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Sep 14, 2021
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Afghanistan under the Taliban

Afghanistan’s stability is a very distant prospect

The Taliban won in Afghanistan. Where will this country go next? What will the victory of the Taliban * (banned in Russia) mean for neighboring countries, including Russia and the Central Asian states?

On September 12, fighting resumed in the northern province of Baghlan between the Taliban and fighters of the National Resistance Front (FLN), whose leader Massoud called on Afghans for a nationwide uprising. In response to the executions carried out by the Taliban in Panjshir, the FLN began to shift to the tactics of guerrilla warfare. This mountainous area in northern Afghanistan has traditionally been controlled by Tajiks. During the first years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001), Panjshir was a staging ground for the fight against the Taliban *. In 20 years, this war has a chance to resume.

Wars between Afghans are an age-old struggle for political power between the country’s dominant ethnic community, Pashtuns and other ethnic groups: Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks, aimags. Historically, Pashtuns have almost always been at the pinnacle of political power, even though they make up less than half of Afghanistan’s population.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that there is also a struggle in the Pashtun community. This conflict, developing along tribal lines, stretches back to the 18th century. The main opponents are the Gilzai tribe in the rural east and the top of the Durrani tribe in the south. Today, however, it would be a delusion to claim that the Pashtun Taliban is fragmented; The American administration used the thesis about the fragmentation of the Taliban, rather, as a pretext for refusing to negotiate with them.

Throughout the years of the American occupation, the Taliban remained a cohesive insurgency with a unified leadership. The coordinated military campaign of the Taliban in the summer of 2020 and the rapid seizure of power are proof of this. The Taliban also respected the agreements with the Trump administration, which began peace talks with the previous government in Kabul.

According to American data, by mid-2021, the Taliban had approximately 70-100 thousand fighters, compared with 30 thousand ten years ago. However, it is difficult to assess the degree of support that the Taliban enjoys from the population: somewhere the Taliban cause deep distrust, somewhere the population welcomes their coming to power.

The Afghan army of 300 thousand people, armed and trained by the Americans, collapsed at the first sign of danger. Curbing rampant corruption and ending Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade has also failed. Artificial democracy disappeared instantly. The economy remains weak.

Today, half of Afghanistan’s population, or 18 million people, depend on humanitarian aid. More than half of children under five are at risk of severe malnutrition, with the second severe drought in four years threatening hunger in the months ahead. The people of Afghanistan need support.

Even before the Taliban entered Kabul, the economic situation in the country raised concerns. In March 2021, 75% of government spending was financed not from the government’s own revenues, but from grants from international organizations and individual countries. With the arrival of the Taliban, donors have suspended aid.

The US froze Afghan assets. The Taliban cannot receive Afghan money, most of which is held by the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York. The International Monetary Fund has suspended the $ 450 million tranche of funding, and Germany announced that the planned $ 300 million will not be provided. Britain had intended to continue providing aid to Ashraf Ghani’s government after the withdrawal of coalition forces, but with the rise of the Taliban, aid in the amount of £ 155 million has ended.

It is difficult to see how the Taliban will be able to pull the country out of this situation. The Taliban have won politically and militarily, but they may not be able to cope with governing the country. The US will not stop at the end of economic aid. The Biden administration threatens the Taliban with international isolation and financial sanctions. Of course, this will become a subject of bargaining, but what does the US intend to demand from the Taliban in exchange? Before the withdrawal of troops, there was a certain clarity on this issue. The Americans asked the Taliban not to attack the withdrawn troops and not to obstruct the evacuation of the embassy staff. US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban officials in Doha and assured the Taliban that their entry into Kabul could be more easily accepted by the international community and Afghans if the Taliban comply with these conditions. The Taliban fulfilled the American conditions.

The next stage of relations with the Taliban is currently being planned in Washington. Communication will be maintained through a special American mission in the capital of Qatar, Doha. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-aghanistan-diplomatic-relatoins/2021/08/31/52622f88-0a82-11ec-a256-709238a1404d_story.html) that “a new head of America’s engagement with Afghanistan. ” Meanwhile, Taliban delegations visited Russia, China (https://www.fondsk.ru/news/2021/09/09/kitaj-taliban-souz-pod-nebom-54419.html) and Iran (https: / /www.fondsk.ru/news/2021/08/31/afganistan-pod-vlastju-talibov-i-iran-54362.html).

The issue of security in Central Asia is becoming an issue of particular importance. Russia has been there for a long time. The 201st motorized rifle division is based in Tajikistan and, under the terms of an agreement signed in 2012, will remain there until 2042. At the military base in Kant in Kyrgyzstan, Russian troops will remain until 2027 with the possibility of extending this agreement. With the Taliban coming to power, Moscow has no plans to increase its military presence in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, and so far it has not been said that it seeks to establish bases in other Central Asian countries. Meanwhile, the positions of Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors do not coincide in everything: Tajikistan opposed the Taliban government, while Uzbekistan expressed its readiness to interact with them.

The SCO and CSTO countries plan to devote the summits of these organizations on September 16-17 to the elaboration of a common position in relation to the situation in Afghanistan.

The United States is also exploring the possibility of restoring access to bases in Central Asia, which they have already used, but the Americans, notes New York Times, “Few options”. Pakistan supports the Taliban. The use of the territories of Iran and China by the Taliban is ruled out, Central Asia remains in question.

Regardless of how further events develop, the stability of Afghanistan is a very distant prospect.

Hot photo: washingtonpost.com, photo in text: REUTERS, social media

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