Geopolitical experts and think tanks warn that the unfolding Afghanistan crisis is a pyrrhic victory for Russia and Central Asia as the situation in the country is unpredictable and evolving with time. Even though the Russians initially lauded Taliban’s control of the capital, they now fear that the uncertainty encapsulating the country will be detrimental to their interests.
Afghanistan crisis brings risks to Russian interests
Earlier, when the Taliban took control of Kabul, Russian response was welcoming. They deemed the Taliban’s resurgence and the US departure as a defeat of US-backed and US-trained Afghan government. Russia’s ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, praised the Taliban’s conduct and said the group had helped to make Kabul safer in the first 24 hours after the U.S. exit.
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Spoke on @TRTWorldNow Roundtable with David Foster, discussing the need for a robust #SCO role in stabilizing Afghanistan against the threats of terrorism, extremism and drugs. Welcomed statement by President #Putin, calling on #Taliban to form a meaningful inclusive government. pic.twitter.com/N4zMFdxeHb
— M. Ashraf Haidari (@MAshrafHaidari) August 26, 2021
Kate Mallinson, Associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, said during a webinar for think tank Chatham House, ” The Russians feel as though they have achieved a major triumph as they feel, they are going to reassert their influence in Central Asia”. She made this assessment noting that Russia would exploit the changing situation in Afghanistan to further embolden its position as a region’s strategic security guarantor.
However, she added while assessing the Afghanistan crisis after the Kabul attacks and evacuation drills, “I would say that this kind of propaganda victory is more pyrrhic than triumphant,”
“The situation is developing, time is running out, the situation remains extremely tense and we still follow it most closely and retain our concerns,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said on Wednesday.
Afghanistan crisis is harder than anticipated by the Russians
Putin has previously said he hopes the Taliban will deliver on assurances that they will restore order, saying it is important not to allow terrorists to enter neighboring countries.
“It is going to be much harder than the Russians make out. Even if the Taliban keep their promises to the Russians, they’ll be having to deal with much more asymmetric warfare and it will be much more unpredictable than the Russians will be able to cope with, I think,” Mallinson told CNBC.
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That’s because the crisis comes at a time when many Central Asia countries are at their “lowest ebb,” Mallinson said, citing disenfranchised populations throughout the region, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and extremely severe drought this year.
Reuters reported Wednesday that the Kremlin said it had learnt the lessons of the Soviet Union’s failed intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s and will not deploy armed forces there.