It was clear for a long time that sooner or later the Americans would have to leave Afghanistan, regardless of what kind of government would rule in Kabul, except perhaps outright terrorists like Osama bin Laden. And this moment has almost come. The decision was made, a promise to the Taliban (representatives of a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) to withdraw their troops was given. What will this lead to, in general, too история has already demonstrated on the example of President Najibullah. For the sake of retaining power and expanding support for his government by the population, he initiated a policy of national reconciliation, was ready to create a coalition government with the Mujahideen, made Islam the state religion and allowed the use of Sharia. But that didn't save him. He was still perceived by the population as a protege of the USSR. While the Soviet troops were in the country, he retained power, although significant territories had already retreated under the control of the Mujahideen. USSR withdrew OKSV, but continued to supply the regime weapons and ammunition, and therefore Najibullah still retained power. But after its (USSR) collapse, when Russia stopped military supplies to the Najibullah regime, almost immediately Kabul was captured by the Mujahideen, Najibullah was overthrown.
The same scenario is likely after the upcoming US withdrawal. The Taliban today control, according to various sources, from 50 to 70 percent of the territory of Afghanistan and expand their zone of influence. Sharia norms are established in the controlled territories and strictly monitor their implementation, applying the most severe measures to violators of the rules of conduct. This is also why they, while in power and the existence of their "state", managed to establish a strict order, stop fighting and even stop drug production on the territory.
The number of militants is estimated at around 60 thousand people. Despite attempts to end the inter-Afghan war, the Taliban continue to fight against the government army, and although they have reduced the intensity, they still attack the coalition forces.
What should Russia and Central Asia prepare for amid the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan?
Without the military support of the current government and the direct participation of the coalition forces in the battles against the Taliban, President Ghani will also not hold out for long under the Taliban onslaught. Apart from humanitarian and financial assistance, they will not help him in any way. Unless in case of a threat, they can evacuate the country on American planes, in order to avoid the fate of Najibullah, who was hanged by the Taliban. They will take Kabul again and restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as it was. Nobody will put up resistance to the Taliban. Former President Hamid Karzai managed to secure his power from strong potential opponents in various ways. Therefore, today there are no charismatic and experienced military leaders and politicians like Ahmadshah Massoud who are capable of organizing a new Northern Alliance and leading the resistance to the Taliban. Someone died, like Fatim, someone was bought for a position, Masud and Rabbani were killed by suicide bombers. The Northern Alliance has ceased to exist. Marshal Dostum's Uzbeks are not a serious force today.
The government army will collapse and partly go over to the side of the Taliban. And the Afghan military will not resist strongly.
Therefore, I suppose, if the Taliban are able to show wisdom and are able to agree with the Tajiks (23% of the population), Uzbeks (9%) and Hazaras (10%) on peace and harmony, they have a chance to restore the integrity of Afghanistan within its former borders. Although with the same Hazaras and Uzbeks, in case of misunderstanding of the parties, the Taliban can sort it out by military means. And in the end, this can happen. After all, the Taliban are mostly Pashtuns, and they have strength on their side. They in the majority - 50% of the population plus will receive, in addition to the currently available equipment and weapons, the arsenal of the government army, and they have some kind of ideology and practice of state building. Most importantly, they can ensure peace and order (as much as possible, given that the Taliban is an organization that uses terrorist methods) in a tired and devastated country. Moreover, even now, even in the provinces controlled by the government, the Taliban have their own illegal authorities, which will quickly become completely legal in the event of the fall of the central government and the transformation of the Taliban themselves into legal power. And I think that this time, even if not immediately, the Taliban government will be recognized by many countries in the world. The US itself set an example. It is unlikely that they will start repeating their previous mistakes and unnerving civilized countries with the destruction of ancient statues, as it was in Bamiyan. They care little about the world community, but its humanitarian assistance and assistance in rebuilding the destroyed country would not be superfluous.
This is a military version of the Taliban's coming to power. But they have every chance to take power within the framework of the national ceasefire process. Having control over most of the provinces and with legalization as a political force after the conclusion of a peace agreement with the government, they can win the elections and become the legal official government of Afghanistan, and then everything goes according to the first option. This path will facilitate the process of legitimizing their power in the world.
Which option happens depends not only on the Taliban. After the withdrawal of the coalition troops, the government, even if an agreement is signed, knowing the tough temper of the Taliban towards enemies, may try to retain power. But this is a useless exercise and unnecessary sacrifices.
Iran has always had some influence on the situation in Afghanistan, which has more than 900 km of the common border with it. They have a complicated relationship history. And with the Taliban, it almost came to war because of the capture in 1998 of the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif and the shooting of diplomats and employees, the Taliban's persecution of the Shiites of Afghanistan and Iran's support for the Northern Alliance. And in 2010, Iran was accused by the US and NATO already of supporting the Taliban (* banned in the Russian Federation). It is difficult to say how relations will develop after the withdrawal of US troops, but, logically, if the Taliban do not persecute the Shiites and peace comes to Afghanistan, relations should be friendly. Moreover, Iran is an important trading partner for Afghanistan.
I believe that the real threat to the Taliban and the Central Asian republics is the IS supporters operating there (banned in the Russian Federation). Back in 2015, they created Vilayat Khorasan with a zone of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its leaders regard the territories of the Central Asian republics of the former USSR as bridgeheads. And this, and not the possibility of the arrival or seizure of power by the Taliban, is a serious threat, since they are located mainly along the borders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. After the defeat in Syria and Iraq, surviving IS fighters began to flock to it, primarily Afghans and natives of Central and Central Asia and people from the Caucasus. According to data from open sources, the number of militants can reach several thousand people, including 2000 from Tajikistan alone, who have gone through the fighting in Syria and Iraq. It should be borne in mind that many IS fighters have returned home and are conducting organizational and propaganda work with the local population of the republic. Considering the existing threat from the radical Islamist organization “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” (banned in the Russian Federation), which has experience of military operations and supporters, there is a high probability of their joint actions or merging in the interests of spreading influence and organizing terrorist attacks on the territory of any of the republics of Central Asia. Attempts to overthrow the existing government and proclaim a local version of an Islamic state are also quite possible. The threat of this is especially great in relation to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, where the low standard of living, serious social and economic difficulties, the high level of corruption and stratification of the population and the leaders who stay in power, whose authority among the population is low. And at the same time, weak armies and power structures, the population professes Islam and can easily succumb to the propaganda of Islamists. All the prerequisites for the successful overthrow of the government are in place. Can flare up at any moment. And in Kyrgyzstan, another riot may happen already under the Islamist banners. The Kyrgyz are quickly changing power, but life does not improve from this. And this can push people towards the Islamists. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan seem to be relatively stable states, but everything can be there.
The media more than once reported about the destruction of the "minister of war" of the group of Gulmurod Halimov, the former commander of the OMON of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan, a Tajik. In 2017, it was reported that the Russian aviation destroyed it in Syria. But in January 2019, according to information allegedly from the special services of Tajikistan, it became known that he was alive and, together with a group of supporters, was in Afghanistan and was preparing an invasion of Tajikistan. He has stated such intentions more than once. And our 201st military base must be on the alert. In addition to its servicemen, there is, by and large, no one to fight the invading militants.
Taking into account that the Taliban are against their presence and activities in Afghanistan, I think that there will be a war between the Taliban and Khorasan for influence and power in Afghanistan. Moreover, among the youth of Afghanistan there are opinions that the Taliban is outdated and has lost its energy and dynamism in comparison with IS. But today "Khorasan" still has few resources, forces and influence among the Afghan population to withstand the war with the Taliban and the government forces of Afghanistan. Plus, the US and NATO will help the Taliban in this war if the Taliban are true to their obligations to the United States. Yes, and Russia can take an all possible part in eliminating this threat: both by providing armament assistance to the Taliban or the Afghan government, and through the CSTO by strengthening the borders with Afghanistan. Iran, Pakistan, China, India are also interested in removing the threat from the new terrorist entity. And everyone benefits from a peaceful and united Afghanistan. Each country has its own interest. And here full mutual understanding of all parties, including Russia, can be achieved.
As for the threats from Afghanistan against Russia and the former republics of the USSR, then, I believe, there are no obvious threats directly to Russia, except for drug trafficking. Moreover, the head of the Taliban delegation at the Doha talks, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said in an interview with Uzbekistan 24 TV channel that in the future the Taliban would not allow the emergence of a threat, danger from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan or other Central Asian countries, and that the Taliban adhere to views of peaceful cooperation and plans to develop relations with the countries of Central Asia. But the East, as you know, is a delicate matter. Today he said one thing, tomorrow he did another ...
Therefore, we still cannot exclude the possibility of an attack by militants on the 201st military base in Tajikistan. But the possible penetration of groups of militants across the border is possible primarily, as mentioned above, in Tajikistan, where the seizure of power is also likely. In Turkmenistan, there is also a risk of attacks, but there are large areas of flat terrain, it is difficult to hide from aviation. But they can seize border settlements.
What can be done to prevent such a turn of events?
It is believed that the Taliban could be recognized as a political force if its leaders keep their promises. Negotiations with them have already been conducted at the Russian Foreign Ministry. It is also important to watch the outcome of the inter-Afghan peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Doha. But the recognition of the Taliban as a political force at the same time would mean an amnesty for their previous deeds. Whether representatives of the international community, including our country, are ready for this is an open question.