ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan; Why Russia Concerned?

Indicating the deep terrorism’s penetration in Central Asia, Zamir Kabulov -Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan- said: “There are now 10,000 ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan.” He said in a press conference held in April 19. But why the Kremlin officials have turned their promotional-medium focus and even their political stances towards Central Asia and former Soviet republics, is a subject that not only for Moscow but for Iran and other allies is considered a “warning shot”.

Some believe that the terrorism phenomenon in Central Asia dates back to several years or at most to three decades ago, this fact is evident and has been strengthened with the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But the truth of the fact is that the issue of fundamentalism over this area must be examined since 1912, which may be cited as the starting point.

In that year, a man named “Sheikh Mohammed Share’” of the Medina University moved to Fergana Valley and at that point began establishing religious schools and later on he founded the school of thought of “radical Wahhabism”. After a while, seminary students of this school moved to the Badakhshan province and east of Afghanistan and formed local governments in those areas and they were operating in those regions until 1979 when the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

Historical documents and data by think tanks and historians in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries have been discussed and published, another important factor that has been noted to cause the formation of groups and populations such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda is the presence and influence of Riyadh representatives whom are generally muftis and religious leaders tasked with promoting Wahhabism.

To the extent that analysts believe that after the initial founding in 1912, the Saudis took advantage of the cluttered situation caused by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and began to strengthen the roots of their ideologies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the meantime there are several groups affiliated with al-Qaeda whom are close to the Afghan Taliban and jihadi forces in Central Asia. Including Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement that are related to the Uighur ethnicity, whom intend to break down and separate the “Xinjiang” province of China.

So, the Presence of radical Islamic groups and movements in Central Asia is not a matter that only dates back to about 5 to 10 years ago But currently the reason that the uninvited guest’s presence in central Asia and particularly in northern crescent of Afghanistan headlines since less than 2 years ago is a subject that glares as a challenge beyond the boundaries of Iran and in the breakaway republics of the Soviet Union.

Maybe some people did not think that the Islamic State would suddenly move from West Asia to Central Asia and raise their black flag in the provinces of Kunduz, Nangarhar, Helmand and other parts of the country but still, a number of people in Iran and a wide variety of people in the other countries have not fully understood the presence and the heavy shadow casted by ISIS in Afghanistan. In the meantime, perhaps the only country other than the central government in Kabul that is concerned about the presence of the terrorists in Afghanistan, is the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin himself.

Without doubt Putin’s views from Moscow’s security valves on this subject, primarily reflects the importance of this issue and the spread of terrorism in Central Asia, and secondarily works as a very important warning for Kremlin and if the situation continues , it will change to a “potential threat” and later on to an “actual threat”. For example, in about four weeks ago, there was an armed conflict between terrorists and security forces in Ingushetia and margins of Russian border that lasted about 4 to 6 hours and finally ended with several terrorists and Russian forces getting killed in action.

In addition, there are other news stories about the arrest, confrontation and even clean-up operations in southern Russia and the outskirts of this town, but the majority of the news about these situations does not get coverage by the world’s media outlets. This has gone so far that passing an anti-terrorism law in Russia, by Putin himself is considered possible. Though, those like “Nikolai Svanidze”, Russian journalist and historian consider this scheme a return to the Stalin era, but the first conclusion that comes to mind about this Russian anti-terrorism plan is that Putin and the Russian Federation, have felt the threat of ISIS and other parallel threats in their borders.

Thus comings and goings from Russia to Kabul and signing a contract for training the Afghan police forces as well as selling a range of light-weight and medium-weight weaponry to this country from the Russian Defense Ministry, was officially confirmed By “Taj Mohammad Jahid” Minister of Afghanistan and “Alexander Mantytskiy” the Russian ambassador in Kabul, is a bunch of cases that reveal Moscow’s fears and concerns about the spread of terrorism and extremist forces deployed in Afghanistan.

However the problem that recently has taken a different form and direction in Afghanistan, is NATO’s Defiance in Central Asia. The presence of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the area was perceptible since United States’ arrival in Afghanistan back in 2001. But because of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, NATO decided to restrain Russia in the Eurasia and Balkans regions. The proof of this claim could be the NATO summit in Warsaw. So much so that “Jens Stoltenberg” NATO Secretary General and former Norwegian Prime Minister officially announced at a press conference in Warsaw that in addition to the presence of NATO in Russia’s backyard, including countries such as Poland, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and other republics of the former Soviet Union, NATO will also be present in Afghanistan and will take part in “training the military forces” of this country.

It is here that NATO’s full-fledged confrontation with Moscow in shown not only in terms of structure and form but in the essence of the military presence and training of Afghan forces. As mentioned above Kremlin officials have formally agreed with the authorities of the country over the training of Afghan police forces, and it is evident that aside from the US, NATO has also taken stance in opposing Russia.

On the other hand, continuous presence of Polish and American troops in Afghanistan which is possible due to the security agreement of Kabul – Washington, portrays how NATO and the US are keeping pace. This is while during a meeting in Warsaw, Obama announced that the US will officially take control of the NATO troops in Poland. In this sense, the only signal that is transmitted about the aforementioned subject to Moscow, is going to be US’ presence in Russia’s playground.

Undoubtedly, Russia has been settling down and operating in Afghanistan through the past couple of year, but within the last months, with an overflow of ISIS terrorist forces in Afghanistan and particularly the northern region of this country, Moscow has been concerned more than before. In other words, Russia is well aware of the increasing risk of ISIS’ advancements, and knows that if fundamentalists in Chechnya and surrounding areas of Russia feel that there is a possibility of allegiance to the ISIS terrorist group, the whole situation will change, and not just in Central Asia, but in Russia itself. In this respect Russia has deliberately entered Afghanistan to in addition of dealing with the ISIS forces, disrupt Washington’s safe margin, of course NATO’s presence in Kabul will cause the formation of the “multiplicity of interests – the multiplicity of actors” triangle. In the end we will witness the escalation of arguments and accusations between the three sides.


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