Russia strongly supports the settlement of the Afghan situation with the involvement of regional international organizations such as SCO, the CSTO, and the countries bordering Afghanistan. The statement came from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during his remarks at the Moscow Conference on International Security on Wednesday, 23 June.
“It is necessary to use the capabilities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which represents all the nations bordering Afghanistan, including Pakistan and Iran. Without cooperation with Islamabad and Tehran, it is impossible to untie the ‘Afghan knot’”, he stressed.
Shoigu warned on possibility of a “resumption of the civil war with all the negative consequences: further deterioration of the life of the population, mass migration, the spread of extremism to neighboring states.”
The Russian General promised that the Collective Security Treaty Organization would take the necessary steps to improve the defense capacity of the organization’s members in the new realities.
Shoigu’s statement should be viewed against the backdrop of recent developments in Afghanistan. Just a couple of days before the Moscow gathering, the Taliban seized Shir Khan, the main crossing at Afghan-Tajik border.
The US and NATO continue to pull out the remaining 2,500-3500 US troops and 7,000 alliance soldiers. Simultaneously, Russia is also trying to fill the emerging vacuum, but these efforts are more likely to be of a multilateral partnership nature. Central Asian countries will also play an important role in the process.
Russia keeps on reinforcing its military base in Tajikistan, located in the cities of Dushanbe and Kurgan-Tube. In May, the 201st base received multiple rocket launcher systems (MLRS) “Uragan” (Hurricane) of 220 mm caliber, capable to hit the targets at a distance of up to 35 km in mountainous terrain.
Lavrov discussed the Afghan issue recently during a telephone conversation with his Uzbek counterpart Kamilov among other issues.
On 14 June, during telephone talks, the foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan have agreed to collaborate closely with the aim to achieve a negotiated political settlement of Afghanistan as soon as possible. A day ago, the Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, categorically stated that Pakistan “would absolutely not allow” any bases and the use of its territory for any US actions inside Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Russia is selectively picking out companions in solving the Afghan puzzle. Not all actors are welcomed. Moscow has reacted irritably to the NATO’s intention to entrust Turkey with security maintaining mission (that is to say control) for the Kabul international airport.
“The retention by Turkey, like any other country, of its military contingent in Afghanistan from a legal point of view contradicts the agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban Movement in Doha in February 2020, which presupposes the complete withdrawal of foreign troops,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Probably, bearing in mind some still lasting leadership rivalry between Russia and Turkey for dealing with Afghan problem, NATO-USA decided to drive a peg between Moscow and Istanbul, leaving Turkey in Afghanistan on quite legitimate reasons.
Obviously, Moscow fears that Istanbul’s wide engagement in the post-US Afghanistan affairs, would inevitably lead to the strengthening of Turkey’s (political/ideological) influence in the immediate Afghanistan neighborhood – Central Asia.
These concerns have been echoed in the numerous outbursts of analytical content in the Russian media highlighting “Great Turan, neo-Ottomanism, pan-Turkism” in context gear with Central Asia. This trend has been emboldened in the expert community after the Karabakh war of 2020, which demonstrated Turkey as a strong geopolitical player on the Caucasian outskirts of Russia. /// nCa, 24 June 2021