By Gatis Krūms*
I believe the Americans made a slight mistake by leaving Afghanistan in the hands of destiny, the Taliban and the corrupt Afghan democracy. Countless people will suffer, particularly the young generation that was brought up during the last twenty years. It’s also immensely saddening to think about the grim future of Afghan women and young girls
Each day, the media is overflowing with news articles about what is happening in Afghanistan, albeit all of the articles are quite controversial. And, naturally, Russian propaganda isn’t sleeping as well. According to Russian propaganda, the Kremlin has taken the side of the Taliban and is even intending to ask the UN to lift the sanctions imposed against these radicals. The Kremlin could lead the way by proclaiming the Taliban a legal organization in Russia. Seeing how Sergey Lavrov flirts with them in Doha and Moscow, there are no doubts that Russia convinced the Taliban to hunt NATO soldiers in Afghanistan in exchange for Russian rubles and weapons.
Additionally, what I understand from the Kremlin’s propaganda media outlets, the brainwashed Russian people and others who are somewhat familiar with the Russian language are being prepared for the Kremlin’s forces entering the devastated region in order to “fix” the situation. And this means not only Tajikistan, but also Afghanistan.
This could be another Russian peacekeeper parody, like the one we currently see in Nagorno-Karabakh. But these might as well be Prigozhin’s mercenaries from the notorious private military company Wagner. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Kremlin itself has admitted that it has been cooperating with the Talibs for seven years now. Funny how with one hand Moscow is petting the Taliban, but with the other it’s showing them a clenched fist.
Regardless, Putin has taken up another “hot spot” – one that he will not be able to handle – for the sole reason of spiting the West.
My grandmother used to say: “Never believe a Talib – they say one thing, but Allah makes them do something entirely different.” This is exactly the case now, because in Moscow the Talibs stated that they are interested only in Afghanistan and that they are loved by the Afghan people, and that they have no intentions of hurting anyone, etc. How do we then explain Taliban attacks in the territory of Tajikistan even before the US and the allies were able to completely withdraw their forces? How do we explain the slaughtering of “prisoners of war” and those Afghans that had been cooperating with coalition forces for the past twenty years?
It’s interesting that currently Moscow is saying that the Tajiks are worried about what will happen when the last NATO soldier leaves Afghanistan – will the Russians as part of the CSTO aid them if the Talibs make a move against them.
In reality, this is already happening, as the past couple of months saw countless armed clashes between Tajik border guards and Taliban mercenaries. This is no surprise, since the border between both countries consists of endless mountains and chasms, making it nearly impossible for the border guards of these poor countries to control the flow of terrorists across the border.
I would suggest Dushanbe to consult their Armenian colleagues on how the CSTO operates and whether the Kremlin has ever respected the said organization. The recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh was a wake up call for the Armenians that Moscow cares only for its own interests. Tajikistan, leaving shame aside, could also turn to Armenia and ask for its aid in combating the Taliban, as prescribed in the treaty of the CSTO.
The Taliban is more likely to become a member of the CSTO, than Tajikistan is to receive aid from any other CSTO member in case of a wider military conflict.
For instance, Tajikistan has quite “sizzling” geopolitical relations with Kyrgyzstan, as both countries are busy fighting each other over water resources. There is no CSTO, there’s only the Kremlin’s forced meaningless and formal treaty about nothing, intended to allow the Kremlin free movement of its forces to protect its interests.
Just as we are wearing face masks right now because of the pandemic, we can never know who has put on a Taliban mask. The “pretty” names and slogans of terrorist organizations are similar to those of political parties – they mean absolutely nothing.
The fact alone, that Moscow welcomed the Taliban delegation so warmly, despite the organization being banned in Russia, once again shows the bloodthirsty and deceitful nature of Putin’s regime.
The decision of the US to leave gave the Kremlin a wonderful opportunity to restore its influence in the region – and that is why all of this is happening. The Kremlin is evidently plotting something, but it might as well be that the Taliban are playing their own game. We will eventually see who is the one getting wrapped around the other’s finger.
Some geopolitical experts believe the Kremlin has all this time supported the Taliban by providing money and weapons so that they would escalate the situation in Afghanistan when the moment comes. And that moment has come – and it’s very likely that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan in the nearest months. A different question is whether the Kremlin will be able to retain at least some control over the hotheaded Talibs? I believe the answer is no.
If the Taliban succeeds in taking control over Afghanistan, the situation on the border of Tajikistan will escalate even further.
This would be a perfect pretext for the Kremlin – with the blessing of the CSTO – to deploy its peacekeepers to Tajikistan. Then, depending on the situation, Russia could proclaim the Taliban to be an ally of ISIS and focus its propaganda on blaming the West about the chaos it left behind in Afghanistan. After all, there’s a reason the Kremlin’s propaganda media outlets are writing about sending Russian forces to Afghanistan under wildly varying pretexts.
If this indeed happens, and it looks like it will, Russian taxpayers will have gained another perfectly frozen conflict they can fund and be proud of. They say that history repeats itself. I’m no prophet, but I can clearly see that Putin’s regime has stepped on the same rake in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union once did.
*Gatis Krūms was born in Daugavpils, Latvian SSR. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010 at the University of Latvia. Krūms is a freelance journalist writting articles on various subjects for several Latvian, Ukrainian and Russian news websites. This article was published at The International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda.