“Russia’s maneuvers on border with Afghanistan are psychotherapy”

Yuri Sokolov

The countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organiza-tion (CSTO) are preparing to conduct large-scale exercises “Combat Broth-erhood-2021” in Tajikis-tan. Su-25 attack aircraft have already been deployed to the republic from the Russian Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. Gazeta.Ru was trying to figure out why Moscow and its allies are stepping up their military activity in Central Asia.
Stormtroopers against “conditional militants”
More than 5 thousand people will take part in the CSTO exercises “Combat Brotherhood-2021” in Tajikistan. This was announced by Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov, chief of the CSTO Joint Staff. The exercises will involve over 700 units of weapons, military and special equipment, including more than 650 units of armored vehicles and up to 20 aircraft, TASS reports.
Su-25 attack aircraft have already been deployed to Tajikistan from the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The crews will practice supporting ground forces and destroying the facilities of “conditional militants” in the area bordering Afghanistan. Servicemen from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will also be involved in the combat training activities.
“It is necessary to separate two narratives. Instability in Afghanistan and activities on this side of the CSTO border, as well as the actions of the authorities of the Central Asian states. The instability itself is caused by internal causes. It does not really threaten the security of the Central Asian countries from the point of view of establishing the power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, ”political scientist, expert on Central Asia, Arkady Dubnov, is convinced.
According to him, the Taliban are primarily focused on the task of retaining power at home. In the 1990s, while in power, the Taliban did not threaten their neighbors either rhetorically or with their forays towards the post-Soviet space, Dubnov said.
In the State Duma, on the contrary, they believe that the military preparations are timely and the threat is real.
“I believe that we are acting in the right direction with our allies and today’s actions allow us to say that various preventive measures are being taken that will allow, in the event of a potential threat, to repel an attack of the alleged enemy,” the deputy chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee told Gazeta.Ru Yuri Shvytkin.
At the same time, earlier the head of the Tajik Taliban organization “Jamaat Ansarullah” Mahdi Arsalan said that he was “ready to invade Tajikistan.” Mahdi is the head of several territories in Afghanistan bordering the Darvoz region and the Shamsiddin Shokhin region of Tajikistan. This was reported by the Telegram channel REVERSE SIDE OF THE MEDAL with reference to the resources of the militants.
The Ansarullah organization is banned in Tajikistan. At the same time, she is engaged in the protection of the common border with Afghanistan, which causes protests from Dushanbe. At the same time, the central leadership of the Taliban distanced itself from statements about a possible invasion. “We want to have good relations with them, the interference of one country in the internal affairs of its neighbor cannot serve anyone’s interests,” Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi said in an interview with Qatari TV channel Al Jazeera.
Tajik panic and the hand of Moscow
Dubnov, in turn, asserts that the only country that “is intensively exaggerating the topic of the threat from Afghanistan” is just Tajikistan.
“The exploitation of these threats by the Tajik authorities meets with a reaction from the Russian leadership, which promises that in the event of a serious aggression, Moscow will provide Dushanbe with all the necessary support. For this, the Russian side is strengthening the army of Tajikistan, and now the next maneuvers will be carried out,” the expert explained.
This summer, Russian-Tajik contacts on the issue of Afghanistan were the most intense both through the CSTO and through bilateral relations, if we compare them with the frequency of communication between the Kremlin and the authorities of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which also share a common border with the Afghan side. The presidents of Russia and Tajikistan, Vladimir Putin and Emomali Rahmon, only officially called several times a month.
Against the background of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Russia began to strengthen the 201st military base in Tajikistan. In particular, it was reported at the base that the base in Tajikistan was reinforced with Kornet anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), Verba portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS), AK-12 assault rifles (this is the “fifth generation” of Kalashnikov assault rifles, the sample was launched into series in 2018), Yarygin pistols, ASVK-M large-caliber sniper rifles and extended-range flamethrowers.
“The most important factor here is the factor of the demonstration of force. Exercises and arms deliveries are just such a demonstration, ” Ivan Konovalov, president of the Center for Strategic Conjuncture, military expert, told Gazeta.Ru.” This is a message to the most diverse actors who are now operating in Afghanistan that it is not worth exacerbating the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border and, in general, on the borders of the post-Soviet space.”
At the same time, Moscow in “geopolitical terms” is quite happy with such an “escalation of military preparations”, Dubnov said.
“After all, it is strengthening the military-political presence of Russia in this region, and it turns out that at the suggestion of the countries of Central Asia. Not to mention the fact that among the non-titular [Russian-speaking] population of the post-Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan, until recently, panic was dominating that Afghan instability would spread to the republics. And in this sense, the maneuvers in 2021 again had a beneficial effect, having a psychotherapeutic effect both on them and on some of the local elites, who fear that the threat could spread further. As a result, Moscow acted as a guarantor of their security,” Dubnov concluded.