Rapid degradation and complete lack of control of the situation. This is how Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described the situation that arose in connection with the operational curtailment of the American mission to establish democracy in Afghanistan. Abandoned after 20 years by the US military, the country is literally plunging into the chaos of the Middle Ages before our very eyes, becoming a hotbed of terrorist threats for the whole of Central Asia. The Taliban movement already controls 85% of the territory and, apparently, is ready to storm large Afghan cities.
At the same time, it is noted that groups of militants of no less radical ISIS movement from Syria, Libya and Iraq are flocking to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRA) . Against this backdrop, Moscow, Dushanbe and Tashkent have launched large-scale anti-terrorist exercises in Tajikistan. Will this help fend off the threat from the south?
Waiting for the barbarians
They say about Afghanistan that it is a crossroads of the East and Asia, the same can be said about Tajikistan for the CIS countries. The state is located in the foothills of the Pamirs; it borders with Uzbekistan in the west and north-west, with Kyrgyzstan in the north, Afghanistan in the south, and China in the east. The length of the Tajik-Afghan border is more than 1,344 km, of which the Gorno-Badakhshan section accounts for about 920 km, the remaining 424 km – in the Khatlon region. The two countries are separated by a river, many sections of the border in Gorno-Badakhshan are impassable, nevertheless, if desired and persistent, they can be forced.
The fact that this is possible is also evidenced by the fact that just the other day, the President of the Republic, Emomali Rahmon, fired the deputy commander of the border troops Nurullo Khomid Abdullozoda, who oversaw the security of the border in the Khatlon region and Gorno Badakhshan, and also mobilized 20 thousand reserve troops to strengthen the border. … According to Dushanbe, more than a thousand soldiers and officers of the Afghan army fleeing the Taliban crossed the border in these areas in recent days alone. The number of possible refugees is still difficult to predict, but there is no doubt that it will be large. The Taliban are unlikely to reward those who have collaborated with the occupying American administration for two decades.
The tension of the situation is also emphasized by Sergei Shoigu. According to him, the penetration of well-organized bandit groups from Afghanistan into adjacent territories is already observed. Apparently, these are the very same unbeaten representatives of the “Islamic Caliphate” from Syria, Libya and Iraq.
In Dushanbe, and even in Moscow and Tashkent, they fear that these people are capable of provoking a civil war on both sides of the border river Pyanj. For all the radicalism of the Taliban, they do not need even more extremist groups – they will be squeezed out of the country by all means.
“Today, joint work to neutralize threats from the territory of neighboring Afghanistan comes to the fore. The hasty withdrawal of foreign troops from there provoked a rapid degradation of the situation, an increase and surge in terrorist activity. This situation requires taking appropriate measures. Such work is already underway,” Sergei Shoigu said.
Actually, in anticipation of this wave, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are beginning large-scale anti-terrorist exercises of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) “Peace Mission – 2021”. The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Defense Ministry directly declare that the exercises in Tajikistan are a signal to the Central Asian partners against the background of the escalation in Afghanistan that there are joint forces that will solve the problem of maintaining security.
It seems to me that for Sergei Shoigu, the support of the allies in the CSTO and SCO is not just a direct responsibility. To some extent, this is also a personal matter. In 1993-1994, he personally took part in resolving the situation with Russian refugees forced to leave Tajikistan amid the civil war.
“We had to organize a lot of work to evacuate thousands and thousands of families from here, ensuring their safety. The Dushanbe railway station was packed with people at junctions with belongings, children were running between them. for the first time it was possible to bring here about 5 thousand cars “, – the Minister of Defense recalls. Then from Dushanbe it was possible to send more than 150 trains with people and their belongings to Russia. This became one of the largest humanitarian operations in the new Russia. Then he met the future president of the country Emomali Rahmon – they even had to be hostage by bandits together. Shoigu admits that it is difficult to remember those times. Therefore, he is ready to do everything so that the situation does not repeat itself.
The Peaceful Mission 2021 exercise will be held at the Harb-Maidon training ground in southern Tajikistan, 20 km from the border with Afghanistan from 5 to 10 August. They plan to study in three stages.
At the first stage, preparation for a joint operation of the united group of forces will be worked out. On the second, they will perform joint tasks to destroy the invading bandits.
The final will include the destruction of radical terrorist groups when crossing the state border. In all episodes of the exercises, the commanders of the subunits and the leadership headquarters will practice tactical actions using reconnaissance-fire and reconnaissance-strike complexes.
Translated from the military language, this means that there will be a lot of shooting and explosions.
The Ministry of Defense notes that the main goal of the exercises will be to improve practical skills in the destruction of terrorist gangs when trying to cross the state border.
In addition, it is planned to work out management issues in the course of conducting joint actions to destroy illegal armed formations, as well as improving the personnel’s moral and combat qualities, psychological stability and physical endurance in a hot climate and mountainous desert areas.
In total, as noted in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, more than 1.8 thousand servicemen and about 420 units of weapons and military equipment will be involved in the tactical actions of the three countries from Russia.
At the same time, the basis of the Russian contingent in the beginning exercises in Tajikistan will be the units of the 201st military base, including mountain motorized rifle, tank, artillery units, as well as groups of a special separate special-purpose unit of the Central Military District. In total, the base includes more than 7 thousand officers and contract soldiers. It is the largest military facility outside the country. Its servicemen are stationed in two garrisons – Dushanbe and Bokhtar. They are armed with more than 100 T-72B1 tanks and BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, BMP-2M infantry fighting vehicles, a 220-mm Uragan MLRS jet division, a Mi-24P and Mi-8MTV helicopter group, unmanned aerial vehicles and other equipment.
Earlier it was reported that Russian units in Tajikistan were reinforced with S-300PS anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM), armored personnel carriers BTR-82A.
The base received a high-power division of 220 mm Hurricane multiple launch rocket systems. An unmanned aircraft battalion is replacing the Orlan-10 multifunctional complexes with more advanced new UAVs, Eleron-3 and Tachyon.
In addition to the August exercises, Sergei Shoigu promises other stages.
“In September, at the Donguzsky training ground in the Orenburg region, a joint military anti-terrorist command and staff exercise of the SCO countries Peaceful Mission 2021 is planned. Similar exercises, but with the participation of the Collective Forces of the CSTO, will be held in the fall in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. threats, it is proposed to involve military contingents of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF) of the CSTO and units of friendly countries in the Peace Mission exercises, “Shoigu said.
Bound by a different purpose
It is clear that exercises alone cannot stop the threat from the south. The dialogue launched by the Taliban in Moscow in July is, of course, a good signal that the new Afghan authorities prefer agreements to direct confrontation. But the problem is that in order to ensure their own safety, they will put pressure on other radicals.
At the same time, there is no industry in the country, so people who are used to making money with a machine gun or a grenade launcher are unlikely to give up the only craft in which they have succeeded well. Actually, this creates the danger that at some point they will force the border Pyanj. It should be borne in mind that many of the supporters of radical movements are former immigrants from the USSR and the CIS.
These are people who are well-versed in the terrain, know the language and customs – it will be easy for them to merge with those who live in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And one should not forget that the Tajik-Afghan border is the only obstacle on the way of exporting the “Islamic Caliphate” to the territory of Russia.
Zamir Kabulov, special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, director of the second department of Asia at the Foreign Ministry, believes: “Russia is ready for the scenario of a complete seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Members of another banned terrorist group, the Islamic State, can take advantage of the chaos. turn, the possible prospect that ISIS and similar international terrorist groups will take advantage of the chaos that has arisen to strengthen their positions in the north of Afghanistan to damage the security and stability of the Central Asian states is alarming. “
There are many ways to improve security, military exercises are one of them. In addition, Moscow is ready to arm and train the Tajik army. Sergei Shoigu says that as part of strengthening the southern flank of the CIS, additional gratuitous deliveries of Russian weapons and equipment have been organized to equip the Tajik army. The training of qualified personnel for the Tajik army continues at Russian military universities and on the basis of the 201st Russian military base. The amount of real military aid, of course, has not been disclosed. However, according to the data that got to the Internet, by 2025 Russia can invest almost $ 1 billion in increasing the combat readiness of an ally.
Whether it is a lot or a little, expensive or not, there is no reason to judge, because after the flight of the Americans from Afghanistan, we really found ourselves in an extremely difficult situation.
Having rocked the hornets’ nest, Washington actually left the situation to chance. And even the statements of high-ranking American or NATO officials that the West will help the legitimate government of the country with bombing and finances do not bring peace.
On this occasion, Sergei Shoigu responded very caustically:
“The United States has widely announced to everyone: we are leaving Afghanistan. This is indeed so. creation of centers where refugees from Afghanistan could be admitted – those people with whom the United States cooperated there for many years.”
And he added that it is no secret to anyone that these negotiations are “quite active and rather intrusive.”
“Here I can only say one thing, and this is a normal sound logic: why do you go out if you stand right behind the fence and, figuratively speaking, through the cracks trying to observe what is happening there?” – said Shoigu.
It is clear that the Americans need such “logistic” centers in order not only to continue their military presence in the region, but also to save face after the Afghan fiasco . What will be the effect of this?
The abandoned regime will no longer need monetary support, since the pro-American government will most likely be forced to flee from day to day under the pressure of the advancing Taliban.
As a result, Washington is not going to finance terrorists. Although who knows, in the past, it was US assistance that helped Afghan militants to squeeze out the Soviet military contingent from the country, and then seize power in the country.
There is a feeling that in the current situation, the Americans will do everything possible to continue the conflict in Central Asia by any means.