Putin ready to help Tajiks against the Taliban
Islamist guerrillas control the Tajik-Afghan border. Russian troops will not replace US and NATO troops withdrawing from Afghanistan. Afghan soldiers hosted and protected in Tajik territory: they were fleeing a massive attack by Taliban forces.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russia is ready to help Tajikistan against the Afghan Taliban, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Tajik colleague Emomali Rakhmon yesterday in a telephone conversation. The Kremlin offered its support in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which in addition to the Russian Federation includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan itself.
Moscow describes the situation of armed clashes in the regions bordering Afghanistan is "rather complicated". On July 5, Tajik border guards let 1,037 Afghan soldiers into their territory as they retreated in the face of a Taliban attack. Islamist guerrillas opened hostilities in Khokhon, Shikay, Nusay, Mokhimay, Shugnan and Sulton Ishkashym, in the Afghan province of Badakhshan.
In Russia, the Taliban is considered a terrorist organisation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already appealed to the Csto agreements to justify Moscow's interest in the Afghan issue. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has ruled out sending Russian troops to Afghanistan to replace those withdrawn by the US and NATO.
The bulk of Washington's forces on Afghan soil left the Bagram air base on July 2, now handed over to the authorities in Kabul. During the 1979-1989 invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet army had turned the military facility into its main command centre. The complete withdrawal of US soldiers is scheduled for 11 September, the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York.
The Tajik news agency Khovar explained the reception of the fleeing Afghan soldiers as "an expression of the principle of good neighbourliness, respecting the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Afghanistan". The common border between the two countries is now in the hands of the Taliban; in the Afghan province of Badakhshan it stretches for 910 kilometres, out of a total of 1,400 kilometres of border.
The Tajik military guarding the border do not rule out further arrivals of Afghan soldiers, who are already more numerous than the official figures. In an attempt to keep the situation under control, Rakhmon is in constant telephone contact with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani.
In statements to the local press, the Afghan soldiers thanked the Tajiks for saving their lives. "We were forced to flee because we were betrayed by the popular militias, who were supposed to support us in the fight with the Taliban. Our government gave them weapons and supplies, but at the last moment, the militia made an agreement with the Taliban, and we did not have enough forces to fight back," Muhammadzohir Valadi Safarali, one of the Afghan officers who fled, told Radio Ozodiche.
Another soldier from Kabul, Muhammadvali, confirmed that 'fighting with the Taliban, who have more than three times our strength, would have been suicide'. He thanked the Tajiks for providing food and a place to sleep. The fate of these soldiers now depends on the will of the Ghani government, depending on agreements with Dushanbe.