Afghanistan's neighbours wary as US withdrawal looms

Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Igor Lyakin-Frolov: "The most favourable scenario is assumed to be that the current regime is retained only in Kabul and most of the provincial capitals, with the support of the United States and NATO troops". Source: Itar-Tass

Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Igor Lyakin-Frolov: "The most favourable scenario is assumed to be that the current regime is retained only in Kabul and most of the provincial capitals, with the support of the United States and NATO troops". Source: Itar-Tass

The Russian Ambassador in Tajikistan talks about the future of the region in the wake of the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force.

In anticipation of the imminent American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian Ambassador to neighboring Tajikistan, Igor Lyakin-Frolov tells Kommersant about what kind of a role the 201st Russian military base can play if the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan deteriorates beyond a point.

Russian experts believe the most likely scenario in the situation after the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan is the coming to power of the Taliban and a Civil War. In your opinion, what is the most likely scenario?

I can talk about the view from Dushanbe. The situation in Afghanistan is taken very seriously here by both the government and the experts. A few months ago, the prevailing assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was that things are more or less normal and there was no direct threat to Tajikistan. The forecasts are (now) more pessimistic. We all proceed from the principle that we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

The most favourable scenario is assumed to be that the current regime is retained only in Kabul and most of the provincial capitals, with the support of the United States and NATO troops. There are also less favourable scenarios about a full-blown civil war that would threaten the integrity of the Afghan State and the security of Central Asian countries.

And Russia?

These developments affect the security of Russia itself. Therefore it is necessary to prepare.

Is there any discussion from the Tajik about the return of Russian border guards on the Tajik border with Afghanistan?

At the international level or in the framework of the CSTO, as far as I know, this issue is not being discussed. Tajik border guards are fully staffed. They number about 16,000, an impressive figure. Tajik border guards are well prepared; many officers were trained in special educational institutions.

But many Russian experts say that the border (about 1350 miles on mountainous terrain) is poorly guarded.

Our Tajik partners say they could ensure reliable protection of the border with logistical support from Russia and other countries of CSTO. The question of whether to return the Russian border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border is not withstanding.

At the September CSTO Summit, the issue of strengthening Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan received the support of all the member states.  The initial transfer of less expensive supplies, weapons, ammunition and some types of special equipment will be implemented in January.

Is it in addition to the technical military assistance that was promised by Russia to Tajikistan?

Yes. There is a program of cooperation on a bilateral basis, but Russia and other CSTO members felt it necessary to provide Tajikistan with full assistance on this matter.

Can the location of the Russian 201st military base be of use if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates and spread across the region?

Of course. It can be used in the event of an imminent threat to the security of Tajikistan and other CSTO member states. Such a feature is provided by the agreement on the conditions of stay of the Russian base. It is about a joint agreement with the leadership of Tajikistan. Under the present circumstances, when the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, the base value increases. 

First published in Russian in Kommersant.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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