A month ago, I predicted that the coming of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan was inevitable, but I did not think that this would happen so quickly – in just a month there was a complete defeat. Alas, nothing can be done: the experience of the invasion of Afghanistan for all countries is approximately the same – that of the British, that of us, that of the Americans.
In all cases, decisions to leave were not made from a good life: neither we nor the Americans fulfilled their tasks simply because, by and large, they were objectively impracticable. True, unlike the USSR, the Americans did not prepare well for leaving Afghanistan and, in my opinion, were in a great hurry with it. Calling a spade a spade, the flight of Americans and their local supporters from Afghanistan looked no less shameful than they once did from South Vietnam, and this does not do them credit.
Did Russia do the right thing, not succumbing to the general mood and not evacuating its embassy from Kabul? We are in a special position: the Americans have left, they will now be far away, and Russia is very close, not only because it is closer to Moscow from Kabul than to Washington, but also because, in fact, we are faced with a choice: to defend over two thousand kilometers the former border of the USSR with Afghanistan, or about eight thousand kilometers of the border of Russia with Kazakhstan, which, as I understand it, does not have any special fortifications. Given this circumstance, Russia has to maneuver. Including, counting on the fact that it will be possible to come to an agreement with the Taliban.
I would like to hope that the calculation is correct, although, in my opinion, it is extremely difficult to negotiate with the Taliban. They are still special people who can utter the same words and make the same promises, but understand them differently than we do. They seem to say that they guarantee the security of the Russian troops in Tajikistan, our embassy in Kabul, and the existing borders, but for a devout Muslim, the border is a very conditional concept. About the same number of Tajiks live in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Afghan Tajiks, as I understand it, no longer oppose the Taliban. The Taliban are originally a Pashtun movement that seems to be turning into a pan-Afghan movement. What if the Afghan Tajiks want to do something to help the Tajiks tomorrow? What border will stop them?
In the early 90s, when the Taliban were not yet in sight, the Mujahideen sometimes attacked our border outposts, in whose area of responsibility was the Tajik-Afghan border. The danger of its breakthrough by the Mujahideen was real. Then all this was managed at the very least. Now the situation is much more complicated: what the agreements with the Taliban are worth, we do not know. The risk is very high, and Russia has no particular choice.
Russia cannot take and leave Afghanistan, whatever this means, cannot pretend that Afghanistan does not exist – it exists and how. There is also an old strategic road, the so-called Pamir Highway, along which Afghan drugs are delivered to Europe through the territory of Russia. I’m afraid there are no ways to stop this flow, simply because for any Afghan government, the drug trade is almost the main source of income for the state, regardless of what government is there today.
With this in mind, I would not speak about the lack of political will on the part of the old or the new Afghan government, but about the impossibility of stopping drug trafficking, without which Afghanistan cannot survive. This task is practically impossible without the involvement of large military formations and the creation of the appropriate infrastructure. The Americans and their allies more or less supported their protégés in Afghanistan with money and food supplies. They will most likely not help the new authorities. A colossal financial hole is being created in the already leaky Afghan budget. In short, the flow of drugs from Afghanistan will increase rather than decrease.
The difference between the situation of the 90s of the last century and the current one is that the Afghan mujahideen were quite ethnically diverse. Afghan Tajiks led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghan Uzbeks led by General Dostum, Afghan Pashtuns led by Hekmatyar acted here. And this division of the Mujahideen along ethnic lines generally played into the hands of those who tried to keep the situation in Afghanistan under control. Now the situation is different. Initially, the Pashtun Taliban somehow seem to have come to terms with Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks. And where is this same General Dostum now, a great friend of Russia and Uzbekistan? As I understand it, I fled to Turkey in transit through Dushanbe. And on his pompous palace, vividly reminiscent of both Yanukovych’s palace near Kiev, and another unknown whose palace in Gelendzhik, ragged bearded men with machine guns walk around. What should ordinary Afghans feel when they find themselves in an offensive luxury for such an impoverished country? Probably the joy of the arrival of the Taliban, even if they are Pashtuns a thousand times.
The main difference between the mujahideen of the early 90s and the current Taliban is that the latter appear much more united than their predecessors. The Mujahideen who fought with the USSR were initially united by a common task. With the withdrawal of Soviet troops, interethnic problems surfaced, not so much acute as traditional. On the contrary, the Taliban, which emerged as a Pashtun movement, does not rely on ethnicity, but on a common religion for all, and therefore has a better chance of success and is more dangerous for those who cross its path.
I really hope that in the near future the Taliban will have something to do in their country. They will have enough work for years. Since the card is that way, I would wish the Taliban success in building a unified state that can exist and even, what the hell is not joking, develop without threatening its neighbors. All countries involved in the conflict in one way or another are interested in this. Especially Pakistan, whose special services once had a hand in the creation of the Taliban, trying to prevent a hypothetical disintegration of Afghanistan along ethnic lines, which objectively strengthens the impetus for the unification of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns.