge in Tashkent, even though Radio Ozodi states that he is currently in Dushanbe in Tajikistan, waiting to go to another country (according to other sources, Oman). However, the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the information, as has Kazakhstan. One of the leaders of the Afghan army, Marshal Abdul-Rashid Dustum, has returned to his original homeland of Uzbekistan, along with about a hundred officers; about 150 officers and soldiers have repaired to Tajikistan.

One of the few Russian politicians to comment on the events was the deputy speaker of the Federation Council (the Russian Senate), Konstantin Kosačev, who intervened with an article in Rossiiskaja Gazeta. He recalls the promises made by the Taliban to Moscow on July 8, declaring that they would not threaten the neighboring countries, but stresses that "in Afghanistan there are many groups and small groups, some of which have come from the former Soviet territories, which put all the Central Asian territories in turmoil.

However, according to Kosačev, a "redefinition of the Islamic fundamentalist brand" is to be expected, reuniting under the Taliban flag the variants of Isis and Al-Qaeda, with which relations have never been interrupted, also for family reasons. It is necessary "a joint diplomatic effort of all the powers involved, of Russia together with China, India and Pakistan", but also the strengthening of the border defenses around Afghanistan.

Many Russian comments underline the mistakes made by the Americans and their allies in these twenty years, which would be the causes of the Islamic restoration in Kabul, which crumbles the hopes of a peaceful "Greater Central Asia". On Meduza Andrej Serenko, expert of the Research Center on Contemporary Afghanistan, writes that in order to stifle any attempt of revenge on the Afghan territory, it would have been necessary to put serious pressure on Pakistan, with economic sanctions and others, since it is from the training camps of the neighboring country that the Taliban forces come from. Serenko defines the Taliban as "a hybrid section of the Pakistani army", which would be the real winner of the assault of the past few days. The Americans would have preferred to surrender Afghanistan, in order not to go against a nation of 200 million people like Pakistan, which also holds a nuclear arsenal.

A representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, explicitly stated that "the tragedy of Afghanistan is the result of Washington's experiments, and now the whole world is forced to watch helplessly". In reality, Russia does not yet know how to deal with the Taliban, but the sense of revenge against the Americans makes their conquest of Kabul much less unpleasant.

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