The emergence of the IG in Afghanistan
According to some analysts, Afghanistan is one of the key objectives of the “Islamic State”, since the use of its territory as a springboard will later allow the IG to extend its influence to the neighboring Central Asian republics, primarily to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The armed Taliban, IG and other radical organizations operating in Afghanistan have at least 60 thousands of militants with considerable combat experience. It is known that the IG has far-reaching plans not only on the territory of Afghanistan, but also on the neighboring states. The “Islamic State” regards Afghanistan, Pakistan, part of Central Asia and Eastern Iran as “Khorasan Province”. The organization even appointed the head of this “province” - this is Hafiz Said Khan, who is currently in neighboring Pakistan, whose mountainous areas inhabited by Pashtun tribes since the second half of the 20th century. turned into the location of training camps and rear bases of Afghan religious fundamentalists. At present, several thousand people are involved in the ranks of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, and the authority of this organization among Afghan youth is constantly growing. Radically-minded young Afghans believe that the Taliban have gradually become obsolete and, over the 14 years of armed struggle, have not been able to regain control of the country's territories. Unlike the Taliban, the “Islamic State” demonstrates a high degree of dynamism, fighting in Syria and Iraq. In a short time, the IG managed to bring under control rather extensive Syrian and Iraqi provinces. In addition, the Islamic State is considered a more promising formation and sponsors of radical fundamentalism, first of all, Qatar, who invested a lot of money in informational support for the activities of Middle Eastern radicals. In the activities of the IG sponsors invest serious money, allowing them to recruit new supporters and pay for their participation in the hostilities. It is known that many militants who had previously fought in the ranks of other factions are lured into the ranks of the IG in Afghanistan. The main role is played by generous material remuneration by Afghan standards, which the IS sponsors are willing to pay the militants and field commanders of other groups, including the Taliban, in the event of their transfer to the ranks of the Islamic State formations. The money that is paid to the militants of IG in Afghanistan (which is approximately from 200 dollars to ordinary militants to 600 dollars to command personnel) is considered very good for unemployed Afghan youth.
As you know, on the territory of Afghanistan there are still about 12 thousand military personnel of foreign states, performing the duties of organizing combat training of the Afghan army and police, as well as working as advisers and consultants to the commanders of Afghan units. In fact, 12 troops as military advisers and teachers are many even for warring Afghanistan. Naturally, the NATO mission, opened in Afghanistan on January 1, 2015, assists the Afghan army not only in training, but also in conducting military operations. So, the U.S. Air Force is providing aviation support for Afghan units fighting against the Taliban and other radical groups. At the same time, American pilots make at least one flight a day to support the Afghan security forces. The mission of the NATO countries in Afghanistan is located at military bases in Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif. In October 2015, US President Barack Obama decided to postpone the withdrawal of 2016 thousand American soldiers and officers from Afghanistan scheduled for 5,5, since the situation in the country remains extremely tense.
The Taliban and the IG are gaining strength
Despite the support of NATO troops, the Afghan army is still unable to cope with the formation of religious fundamentalists. This is due, among other things, to financial, logistical, military, organizational and informational support of the latter, coming from a number of international organizations and foundations, as well as from some Islamic states. The world mass media blame Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Pakistan for financing and training combat units of the Taliban, the Islamic State, and Al-Qaida. By the way, despite the fact that Pakistan is the largest US strategic partner in South Asia, it was he who historically played a key role in organizing radical fundamentalist movements in Afghanistan - from the time of the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan and ending with the modern stage, in which Pakistan continues to support the Taliban forces, deploying them on its territory and closing its eyes to the activities of training camps, supply bases and financial structures Taliban in Pakistani territory. It is in Pakistan that illegal enterprises are located where small-scale weaponwhich then enters the Taliban units. Without American military assistance, the Afghan government will not be able to cope with the Taliban and the Islamic State on its own, and accordingly will soon fall under the onslaught of militants and most of the country will again be under the control of religious and political movements. Therefore, the new president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, appealed to Barack Obama with a request for military assistance, as the Taliban increased their activity and the frequency of attacks on objects controlled by government forces. Only with the help of US troops, the Afghan government forces managed to liberate the northern part of Kunduz captured by the Taliban, and the American command had to attract air forces to attack the Taliban fighters. Battle clashes with the Taliban are currently taking place in many provinces of Afghanistan. For example, in the first half of October, the Taliban movement intensified in the south of the country - in the province of Uruzgan, where 65 Taliban and 38 officers and police officers of the Afghan security forces were killed during clashes with the Afghan police. Major clashes also occur in Helmand province, where Afghan security forces have lost 29 employees. In Helmand, the Taliban attacked Afghan border police posts. While repelling the attacks, the 21 border policeman died, eight more people - officers of the Afghan border police - were captured by the Taliban and later killed. However, the Taliban detachment, which committed these attacks, also suffered significant losses - at least 35 militants died.
The most famous action of the Taliban, undertaken at the end of September 2015, was the seizure of the city of Kunduz, one of the most strategic settlements located near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz attracted the attention of the Taliban, including the fact that the possession of the city makes it possible to use it as an outpost for subsequent penetration into the republics of Central Asia. The city of Kunduz, the center of the province of the same name, was taken by relatively few Taliban troops that were able to inflict a serious defeat on government forces. Experts called the capture of Kunduz, the largest victory of the Taliban for fourteen years, revealing the lack of preparedness and low morale of the Afghan government forces. Despite the fact that the Afghan army and police were prepared by American instructors, their combat and moral-psychological level remains extremely low, and the high level of corruption, the involvement of officers in criminal activities, cronyism in appointing posts, permissiveness towards civilians. After the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the American command planned to transfer full functions to combat radical groups to Afghan government forces, but the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz clearly demonstrated the inability of the Afghan army and police to ensure security in the country and, accordingly, showed premature withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the territory of Afghanistan . So far, US leaders have been discussing the nature of the events related to the upcoming 2016. the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, came messages about the capture of Kunduz, forcing Barack Obama to change his point of view on the participation of American troops in providing security on the territory of Afghanistan. As a result of the events in Kunduz, the Americans again had to intervene in the fighting on the side of the government forces and for several days knock the Taliban out of the city. At the same time, an international level scandal occurred - American aviation struck the Doctors Without Borders organization hospital, after which the US leadership tried, and very ineptly and clumsily, to shift responsibility for the tragedy to the command of the Afghan armed forces. The governor of Kunduz province, Hamdullah Danishi, stated that the hospital building and its garden were used by the Taliban militants, which is why US air forces inflicted air strikes on the outskirts of the hospital. During the raids of American aviation, 19 died, among them 12 turned out to be employees of the international organization Doctors Without Borders, the three dead were children. More than 30 people were injured as a result of air strikes.
Afghan army contain US
As mentioned above, Kunduz revealed the main shortcomings of the Afghan army. What are the armed forces of modern Afghanistan, created and strengthened with the help of the United States and under their vigilant control? The creation of the armed forces of Afghanistan in their present form began in 2001, after the entry of US and NATO troops into the country. The US military advisers were directly guiding the creation of the Afghan army, and Afghanistan itself was given the status of a “main ally outside NATO”. Only in 2013, the Afghan armed forces were given basic security functions in the country. Currently, their number reaches 300 thousands of people (along with police and irregular formations, also created with the help of American military advisers). After the creation of the Afghan National Army, its number increased every year, since this was required by the difficult military and political situation in the country. Accordingly, the financial costs of recruiting soldiers of the Afghan army, their uniforms and weapons also increased. At the same time, the maintenance of Afghan soldiers is much cheaper than the soldiers of the American army and the armed forces of other countries - members of the coalition who fought against the Taliban, which is explained by the low salary, the use of cheap uniforms and poor nutrition. So, in 2010, every Afghan soldier cost 25 thousands of US dollars a year. The Afghan National Army includes five army corps stationed in Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. The base unit of the Afghan National Army is a battalion, usually numbering up to 600 soldiers and officers. The Afghan army includes 13 light infantry and 1 mechanized brigades, as well as a commando brigade, created with the direct participation of the United States. In addition to the army, in Afghanistan there are paramilitary units of the General Directorate of National Security, Border and National Police, and local police. Local militia units are being created on the ground, but the Afghan government does not have enough money to maintain them, primarily for soldiers ’wages, which prompts the latter to join the ranks of more“ richer ”armed formations - personal guards of local big businessmen and drug traffickers. criminal groups. There are no exceptions and the transition of militia militants, the Afghan army and the police in the ranks of Islamist groups, against which the government forces of the country are fighting. In principle, a significant part of the Afghan soldiers is absolutely indifferent to whom to fight for - if only they paid enough money. In a country with a shattered economy, war becomes perhaps the only occupation, along with the drug business, that can bring more or less tangible income to an ordinary Afghan.
It should be noted that the financing of the Afghan army and police is entirely within the purview of the United States of America. Even the Afghan Ministry of Defense does not hide the fact that the Afghan army is not only arming, but also dressing and feeding the United States. According to its representatives, the Afghan army costs the US $ 12 million dollars daily, given the cost of weapons and ammunition. Of course, spending huge money on the maintenance of the armed forces of a distant Asian country is not a very joyful duty for the United States. But if the US refuses to provide financial support to the Afghan armed forces, or at least significantly reduce its volumes, the Afghan army will immediately be in a losing position compared to the Taliban and the Islamic State. Moreover, it is possible that the “hungry” soldiers of the Afghan army will begin to massively go over to the side of the enemy. However, the US is trying to partially shift the cost of maintaining the Afghan armed forces to its "junior" allies, and in fact - the satellites. So, back in 2011, the Afghan police received 15 thousand AK-47 and 300 light artillery guns at a total cost of about 1 million dollars from Croatia. Medical equipment for the hospitals of the Afghan army was transferred to Japan, ammunition was delivered from warehouses in Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the spring of 2013, it was decided that in 2014-2016, Estonia would provide 1,5 million dollars for the needs of the Afghan army (i.e., half a million dollars a year). The figures of "gratuitous aid" to Afghanistan in 1,5 million dollars for three years were also established for Lithuania and Latvia. Despite the fact that these countries are far from Afghanistan, and their economies themselves are experiencing many problems, the American leadership has forced Tallinn, Vilnius and Riga to transfer large financial resources to the Afghan government. Georgian officers were involved in the training of the Afghan armed forces and police, in turn, undergoing military training under the guidance of American military instructors. However, the colossal financial costs incurred by the United States and allies, providing the Afghan army, apparently, have not yet justified themselves - Kabul’s combat successes in the fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State are conditional, if we abandon the assistance of American aviation and commandos.
Events in Afghanistan - a threat to Central Asia
The intensification of the militants of the “Islamic State” and the “Taliban” in Afghanistan represents a great threat to Russian interests in Central Asia. As is known, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have long been in the field of view of Afghan religious extremists. It should not be forgotten that the north of Afghanistan is inhabited by the same Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen and Kyrgyz, which at times facilitates the penetration of radical organizations operating in Afghanistan into the territory of the former Soviet Central Asia. In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the most favorable for the dissemination of radical ideas was the socio-economic and political situation. Uzbekistan has a tougher political regime, but the economic situation also leaves much to be desired. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economic situation of the Central Asian republics deteriorated significantly, and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were in a catastrophic situation. Mass unemployment, a decline in the standard of living of the population up to its real impoverishment, a repeated deterioration in the quality of life and living conditions amid high birth rates create fertile ground for the radicalization of the population and the spread, especially among young people, of extremist ideas and practices. The radicalization of the Central Asian Muslims according to the Syrian, Iraqi, or Afghani scenario represents a grave threat to the political stability of the states of the region, since it threatens the very existence of their existing political regimes. In addition, it is known that a significant part of the citizens of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan work on the territory of the Russian Federation. The number of Central Asian labor migrants in Russia is estimated at millions of people, with the largest proportion of migrants concentrated in Moscow and several other major cities in the country. Such a large mass of foreign citizens is extremely problematic to control the competent authorities - including the extent to which radical ideas spread in the migrant environment.
It is known that the law enforcement agencies and special services of the Russian Federation in various cities of the country repeatedly revealed the activities of subversive extremist organizations that existed precisely among Central Asian migrants and were financed by foreign funds. If the Taliban and Islamic State forces break through to the northern borders of Afghanistan and bring entire areas in contact with the republics of Central Asia under control, then the danger of spreading the activities of extremist organizations not only to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but also to Kazakhstan and Russia, will increase significantly. The next stage, of course, will be the armed invasion of militants of the Islamic State and the Taliban into the territory of Tajikistan, and possibly Kyrgyzstan. If this happens, then the whole of Central Asia will be in the hands of radical fundamentalists in a short time to the borders with Kazakhstan. Naturally, an attack on Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan will force the Russian Federation to engage in an armed confrontation with Afghan radical organizations. China may also face serious difficulties, since Muslims of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) have long advocated their political independence. Among them, of course, are supporters of radical trends, which constitute a favorable contingent for use in the commission of terrorist acts and destabilization of the political situation in the west of the PRC.
Turkmenistan is the number one target?
Afghan political analyst Aziz Arianfar, who heads the Center for Afghan Studies in Frankfurt am Main, believes that the prospects of transferring the activities of the Islamic State to Afghanistan and even Pakistan are not excluded (Pak M., Knyazev A. Five thousand militants on the border // http: // //lenta.ru/articles/2015/03/23/arianfar/). The project "Islamic State", according to Aziz Arianfar, was created to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria and was funded by Saudi Arabia. Assistance in the formation of the IG was provided by the Turkish special services. After the plans for the rapid overthrow of Assad failed, IG stepped up its activities in Iraq. The functions of the main sponsor moved from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, there were plans to turn the IG project into a global one, focused on the coverage of the entire Islamic world. It is within the framework of the implementation of the global IG project that its spread to the territory of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the republics of Central Asia can be carried out. There are important economic reasons for activating the IG in Central Asia. Currently, it is Qatar, which is considered the key sponsor of the IG, is a monopolist in the supply of liquefied gas to the countries of South and Southeast Asia, and also carries most of the supply of liquefied gas to countries of East Asia. Naturally, Qatar is not going to lose its position in this area, which is one of the foundations of its economic well-being and political influence, therefore Turkmenistan can become one of the main targets of the IG’s terrorist activities - Qatar’s likely competitor in the export of gas to South and Southeast Asia . If construction of the pipeline to the east begins, Qatar risks losing its monopoly position. The destabilization of the political situation not only in Afghanistan, but also in Turkmenistan itself can hamper the construction of the gas pipeline. Therefore, at present, the north-western provinces of Afghanistan adjacent to the Turkmen border are the object of increased interest of radical organizations supported by Qatar. The creation of the “Khorasan Province” as an IG project is also one of the components of the pressure strategy for Turkmenistan. At present, the number of militants of radical organizations is gradually increasing on the border of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, which, according to experts, reaches five thousand armed people. Almost every day, clashes with casualties take place on the Afghan-Turkmen border. It is known that the Turkmen leadership is holding negotiations with representatives of law enforcement agencies of Russia, China, Afghanistan on the organization of more effective protection of the state border of Turkmenistan, including through the involvement of private military companies.
The bloody battles on the Afghan-Turkmen border began in the spring of 2015, when IS militants intensified their activities in the northwestern provinces of Afghanistan, Herat, Badghis and Faryab, where a large Turkmen population lives. Here, the local Taliban formations went over to the side of the Islamic State. In April - June 2015, the battle unfolded in the district of Marchak, the Afghan province of Badghis and the district of Kushka-Kukhna of the province of Herat. These areas are located on the border with Turkmenistan. Moreover, the Marchak district “cuts” into the territory of Turkmenistan, being separated from it only by the Murghab River. During the fighting, the peaceful population of the district of Marchak swam across the Murgab River and approached the Turkmen border, but the border guard of Turkmenistan forbade them to enter the country. As a result, around 900 families from Marchak county — ethnic Turkmen — gathered in the reeds of Murghab (in the northwestern part of Afghanistan, the Turkmen tribes make up a large part of the population). In June, 2015, IG militants attacked another district - Kushki-Kukhna, which also represents a segment of Afghan territory that “crashed” deep into the territory of Turkmenistan in 15 km. east of Kushka. Here, the militants attacked the Afghan government troops and the Turkmen militia and captured part of the county. During the attack on Marchak, 600 fighters participated in the battles, and 250 fighters participated in the attack on Kushki-Kukhna. It is known that the military losses are already incurred by the Turkmen soldiers. So, only in June, 2015. 12 officers and conscripts from military units stationed on the Afghan border died. Most likely, this is by no means all the losses of the Turkmen security officials during the summer months, during which there was an intensification of the militants of the Islamic State and the Taliban in the border Afghan provinces. Experts believe that the concentration of militants on the border with Turkmenistan indicates the IG’s plans to lure the Turkmen army into a kind of “pot” between Marchak and Kushki-Kuhn. In the event of an attack on Turkmenistan, the militants will be able to take Turkmen military units in a semicircle, which is likely to lead to the subsequent defeat of the majority of the country's armed forces.
The aim of the IS fighters is the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, the destruction of which will cause a terrible blow to the Turkmen economy and will become a big problem for China, which could lose gas supplies at competitive prices. The leadership of Turkmenistan, which is currently extremely concerned about raising the country's defense capability and, in particular, protecting the state border, is well aware of this. It is known that Turkmenistan strengthens the borders not only with Afghanistan, but also with neighboring Uzbekistan, because it fears that it is from the territory of less economically prosperous Uzbekistan that the militants of the Islamic State can enter Turkmenistan. Modern Turkmenistan is unlikely to be able to provide real resistance to the attack of militants from the territory of Afghanistan - and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, unlike Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, which are in allied relations with Russia and counting on its military assistance, Turkmenistan adhered to the concept of neutrality for many years, which played an advantageous role in the economic development of the country, but in a situation similar to the present, it can deprive Turkmenistan military support, since the country has no military-political allies. Secondly, Turkmenistan is a country with certain social problems caused, among other things, by its existence in relative isolation, under a very specific political regime. Thirdly, the population of Turkmenistan is small and dispersed, which creates certain problems on the way of organizing local defense. Finally, the armed forces of Turkmenistan, despite the general welfare of the country, considered one of the richest countries in the region, have never been distinguished by a high level of combat readiness. The ground forces of Turkmenistan, which in the event of an attack by militants will be the main burden of the country's defense, consist of 18,5 thousand soldiers and officers and consist of three cropped motorized divisions, two motorized brigades, a training division, an air assault battalion, an artillery brigade, and a jet brigade multiple launch rocket systems, missile and anti-tank regiments, two anti-aircraft missile brigades and an engineering regiment. The armed forces are 10 tanks T-90S, 670 T-72, 170 BRDM-1 and BRDM-2, 930 BMP-1 and BMP-2, 12 BRM-1K, 829 BTR-60, BTR-70 and BTR-80. About 12 thousand soldiers and officers serve in units of the State Border Service of Turkmenistan, including 12 border detachments. The Air Force of Turkmenistan numbers 3 thousand people and includes two fighter squadrons, a transport and training squadron, a helicopter assault and a helicopter transport squadron, several missile divisions. The Air Force of Turkmenistan has 22 Mig-29 fighters and two Mig-29UB, three Su-7B fighter-bomber, 65 Su-17 fighter-bomber, two Su-25MK attack aircraft, one An-26 transport and two L-training 39, 10 Mi-24 attack helicopters and eight Mi-8 transport helicopters. Turkmenistan’s Navy on the Caspian Sea has 500 people and includes 5 Russian-made patrol boats, 1 US-made patrol boat and 2 missile boats. The main problem of the Turkmen army is the low level of training of personnel, caused by both the insufficient level of education of the majority of draftees and the lack of a developed training system. The Turkmen army has a shortage of highly skilled specialists who can work with sophisticated military equipment, in particular, air force pilots. Another important problem is inter-clan and tribal contradictions, which extend to units of the armed forces, significantly weakening the Turkmen army.
The events in the adjacent provinces of Afghanistan forced the Turkmen leadership to pay increased attention to strengthening the state border, including an increase in the number of border units. Formerly, the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were guarded by Russian border guards, but then Ashgabat refused assistance from Russia and Russian border posts were withdrawn from the territory of Turkmenistan. After the withdrawal of Russian border guards, the overall level of organization for the protection of state borders of Turkmenistan deteriorated significantly. The state does not have enough forces and means to organize effective protection and defense of the border, including with Afghanistan. One of the key problems of the modern Turkmen border forces is the lack of personnel of the units and the low level of training of soldiers and officers. The Turkmen command is forced to send most of the recruits precisely to the garrisons located near the state border with Afghanistan. Some parts of the border with Afghanistan are practically unguarded, which in the future can lead to extremely dangerous consequences for Turkmenistan (while the lack of proper protection of the state border is only a cause for discontent of Kazakhstan, since it is through Turkmenistan that the main flow of Afghan drugs is sent to Kazakhstan).
Another large group of militants is growing at the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. There is also a likely scenario of attempts to penetrate into the neighboring republic to further destabilize the political situation in Central Asia as a whole. According to the National Security Committee of Tajikistan, only from the beginning of 2015 did 62 suppress state border violations from the territory of Afghanistan, and about twenty of them were attempts at an armed breakthrough into the territory of Tajikistan. It is known that Afghan emissaries are active in the territory of the republic. In the summer of 2015, the Tajik secret services prevented a whole series of terrorist acts that were planned in the territory of the country by representatives of the Islamic State. The emissaries of the radical organization recruited militants on social networks, and the candidates for militants expressed a desire to go to war in Syria, but emissaries explained to them that a “big front” exists in Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, in the summer of 2015, the secret services liquidated two groups of militants who were preparing terrorist acts in Bishkek during the namaz on the central square of the city and against the Russian military base in Kant. During the special operation to arrest the militants, some of them were destroyed, the other was detained, four Kyrgyz special forces were injured. It turned out that the militants belong to the banned organization Islamic State. When they were detained, 7 machine guns and 5 pistols, as well as a grenade and a large amount of ammunition were seized from them. The emergence of IS militants in Kyrgyzstan, which is considered the most "secular" after Kazakhstan by the republic of Central Asia, testifies to the alarming fact of the spread of IS activity to those states whose population did not previously have a high level of religiosity and, especially, sympathy for radical trends.
It should be remembered that Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will become only starting points in the process of promoting radical groups in Kazakhstan and Russia. We must not forget about such an important factor as the drug business. Control over the borders of Afghanistan with the republics of Central Asia actually means the establishment of control over the circulation of drugs exported from Afghanistan to Russia and the countries of Europe. The drug business has always been one of the main sources of income for Afghan radical organizations (as well as commanders of government troops that are semi-independent from the central authorities), and the scale of drug production that fell during the Taliban’s domination in the country the movement fought), returned to the previous level after the American and NATO troops were brought into Afghanistan. To finance the activities of radical organizations, the drug business is an excellent tool, because it allows you to quickly and at great cost obtain huge financial resources.