Yuri Razgulaev: Ethnic separatism strengthens Russian influence in Afghanistan

Unexpected for most observers, on October 23, General Dustum’s security assistant, Said Kamil, visited Bishkek. The aim of the visit was a non-official meeting with former generals of the Afghan army who turned out still to live in Kirghizia. However, informed sources report that the true aim of Sail Kamil was a meeting with the supreme leaders of the republic to explore the ground around forming a new Afghan government. Kirghizian officials who met with Said Kamil say that people in Dustum’s surroundings are sure of a quick vicory. According to them, Kabul’s fall is just a question of time, of a short time. Then, the question about power in the winners’ camp will appear. Said Kamil, and probably other messengers of the general, just sound out the possibilities and gather allies for the future fight for Afghanistan’s repartition. It is no more a secret that only with great reserve the Northern Alliance can be called a unit. Different forces with different aims were united there in their opposing to the Taliban. Several separated groups are fighting today against Pashtoons, making up the main kernel of the Taliban. In the north are Usbeks headed by General Dustum. They hold their positions in Samangan and Balkh provinces, while sending their main forces to attack Mazar-i Sharif, which, according to some plans, could become Afghan capital, at least for some time. In the northeastern provinces Badakhshan, Tahar, and Parvan, there are Tadjiks led by General Fakhimhan. In the west, Iranians with an ex-governor of Gerat province, Ismail-han, at the head have fortified their positions. For the time being, they can only keep narrow strips of the territory bordering upon Afghanistan, so all the conflicts among them seem not to be so important. However, the US participation in the war seriously raised the Northern Alliance’s chances to gain control over the whole country. Then, all the contradictions became obvious, and even animosity of the temporary allies. The main participants of the anti-terrorist coalition also made their contribution to the strife. For example, Russia openly supports General Fakhimhan. This had already started during the time when Afghan Tadjiks were led by Akhmad Shah Masud. Such one-sided help always infuriated General Dustum, who often complained that he had received no one cartridge from Russia. The situation changed after the US joined in the anti-terrorist operation. General Dustum became the object of attention, which was confirmed with 80 million dollars, probably through Islam Karimov. Information appeared the theUzbek general had received already 500 million dollars. Such massive finance assistance, according to sources in Russian special services, could be rendered in response to Tashkent’s promise to prolong the US military presence on Uzbek territory. Vladimir Putin’s rash night flight from Shanghai to Dushanbe could be considered as a reaction to this decision. As known, in Shanghai, Putin did not managed to agree with George Bush about the Taliban’s position in the Afghan future government. As a result, Russia definitively bets on Tajikistan and on Burkhanuddin Rabbani, “the only legitimate leader of Afghanistan," as the Russians say. Though, to be honest, in Shanghai, a serious split in the anti-terrorist coalition took shape. Its main point is that Russia and the US have counted on different participants of the Northern Alliance. However, what is more important is that this split might cause new serious conflicts on Afghan soil, but among the winners. The fact should be also taken into account that the split inside the Northern Alliance coincides with the border between Sunnits and Shiiths, or, to be more precise, between Turkis and Persians. Not only Tashkent and Islam Karimov support today General Dustum. Turkey is also active on this flank. The foreign minister of this country, Ismail Jem, is visiting Azerbaijan, Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan. To this field belongs also Said Kamil’s visit to Kirghizia. While Fakhimhan and Tajik leader Emomali Rakhmonov seem to lean toward Iran. Teheran itself is supposed to have nothing again participation in “the Great Tajikistan” revival. Iranians remember well how the hero of Iranian epos, Tajik prince Rustam, defended the borders of the great Iranian empire and fought against Turan, which is today’s Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These are not only historical excuses. Old offences and victories are remembered by today’s participants of the Afghan conflict. And not only the leaders but by field commanders and even by common soldiers as well. Moreover, today’s relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan most precisely could be called half-hostile. Here, many-year or even many-century disputes around Bokhara and Samarkand should be remembered. Therefore, only a small push would be enough and these CIS countries to join in military actions. Cruel controversies about the Taliban’s participation, even of the most moderate of them, in the new Afghan government, show that there is no power that can unify the whole country. The anti-terrorist coalition’s members also differ on this question. Each one of them intends to fight for its own interests. For example, the US cannot agree to the Taliban’s full defeat, which would strengthen Russian positions in this region. While Afghanistan’s “legitimate” leader Barhunaddin Rabbani, as well as Russia, are ready to completely exclude the “revolutionary students” from the new Afghanistan’s political life. However, General Dustum has his own plan. He seems to have already discussed with the Americans the creation of Uzbek autonomy in the north of Afghanistan. These positions, as you can see, are completely incompatible. All the more, they do not take into account the Pashtoon’s interests, who are the most numerous ethnic group of the country. So, according to many experts, the only way to overcome the deadlock, is to divide Afghanistan. In Dushanbe, Vladimir Putin stated the aim of Moscow’s participation in the anti-terrorist alliance was creation a state in this region of Asia which would be friendly towards its neighbouring countries, including Russia. However, the evolution of the events indicates this aim to be unattainable. This is why in Moscow, in circles near the General Staff, an idea is being discussed about establishing an autonomous Tajik state, a separated one or a state united with Dushanbe. According to the generals, the state allied with Russia will control first of all Salang passage, which blocks the only way to CIS southern borders. Another independent creation will be most likely the territory occupied by General Dustum. The Pashtoons hardly will forgive the Uzbeks, which have agreed to fight against the Taliban for "infidels'” money. A union with Fakhimhan is also excluded for him. Already today, Tashkent does not pass through its territory military echelons for supporting Tajiks. So, there are only two variants: either partition of Afghanistan, or, as well-known Russian politologist Vladlen Sirotkin suggests, UN guardianship, entrance of peace-keeping forces. It might sound strange, but this situation corresponds with US interests. Today, the most dangerous thing for the whole world is supposed to be the opposition between Christianity and Islam. Really, a billion Muslims could cause many troubles to the civilized world. However, today’s situation in Afghanistan not only splits Islam, but also knocks together two of its parts: Sunnit and Shiith. Contradictions between Uzkeks, Tajiks, and the Taliban, and even collisions among them on Afghan soil, turn the supposed global conflict into inter-confessional, which is less dangerous, and more operated. While Russia gets a chance to establish a buffer state on CIS southern borders, which will separate this region from the warlike Taliban and from Islamite fanatics.

Yuri Razgulaev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kirghizia

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/11/01/33290.html

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