Moscow Concerns, After Taliban Takeover of Kabul
September 1, 2021
Moscow is planning new military exercises in Central Asia in preparation for potential conflicts following the Taliban’s takeover of control in Afghanistan. A number of manoeuvers will be decided to carry out in Kyrgyzstan by military units of the “Unified Forces for Rapid Implementation” established in early September. This is a military coordination group formed in 2001 mostly by states of the CSTO, which was established in 1992 by Russia and some former Soviet countries.
The manoeuvers, dubbed “Border 2021,” had already been organized for some time, but offered the series of events in Central Asia; the objectives have been recalculated to compensate for advancements in Afghanistan. Military experts are warning that a new Afghan civil war, comparable to the one that opposed the Taliban against by the Northern Alliance nearly 30 years ago, will erupt. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ojgu emphasizes the Taliban’s massive armed force and does not govern out all the diffusion of destabilization to neighboring states.
The Kremlin has redeployed over 400 soldiers from its mountain troops, mostly from the Tuva Republic in Siberia and those are the units deemed most capable of dealing with potential Afghan conflicts. The Kyrgyz manoeuvres are part of the two other similar programs in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, both of which have numerous Russian military bases. According to Ojgu, Each of these facilities “would be used to protect the borders of the CSTO states by occurrence of aggressive behavior from Afghanistan.”
Tajikistan’s “Base 201” has been outfitted with new “Verba” versatile surface-to-air missiles and other cutting-edge weapons, as well as 60 armored vehicles that are still in Kyrgyzstan after the trainings conclude. Tajikistan seems to be the only state in Central Asia that borders Afghanistan, with which it shares a portion of the same ethnic composition; however, in post-Soviet history, terrorists and rebels have already continued to pour into Kyrgyzstan through all the mountains, and then into other Central Asian countries. The inner struggle has already begun in Panjshir, a small province near the mountains that lead to Tajikistan and Pakistan. Militia groups of Taliban foes have assembled in the narrow valley.
They are headed by former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh and commanded by Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the Northern Alliance leaders shot dead by the Taliban in 2001. The Northern Alliance was endorsed by Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan prior to the creation of the US in Afghanistan. Massoud has proclaimed that he is now surrounded by Abdul Rashid Dostum. He is a historic “military commander” and former Afghan vice-president of Uzbek origin, who is now a refugee in Uzbekistan. If a political settlement that protects minority ethnic groups is not discovered, Uzbeks will also fight a war against the Taliban.
According to Russian-Uzbek Colonel Amil Gareev, who participated in organizing support for the Northern Alliance 20 years ago, inter-ethnic conflict in Afghanistan is only plausible if the Taliban’s most radical elements take precedence, as he told Nezavisimaja Gazeta on August 29. He tried to compare the Taliban to “the army of batka Makhno,” an activist group of common people in southern Ukraine who tried and failed to seize power during the Austrian invasion and also fought against the Soviets between 1917 and 1921. For the Russians, it is a closer example of disorganized militarism that foreshadows the political unrest that might result from Taliban rule.