Alwaght- After the World War II, the global powers came up with the rationality that they should avoid any direct military conflict due to the risks coming from the nuclear weapons and they pursued their rivalry on the ground of the weak and vulnerable countries. The Russian airstrikes in Syria along with the rise of new coalitions shore up the possibility of emergence of another anti-American block in West Asia region. As if Fukuyama’s “end of history” theory has terminated and the history is made afresh with the presence of another rival. This block’s fresh actions in West Asia region and its expansion which is powered by the Russian moves made in coordination with Tajikistan as well as the indirect supports offered by China and India indicate that Afghanistan may also turn out as another competition field of the two opposing blocks.
Why Russians are concerned about Afghanistan developments
The Russians have traditionally considered Afghanistan’s northern neighbors as their areas of influence. The expansion of the terrorist activities to northern Afghanistan and the growing clashes of the security forces with the terrorists in the areas where used to be safe places add to the Moscow's worries. The concerns specifically took doubled stages after the city of Kunduz in the country’s north fell to Taliban militants. Following the incident, the Russians have ramped up their attempts to press the Afghan government to strengthen the regional countries' role in the anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan. Kunduz city is seen as one of Afghanistan’s most sensitive and strategic regions. The city is of significance and sensitivity for the Taliban group, the Afghan government and Afghanistan’s northern neighboring countries, especially Tajikistan and thus Russia. The strategic town of Shir Khan Bandar, which connects Afghanistan to Tajikistan through Amu Darya River, is located in Kunduz. On the other hand, Kunduz is considered as the gate of the northern region's security for all of the players in Afghanistan. If Taliban manages to tighten hold on the city, the way would be paved for expansion of influence and growth of terrorism to Afghanistan’s other northern provinces. It was for this reason that after Kunduz fell to the hands of Taliban, the group’s local elements made some security moves and made some temporary successes against the local governments of some provinces including Takhar, Badakhshan, Baghlan and Sar-e Pol. Additionally, following Kunduz’s fall the Taliban has launched a heavy military operation to gain control of northern city of Maymana. So, these incidents have ringed alarm bells for Russians louder than ever. Russia is even worried further that the terrorism could develop toward northern Afghanistan and ultimately lead its way through the region to Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
A remarkable number of Tajik and Uzbek nationals from the Central Asia’s countries are now among the Taliban fighters, strengthening the risks that they could penetrate and affect the Central Asia region. Thereby, Russia from now is trying to persuade the Afghan government to allow Moscow expand its security radius to wide-ranging parts of Afghanistan’s northern regions, and therefore, establish a kind of Moscow-Kabul military cooperation in order to prevent terrorism from moving northward and consequently endanger the Central Asian countries’ security. Though Russia has built up and reinforced, in advance, their military presence in Central Asian republics and towards Afghanistan’s northern borders, this is not enough for Russia. Also, the former mujahedeen and their ethnic and social areas of influence, namely Afghanistan’s north, are set as part of the strategic area which is included in the circle of Moscow’s cross-border security radius. So, it is not acceptable for Russia that Taliban and their allies prance around in Afghanistan’s north while Moscow solely stages military monitoring from across the borders of Afghanistan’s northern neighbors.
Russia and some of the region’s countries have cooperated with the US in Afghanistan over issues such as fighting drugs smuggling. Even when the issue of the American forces' withdrawal from Afghanistan was raised, Russia expressed its concerns. But, now Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says that the United States which could discover water on Mars could not track down the radical groups in the region and uproot them. It was because the US itself supported the extremist groups like ISIS to endanger the Central Asian countries, Putin added. The Russian president has considered entering in the Syrian conflict and preserving President Bashar al-Assad’s government as standing in line with Moscow’s regional and global policy and he with such a view accepted the challenge presented by the US’ and the West’s opposition of Russian intervention in Syria. Undoubtedly, Afghanistan in Central Asia’s south is not less important for Moscow than Syria .
Certainly, as much as the Afghanistan unity government remains impotent in keeping the Taliban and ISIS terrorists from gaining ground in northern Afghanistan, the opportunity would be ripened for the Russian participation in the military operations against the Taliban and ISIS terrorists in the country’s north, and the Russians would win the internal and social approval for their military operations and their taking part in anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan’s northern provinces. Many of the mujahedeen commanders and their forces in north, who see themselves as isolated in the country’s unity government and feel hapless in the face of Taliban, consider the government’s weakness and the failures of its backer, the US, as deliberate and conspiratorial. Such a condition provides Moscow with a suitable opportunity to engage in fight against Taliban in Afghanistan. General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former fighter and the current vice president Of Afghanistan, is holding negotiations with the Russian officials, asking it has also rumored that contacts were made between some of the former mujahedeen chiefs and the counter-Taliban resistant forces in Afghanistan’s north with the Russians to draw Moscow’s support in their anti-Taliban battle. The US’ and NATO’s serious objection to any Syria-style intervention and air campaign against Taliban by the Russian forces in northern Afghanistan would present a major challenge and hurdle ahead of Moscow. The power to challenge Russia by opposing its presence in Afghanistan would depend on the US and NATO’s performance in their coming against the Russians’ military campaign in Syria. So far, the US and NATO have not made any more practical and deterrent move against Moscow than expressing their objection to it. The West’s impotence or lack of will to stop the Russians’ military operations in Syria would tempt Moscow to start the same operations but this time in northern Afghanistan and against the Taliban’s terrorism. Certainly, the increase and expansion of Taliban’s forces in Afghanistan’s northern areas in addition to the Afghan government’s inability to defeat and suppress them would beef up Moscow’s temptation to launch military operations in this side of Amu Darya River.