Russian TV Presenter Elena Afonina discussed these and other issues in the studio of the First Russian with American political scientist Malek Dudakov and military expert Viktor Litovkin .
The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, which was quite expected, turned into chaos. In fact, there is a civil war in the country, and the Taliban practically seized power, announcing their intention to proclaim the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. For some Central Asian countries, it may be beneficial to involve us in this war, in this Afghan crisis. But does Russia need this?
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden blamed the Afghan government and the army for what was happening: “No one foresaw that the Afghan army would fall apart so quickly,” he said. Should you trust Biden’s words ? Didn’t he say in 2003 that without nation-building there will be chaos and violence in Afghanistan, but in 2021 he says differently: our goal in Afghanistan has never been nation-building.
The events in Afghanistan have become a disaster for the credibility of the West in the world, says Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. But it is not even this that worries him, but the fact that control over the situation in Afghanistan may pass to Russia and China. And this should be prevented by … the European Union.
Defeat or cleverly planned action?
So what has America demonstrated to the world? Flight and defeat? Or is it a well-planned operation? Presenter Elena Afonina discussed these and other issues in the studio of the First Russian with American political scientist Malek Dudakov and military expert Viktor Litovkin.
Elena Afonina: Maybe we underestimate America, and flight is a cleverly and cunningly planned action?
Malek Dudakov: Let’s not go into conspiracy theories. Of course, this was not a planned action; the Americans had no plan. This is indicated by the reaction to what is happening in Afghanistan, which we are seeing in Washington. No one understood what the withdrawal of American troops would lead to, no one expected that the Kabul government would fall in just a matter of days.
And now the American intelligence service, the Pentagon and the White House, pointing fingers at each other, are trying to find the culprit in this situation.
Of course, there were some tactical agreements on the ground, we already know about them. But no one expected that this regime would fall so quickly; it was assumed that it would exist for at least six months or a year. And now the whole world has seen how quickly regimes oriented towards America and its bayonets can fall.
– Viktor Nikolaevich, it’s hard to imagine that the US special services could not predict such a development of events. This seems a little strange.
Viktor Litovkin: Why strange? This is not the first time. Remember how the Americans fled Somalia in 1979 when what they called an operation to force the natives to peace failed. But after one of the officers of the Delta group was dragged around the city after a jeep, tying him by the arms and legs, the Americans quickly got up and ran away. In the same way, they fled from Saigon .
When Biden says that between the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and what happened in Saigon, “there is no similarity, nothing at all,” we see the opposite: a picture from Kabul, when American embassy officials were removed from the roof of a building using a Chinook helicopter, bypassed the whole world. It was the same in Saigon. So there is a lot in common.
True, there is a difference in the number of losses. Not a word is spoken about the wounded in Afghanistan, and, according to various estimates, from 2,300 to 2,500 people died. In Vietnam, they lost more than 58 thousand people, about 300 thousand soldiers were injured. After returning home due to post-Vietnamese syndrome, from 100 to 150 thousand people committed suicide, unable to find themselves in a peaceful life.
It is absolutely certain that we will also hear about the post-Afghan syndrome.
Viktor Baronets , a military columnist for Komsomolskaya Pravda, joined the conversation in the studio via Skype .
“We left with banners unfurled, the Americans are fleeing”
– Viktor Nikolaevich, can you explain why Afghanistan has become the number one topic these days? What is this, phantom pains?
Viktor Baranets: Let’s just say that not every day Americans run from the battlefield like that, so this event became the number one topic.
– I have another question. Is it possible to compare this flight of the Americans with what happened then, as our guys left Afghanistan?
VB: By any measure, this comparison is incorrect. We were leaving Afghanistan in accordance with the Geneva Agreements, and the whole world knew about it. We announced that we will release in two stages. Participants in those events told me that a phased plan for the withdrawal of Soviet troops was then presented to the political and military leadership of Afghanistan.
We reported that we were removing our units from the southern territories of the country and moving north. We did not burn our scarlet banners, as the Americans did – this most shameful fact has been seen by many. As Colonel-General Boris Gromov said, “we left with banners unfurled.”
– Indeed, now in Europe, at different levels, they say that America did not have a plan to withdraw its contingent and people who had collaborated with the Americans all these 20 years. Why did it happen? After all, talks about the withdrawal of the contingent began a long time ago, it was not a spontaneous decision, they began to discuss it even under Trump, and even under Obama, there were talks about it.
VB: I would like to ask: what has Citizen Borrell got to do with it? Where is Europe and where is Afghanistan? You crawl under your European shop and don’t blather, we’ll figure it out ourselves somehow.
I discussed the situation with our military in Moscow, as well as with Afghan politicians and military personnel. I was alarmed by one phrase, I will tell you about it, but only as a version.
The Americans purposely abandoned the technology – for the Taliban ?
We are now all outraged that the Americans left a gigantic amount of weapons to the Taliban. Yes, the equipment they left there is badly worn. But one of my interlocutors asked me: don’t you think that this was done on purpose to pump up the Taliban army * when it will take power?
Indeed, out of the 300,000-strong Afghan army, about 100,000 well-trained and fired soldiers have already defected under the banner of the Taliban . Imagine when they, together with 65 thousand Taliban *, want to move north – to Tajikistan, to Uzbekistan, to Turkmenistan …
And then what? Tajikistan has at most nine thousand people under arms, Uzbekistan has more than 20, and Turkmenistan has about the same number. To some, this version may seem ridiculous, but if you think about it – why leave the Americans weapons and ammunition worth billions of dollars? Even the drones remained there. So not everything in this story is simple.
– Viktor Baranets touched upon a very important topic about weapons. Life published on its Telegram channel a table of what went to the Taliban * after the Americans. The graph shows tanks and MRAP armored cars with mine protection, mortars, howitzers, Grads, and RPGs, including four Javelins. There are even 22 Embraer Super Tucano attack aircraft.
VL: The Americans never had Grad. They have a different system. The tanks are also ours.
– I asked the experts a question about where this technique could have come from? They answered me: firstly, the year of production of all this is unknown, but something could have remained from the times when Soviet troops were present in Afghanistan.
V.L .: Of course. There were 60 of our helicopters left there.
– Quite right – the Mi-35 and Mi-17 helicopters. But there are also 30 Black Hawk helicopters, which Donald Trump mentioned when he accused Joe Biden of “secret US developments will go to Russia and China.” There really is something like that. What might interest us greatly?
M.D .: Just yesterday it became known that the Taliban * seem to have got their hands on the latest American stealth helicopters MH-60. Such helicopters are in service only with the American special forces.
This information has not yet been confirmed. But if this is true, then those to whom the Taliban * will sell this equipment – Pakistan or Iran, whoever – will be able to reverse-engineer all the technologies to understand how it works. And already this will give them the opportunity to counteract future conflicts with the United States. There have already been such precedents.
The US military superiority bubble burst, but Americans are always businessmen
V.L .: I would like to answer the question of why there is such attention today to this event, the flight of Americans. Because, firstly, the “soap bubble” of the superiority of the American armed forces has collapsed. The Taliban *, people armed only with machine guns, machine guns, at least with grenade launchers, defeated a powerfully equipped army. And that’s a shame. Now, when the Americans again talk about their superiority over everyone, they will be shown with a finger at what they left behind in Afghanistan.
Among the techniques that you have listed, there is also a Soviet one. And there are no special secrets in it – this is iron that can be seen at any exhibition. The secrets are control systems, software, various codes. Did the Americans leave it there? I doubt it very much, we have not heard a word about it. And iron – well, iron is iron. Why did they leave him?
Americans are businessmen first and foremost. They understand that it is expensive, tedious and time-consuming to take it all out. And to give up means that the Taliban *will create some kind of army of their own after they manage to put together Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is a bunch of clans, a bunch of tribes that have never been friends with each other and are not friends.
The equipment left to the Taliban will fail, it needs to be modernized, it needs to be repaired. Replenish ammunition. Where will they get them? The Americans. Not directly, of course, maybe through Pakistan, through India, through some third countries.
But America will still make money on this – on the supply of spare parts, on the training of their instructors, and so on. Now many pilots have left Afghanistan for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And who will be piloting these Ebon Hawks?
– I had the same question: you can leave the equipment, but who will control it? As it became known, in addition to technology, the Americans also left behind the biometric data of the Afghans who collaborated with them. Was this intentional, or did they just leave whatever they could leave behind during their escape?
M.D .: Any withdrawal of troops, I think, is always chaos. Especially in the conditions in which the Americans left. I said at the very beginning that no one in Washington expected that the regime of President Ashraf Ghani would fall in three months. Therefore, when it became a reality, when they were already running, they had to just leave everything.
– Malek, explain, what has changed? It seemed at the beginning that the withdrawal was coming gradually. But then how the dam broke. Why did this happen?
M.D: The withdrawal of troops began under Trump, the process slowed down during the transit of power, and in April it resumed. And the dam was already broken in July when the Taliban * began to advance on all fronts when it became clear that their victory was near.
But even then the estimates of the withdrawal time were very different. Biden intended to withdraw troops by 9/11. In this case, it is quite possible that everything would have happened in a more organized manner. But the withdrawal operation had to be completed on August 13-15, that is, a month earlier.
The studio was contacted by the political observer of Constantinople, Alexander Tsyganov. Turning to him, Elena Afonina asked:
– We have repeatedly mentioned the Taliban **. In Russia, this organization is included in the list of prohibited ones. What will happen next, referring to the events in Afghanistan?
Alexander Tsyganov: As far as I know, our side has already begun to probe the ground in the UN Security Council to ensure that the Americans and the British do not resist our proposal to lift both the sanctions against the Taliban ** and the very wording. I believe that on reasonable thought, they will agree to this.
The fact is that if some force controls the state, you can declare it a terrorist a thousand times, but you still have to interact with it. Moreover, there is interaction with the Taliban * on the widest range of problems – from security to pipelines, oil and gas pipelines that are good to transit through this territory. And of course, it would be good to do this under our control.
There are also humanitarian issues, on which we will also have to cooperate. For example, we agreed with them on the status of our embassy, which the Taliban * do not touch.
How can you negotiate with terrorists? There is a principle that there is nothing to negotiate with them. So in this case, I think reasonable people will come to a compromise on this matter.
– Why do the Taliban have such support from the population? The United States certainly did not count on this. As it turned out, this was a short-sighted position, and Afghanistan, which had been under almost American control for 20 years, suddenly surrenders to the Taliban in a matter of days.
A.Z .: It seems to me that an illusion worked here, including ours, because of which we believed that few people in Afghanistan support the Taliban **.
Paradoxically, during the 47 years of the civil war, 90-95% of the population managed to get used to the fact that “whites come and rob, red ones come and also rob.” And so that they are not robbed, they obey their field commanders in advance, who are sitting in every valley, in every village. And these field commanders, as representatives of local “district executive committees”, agree in advance with some prevailing force in the region so that they “should not be robbed so much.”
The war in Afghanistan is always a war of several hundred, maximum of several thousand active fighters, taking place with the silent, one might say, positive self-elimination of the rest of the population. That is, “you do not touch us, but we listen to you.” This is how it happens.
Not our war they are trying to drag us into
– Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said that “there are no preconditions for the deployment of our country’s troops in Afghanistan.” It turns out that what we are discussing now is not our war?
A.Ts .: This is not a war at all. If we look at Afghanistan as a kind of historical phenomenon, then we must understand one important thing: it is not a state, it is a territory under the situational control of several tribes, several peoples, and several religions. What is happening now in Kabul, the same Taliban * are the pranks of the Pashtuns. They do not constitute the majority of the population, but they are the most energetic, most nervous part of it.
Because, on the one hand, this people combines the most advanced civilizational elements, someone studied in the West, gained Western culture, someone in Russia, imbued with Russian culture. But at the same time, there are primitive tribes there, especially in the Pakistani zone, which still remain nomads and go in caravans. And the nomadic way of life is not even the early Middle Ages.
And because of this contrast, because of this voltage drop, all sorts of twisted warlike events happen to them.
Hazaras also live in Afghanistan, who control almost half of the country, practically all the central provinces. Tajiks and Uzbeks live in the north of the country. There are also a few small nations.
But these four peoples are the largest. And mind you, now part of the Tajiks did not submit and went to the Panjshir Gorge. Whereat one time they hid from our troops, and then from the first Taliban *. They hid there and from the Americans until they could get along with them. And now they have gone there again, to their territories. What the Taliban will do with them, we do not know.
Is this our war? Certainly not ours. It can become ours only if not so much the Taliban climb into the territory of Central Asia, but their fellow travelers “Islamic internationalists”, as I call them in my articles with the light submission of Professor Andrei Grozin.
These are various Islamic, Islamist organizations – Uzbek, Tajik, Uyghur, there are Turkmen and even Iranian, which now in Afghanistan are also fishing in troubled waters. They will want to develop their success on the territory of their former countries. Otherwise, they simply do not succeed, they have such a life, they are paid money for it.
Will the Taliban fight them? It seems to me that if he is responsible for protecting the borders, he will definitely fight.
But there is one more problem: the Taliban itself is not a united movement, at least there are three major factions within it. One is more pro-European. Not in the sense that it is for the West, but more or less European-Islamic.
The other is purely Asian-Islamic. The third one is fed by the flooded Arabs and Saudis. And between them, some sort of showdown will surely begin about how to share this victory.
– I understand that the topic of Afghanistan is not a side issue for you, you understand this perfectly. You worked in Afghanistan even when our Soviet troops were there. And already from this base, you look at the events of the XXI century.
A.Ts .: I was there even after the Soviet troops – practically alone in 1997.
– That is, you see in dynamics how it is developing and what is happening in this country. What is your forecast for the next five years? What will happen to Afghanistan?
A.Ts .: I can say briefly, in one world – war. Afghanistan can no longer help but fight. Further, we can predict a showdown between factions in the Taliban itself **, as I said. One can expect a clash both with the “Islamic State” ***, which has not gone anywhere from there and with these “Islamic internationalists”. Let’s see who will support whom, who will support which faction. There, the Chinese have not yet said their word.
– I just wanted to say – we forgot about China. And he has already stated that he will in every possible way maintain relations with the Taliban ** and help economically to rebuild Afghanistan. Moreover, China has interesting projects there.
What Russia needs to prepare for is the main question
– A question for the experts in the studio: what do we need to prepare for?
VL: While we are watching from the sidelines, how the Taliban ** are putting together the state of Afghanistan. It is clear that there will be internal wars between tribes, clans, and factions. But they all know how to negotiate with each other. Therefore, wars will end eventually.
But when everything is more or less settled, they will want to expand, because Islamic radicalism cannot remain within itself, it must constantly move somewhere. It cannot be ruled out that he will start moving north.
I do not have accurate information, but for sure there are “sleeping cells” of the same Taliban **, the same Islamic radicals, and so on in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. They are waiting for their signal, and this signal can sound at any time.
We did not say a word today that Afghanistan is a world drug producer. And although the Taliban ** claims that it will continue to fight drug production, that it opposes the use of these drugs inside Afghanistan, we must not forget that this is the Taliban’s main income **, for which it buys weapons and much other.
And drugs will be exported through Tajikistan, through Uzbekistan, through Turkmenistan. This traffic has long been established. And the Islamic radicals themselves and their literature will follow the same paths. And it is almost impossible to close the border – it runs through the mountains, along the gorges, along the mountain rivers. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the borders.
– Excuse me, but who are we going to strengthen?
V.L .: Our 201st base is also there.
– That is, you will have to reinforce it with our guys again?
V.L .: Not only. But we train specialists for them in our FSB academies.
– Probably everyone noticed how exercises were held in Uzbekistan to turn off social networks a few days ago. It was clear that if a certain signal is given through social networks, then those you are talking about will very quickly become active. Uzbekistan is already beginning to groan from the flow of refugees. However, this country suspended its membership in the CSTO quite a long time ago. And if now Tashkent says that it wants to return to the treaty again, will it be good for Russia? Could this become a kind of buffer between us and Afghanistan?
M.D .: Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are not obvious, although Washington believes that we, together with China, Iran, Pakistan, have benefited from the withdrawal of the Americans. Of course, we have certain unitary goals there, which were listed by Viktor Baronets. But to this could be added the question of a new uncontrolled wave of migration. Refugees will try to get to Russia too. We must also be wary of an increase in the export of drugs in our direction.
Perhaps, in the context of Uzbekistan, we will have to intervene in all this and provide military assistance to our neighbors.
– I would like to clarify right away. Why are we so afraid of refugees from Afghanistan? Who are they? Could it be that people are Americanized in some way?
M. Dz .: Westernized, rather.
– Quite right. Westernized, as our president, said. And they can work intellectually, which implies a certain level of education. Among these refugees, there may be those who received education in our country.
M.D .: Who is the first to flee Afghanistan now? More than 80% are young people under 35 years old. Perhaps there are many people among them who received either education abroad, or education according to Western patterns within the country. But who knows how many “sleeping Islamists” there are among them, who in 5-7 years may arrange a terrorist attack in our country?
There is a danger for Russia. Isn’t it time for us to introduce a visa regime?
– Then maybe this is a good reason to introduce a visa regime? At least for a while?
V.L.: For Central Asia, for our Central Asia?
– We understand that the situation is difficult. We have listed the dangers for Russia. Maybe say: in this regard, we are temporarily introducing a visa regime with the countries of Central Asia?
– Of course, there will be a visa regime over time. But it is very difficult to organize it. We need this workforce today, so we cannot introduce a visa regime all at once. Someone, excuse me, has to clean our Moscow streets. They are clean today. And in the midst of the pandemic, when there were almost no migrants, the streets were a little dirty.
And then, one must understand that not only those who collaborated with the Americans, NATO, and so on are fleeing from Afghanistan. All those who want to take advantage of these opportunities are running.
“I don’t know if everyone will agree with me, but if I choose between clean streets and the penetration of terrorism, I’ll choose closed borders and dirty streets, not clean entrances, which, as in the 90s, can explode. For me, safety is more important than cleanliness. And who will clean the streets, I think we will find.
What will happen to Afghanistan in five years, your answer, Malek?
M. Dz .: I think that the civil war that is going on now will continue. Do not think that the Taliban * will take control of the country and establish some kind of world order. I don’t think we will see anything good there in the next five years.
Constantinople Programs is a Special Segment on Tsargrad TV.
Republishing is allowed with the copyright credit to © The Radical Outlook