According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, Russia is set to redeploy its military troops to Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan following a serious deterioration in the security situation in the region ever since US President, Barack Obama declared an end to the US combat mission in the area.
The aforementioned newspaper claims that the idea of Russian forces arriving at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border does not seem unlikely. Indeed, it appears that the Tajikistan government is keen on taking help from the Kremlin in a bid to get some much needed assistance around the shared border.
Quite recently, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov expressed grave concerns regarding security threats faced by Tajikistan from the South due to the worsening security situation in Afghanistan thanks to the presence of terrorist elements and the rapid emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It is being feared that the ISIS-linked jihadists will be looking to enter Tajikistan via Afghanistan and if that happens, it could create a new security headache for Russia. Reports in various media outlets have already stated that Russian President, Vladimir Putin could offer under-fire Tajikistan help during his visit to capital Dushanbe later this week.
Putin arrived in the capital of Tajikistan this Monday to attend the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit.
On Friday, top foreign policy aide for Kremlin, Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Putin will be having a meeting with his opposite number Imomali Rakhmon which means that security the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border with Russian help could be one of the main agendas of the meeting.
“We are ready to provide assistance one way or another, as well as political support, and I think this matter will be one of the key ones during talks,” Ushakov told reporters.
And although Ushanov was not particularly forthcoming when asked about the prospect of Russia deploying its troops in Tajikistan, the fact that Moscow already has a military base in the country means that it is only a matter of time when Russian boots will be marching around the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.
Despite the fact that the Central Asian States gained independence following the disintegration of the USSR more than two decades ago, Russia still has a lot of influence in the region and has always made sure of an obvious present there.
Also, the fact that Kremlin is worried that the ISIS-linked violence in the Middle East could trickle down to the Central Asian region, clearly means that Moscow is in no mood to sit idly and see its neighbor’s situation keep getting worse by the hour.
Until 2005, Russian forces were providing security assistance to Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan but afterwards, Tajik forces took over. Already 22 people have lost their lives in bloody gun battles this month which has added to fears of religious unrest in the state which is a close ally of Russia.
The reason behind the consistently worsening of situation can be traced back to December last year when President Obama declared an end to USA’s decade-long mission in Afghanistan. The fact that US troops have more or less left the region has exposed Afghanistan to a multitude of issues and as things stand, the country is struggling to keep influence against Taliban, a force that in the past few months, has grown both in numbers and confidence.
Indeed, Afghanistan has been left in a precarious position ever since US rolled back its program.
Only yesterday, Northern Afghan city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban which indeed is a chilling news considering the fact that US left the country confident that it had taken care of business in an immaculate fashion.
Back in 2001, Kunduz was the last city that was taken from Taliban’s control and was heralded as the completion of Afghanistan’s complete liberation. This recent recapture clearly demonstrates the strength of Taliban and should not be taken lightly. It also shows that the Taliban now boast the confidence and the apparatus to take on the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) who have been put to the sword to say the least ever since US boots left the ground.
“The fall of Kunduz was a failure of both national and international leadership. Unfortunately, the government in Kabul is not taking responsibility for it. I am sure it will impact the National Unity Government very deeply,” says Kabul-based political expert, Haroon Mir, in an interview with The Diplomat.
Why the sudden need for Russia’s troop deployment?
For the last ten years or so, Russia had one headache less to worry about. With the US presence in Afghanistan, Russia was able to stay less focused on the Afghanistan border acting as the gateway to Central Asia since it was heavily patrolled by US troops – meaning that the chances of jihadists entering Tajikistan via Afghanistan were slim to none. That allowed Russia to focus elsewhere. However, now that the US adventure in Afghanistan is over in more ways than one, Russia will now have to heavily rely on its own troops to take care of the security situation in Tajikistan.
The Tajik forces have not been able to cope with the security crisis lately which means that Russia had no other option but to get out of its comfort zone and ensure that the potential wave of extremism in Central Asia does not affect its own volatile cities like Chechnya, Dagestan and Makhachkala.
With the growing crisis in Tajikistan, the CSTO meeting couldn’t have come at a better time. Already, the Uzbek militant element is making things complicated for all member states of CSTO and Russia clearly cannot afford any sort of security lapses in Tajikistan which have the potential to gravely affect Russia’s internal security.
With current issues such as the South China Sea, Syrian and Middle Eastern crisis and Crimean crisis more in focus, the Afghanistan issue has slipped from under the radar which has further given Taliban a lot of confidence in taking things in its own hands.
Back in 2012, international donors gathered in Tokyo and pledged $16 billion in aid over four years. Next year, the donors will gather again but it will be interesting to see if they will be looking to dig deep just like they did three years ago keeping in mind the current developments in Middle East and Asia Pacific.
John Kerry is a firm believer in the National Unity Government formed by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah even though he doesn’t feel the same way about the security condition in the country.
And although Afghanistan has asked neighbor Pakistan to do more in order to push back against terrorist groups, it is clear to see that Kabul should be more focused on its own security condition and try and develop more productive means to bring about stability within its borders just like Pakistan has been doing over the past few months.
All these issues have made things very complicated for Russia which is why it has become imperative for Moscow to quickly take control of the situation before the Taliban resurgence hits its shores which will be a potentially back-breaking event for Russia and its long-term goals in which Tajikistan holds an important place.