August 3, 2021

The return of the Taliban worries Moscow

When the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan announced that it had allowed more than a thousand Afghan soldiers to cross the border into the country on Monday (July 5), Russia began to wonder about the porosity of the borders of its “near abroad”. There is Tajikistan, where almost the entire border is already facing the Taliban. Then Uzbekistan, which has also had, in recent days, to adapt to incursions, hitherto controlled, on its territory, by Afghan fighters.

Finally, there is Turkmenistan, 800 kilometers of deserted border shared with its Afghan neighbor. For several days, the analyzes of military specialists have multiplied in the Russian press: what if this instability allowed terrorist cells to be reborn in Central Asia?

These three countries may not have a common border with Russia, they enjoy dynamic exchanges, especially of workers with their distant neighbor. Tajik workers allow Moscow to carry out its biggest projects. They also ensure the cleanliness of the Russian capital. By transferring their money to their country, these migrant workers provide, depending on the year, from 27% to 37% of Tajikistan’s GDP. But, harassed and put in difficulty by the Russian immigration services, all the more since the pandemic, they have also sometimes shown themselves to be permeable to jihadist propaganda.

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In Uzbekistan, the intelligence services are also on their toes. They are currently trying to identify, among recent refugees, former jihadists who fought in terrorist structures such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic State (IS) or Al-Qaida. Of the hundreds of Afghan soldiers who crossed the Uzbek border in recent days, fifty-three men were returned to their country following a thorough check by the services.

“Fight against drug trafficking”

It is this Russian concern that motivated the surprise visit, Thursday evening, 8 in Moscow, of a delegation from the Qatari office of the Taliban, at the invitation of Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister. At a press conference on Friday, Sheikh Shahabuddin Delawar reassured, from his first words: “We have no intention of violating the borders of the Central Asian states, and we also want to assure you that we will do all we can to ensure that ISIS never settles in Afghanistan. “

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