KABUL – The United States, wary of Pakistan’s nuclear program, invaded Afghanistan to keep an eye on Pakistan, China and Soviet Union, a senior Russian diplomat has said.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan and director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, said in an interview that the number of U.S military bases in Afghanistan and the United States’ continued presence was a matter of concern to Russia.
Speaking to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, he said: “In Turkey, the U.S. has only one military base but, in Afghanistan, they have the right to use nine big military bases plus almost 10 more.” “Why?” he asked.
In response to his own question, he said this was a matter of concern for Russia adding that if Russia was to do the same in Mexico, “it would be disturbing for America.” “Why are they doing that after all this 15-year-old anti-terror rhetoric in Afghanistan? They stupidly try to say that “it is for training.”
“Come on! You are not talking to stupid or foolish people. We know the reasons [for the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan]. Russia will never tolerate this,” he said.
On October 7, 2001, the United States, supported by some NATO countries including the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as other allies, began an invasion of Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom. The invasion was launched to capture Osama bin Laden, who was accused of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Mr. Kabulov inferred that after being kicked out of Iran in 1979, the U.S needed a central Asian base, hence Afghanistan being an available option. Having bases in Afghanistan, the U.S was close to Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan among others, hence keeping an eye on the neighboring countries.
“Having this infrastructure as [a] basis, America will need two to four weeks to redeploy up to 100,000 soldiers on the same bases.
“Such a [move] would not be an invasion in terms of a U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement.
“We warned Afghans from the very beginning it [the bilateral agreement] may have implications for our bilateral relations if Americans use this infrastructure against our national interest. They said the Americans had promised. Well, we know the value of American promises” the Russian added.
On the subject of incoming US president Donald Trump, he said: “We expect that Donald Trump will tailor a new American approach to Afghanistan and he should address several issues which are a matter of concern not only to Russia, but important to regional actors, like China, Iran, Pakistan, and others.”
Speaking on past relations with Afghanistan, Kabulov said that destabilization in the country following the 1979 Soviet invasion might have led to the emergence of radical groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh.
“One of the main slogans of support for Afghanistan [during the invasion] was that the Soviet Union came to eliminate Islam. So it was a good enough slogan,” said Kabulov.
Kabulov said such slogans encouraged many people to go to fight in Afghanistan and do their jihad there.
“Osama bin Laden, a Yemeni-origin Saudi citizen, and many others who were unhappy with things going on in the Muslim world wanted to meet the challenges, including the ones that they saw as a threat to Islam.”
“Afghanistan became a convenient place for like-minded people to meet,” he said, adding that those people “added even more destabilization” to the country.
About the Taliban today being a local entity or an internationally managed group, Kabulov said it is predominately a local force.
“First of all, the Taliban is not homogenous. Within the Taliban, there are different wings with almost different ideological backgrounds.”
He said the Taliban was speaking “the same language that Daesh speaks today.”
“The same scenario, same ideology, different people,” he says, recalling seeing an “Islamic caliphate” map in Afghanistan which he said included Afghanistan, some countries in The Middle East, parts of India, Central Asia, and reached “almost up to our suburbs of Moscow.”
“Within today’s Taliban there are very influential groups whose ideology is more radical, closer to Daesh.”
Last month, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Alexander Mantyskiy, announced that the Russian government had made a diplomatic outreach to the Taliban’s leaders. In a press conference, Mantyskiy countered international criticism of Russia’s Taliban links by insisting that Moscow’s contacts with the extremist group were limited and aimed at ensuring the safety of Russian civilians.
In December, Russia also snubbed India, which poses as a regional bully after building closer ties with US-backed government in Afghanistan, during the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar.
Zamir Kabulov, in his address at the conference, said the allegations made against Pakistan by India and Afghanistan were totally baseless.
“Let it be known that the allegations’ game needs to be stopped and that criticizing Pakistan is wrong,” the Russian envoy said while terming Sartaj’s speech as constructive and friendly.
He also revealed that Russia is working on building cordial relationships with the countries within the region.