Stanislav Ivanov, Leading Researcher at the Center for International Security of the IMEMO RAS PhD (History)
It can be stated that the power in Kabul has passed into the hands of the Taliban movement (banned in the Russian Federation). Some politicians and political scientists continue to frighten ordinary people with the creation of a new “Islamic Caliphate”, the Taliban’s exit to the borders of the post-Soviet space, their possible invasion of Central Asian countries, the activation of the forces of international terrorism in the region and other horrors. Allegedly, terrorists of all stripes, hundreds of thousands of refugees and tons of Afghan drugs will pour through the poorly guarded borders of Afghanistan to the Central Asian countries and then to Russia, etc.
I would like to somewhat reduce the intensity of such fears in the media and remind you that the Taliban movement is a purely Afghan opposition movement with radical Sunni Islamist views, but without claims to expansion in the region or to gain world domination. Unlike Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (banned in the Russian Federation), the Taliban do not proclaim jihad (war against infidels) around the world. Moreover, the Taliban are trying to quite harshly suppress the activities of any foreign Islamist groups in the territories they control.
Of course, Taliban movement, like many other Islamist organizations, is far from heterogeneous in its composition and views. If the official leaders of the Taliban are trying to distance themselves from the IS and Al-Qaeda and have agreed to conclude a peace agreement with the United States in the capital of Qatar, Doha, then some radical groups consider these actions a betrayal and call for continuing the fight against the remnants of Western influence in the country. It is on the latter that functionaries and Politicians are betting to turn Afghanistan into a hotbed of terrorism. The moderate Taliban will have a long struggle for the purity of their ranks and legalization in the eyes of the world community. So far, most Western and other states have taken a wait-and-see attitude towards the new authorities and are in no hurry to recognize them.
It should be noted that the Taliban leaders have learned certain lessons from the events of 1996, when they first came to power. Now they are trying to avoid unnecessary human sacrifices, and there are no cases of obscurantism or the destruction of monuments of world significance. If earlier the Taliban relied mainly on Pashtun tribes and Afghan refugees in the Pakistani border area, now they are very actively working and interacting with all the national minorities of the country (Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens, Kyrgyz, and others).
The authority and influence of the Taliban among the rural population and individual cities of Afghanistan turned out to be much higher than the influence of the overthrown official authorities. Provincial Afghan rulers and elites are trying to negotiate with the leaders of the Taliban, military personnel and other security forces avoid armed clashes with the detachments of the DT. Some units are disarming and going home, while others are defecting to the Taliban or taking refuge in neighboring countries as refugees.
The events in Afghanistan, for all their transience and drama, are still quite peaceful; they can be considered a purely internal Afghan affair without any foreign interference. The choice of the Afghan people should be respected and the Afghans themselves should be given the opportunity to decide on the new Government and regime. The Taliban do not yet pose any threat to Russia and or its allies in the countries of Central Asia. The Russian Embassy in Kabul is still working with the necessary precautions.
Even the myth of a possible increase in the drug threat from the Afghan direction does not stand up to criticism. Opiate producers and drug traffickers will continue to meet the demand of consumers of this group of drugs in the countries of Central Asia, Russia and the post-Soviet space. Some of the drugs will continue to transit through Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to the countries of Eastern Europe. The possible change of power in Kabul, most likely, will not affect the volume of production and supply of Afghan drugs across the borders of neighboring states in any way. This is, first of all, a social problem in the opiate-consuming countries themselves and is most closely related to the level of corruption in their power and power structures. It is unlikely that the Taliban will launch any broad campaign against their poppy farmers or drug producers from the very first days. It is possible that in the future the Taliban may tighten control over the borders of Afghanistan for drug couriers, as is the case in Iran.
The resignation of Ashraf Ghani on August 15, 2021 and his flight from the country with his immediate entourage opened the way for a peaceful transition of power into the hands of the Taliban movement. Thus, the conditions were created for the end of the long-term civil war in this country. Much will depend on the next steps and actions of the Taliban leaders inside the country and in the international arena. It is still difficult to predict the further course of events.
It is possible that very soon the Taliban government in Afghanistan will request an agreman in Moscow for its diplomatic representative (ambassador) to the Russian Federation and other foreign countries. The Russian ambassador to Afghanistan says that under the Taliban, Kabul has become much calmer, explosions and shelling of the city has stopped. The Chinese leadership is already declaring the possibility of recognizing the power of the Taliban; it is obvious that Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other monarchies of the Persian Gulf can also take such a step.