While the international community is struggling to recognize the new Taliban regime in Kabul, one country has quickly made it clear where it stands. Neighboring Tajikistan has emerged as an outspoken critic of the government and a pivot for Afghan resistance.
Ahmad Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan’s national resistance front and the son of the Soviet era resistance leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Amrullah Saleh, the former vice president and self-proclaimed acting president, and Abdul Latif Pedram, the leader of the national congress party of Afghanistan, all are protected in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
Afghanistan’s neighbors in Central Asia fear that the takeover of the Taliban could spark radicalism and fuel drug trafficking in the region, as well as increase refugee flows. But especially for Tajikistan, support for the ethnic Tajiks who make up the Afghan resistance and have long experienced discrimination is non-negotiable.
“The entire weight of the negative consequences of the departure of the international coalition falls on the shoulders of neighboring countries,” said Emadali Rahmon, president of Tajikistan, referring to the US withdrawal of its last troops from Afghanistan last month, which the war of 20 years ended there. .
“If we leave the situation unattended, there is a risk that the situation will be repeated in 2001,” he said, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States that caused US involvement in Afghanistan.
The history of the two countries is long intertwined, with several hundred thousand Tajiks – the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan – seeking refuge there during the civil war in the 1990s.
As a sign of Rahmon’s close ties with resistance leaders, this month he paid tribute to Massoud’s father, Tajikistan, for his support during the civil war in Tajik. Rahmon supported the Northern Alliance opposition, led by Massoud during the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s.
A Western diplomat in the region said on condition of anonymity that Rahmon could use the Taliban’s threat to strengthen his domestic support and as a pretext for a further fight against the opposition and the imposition of more counter-terrorism measures .
The retired Afghan government and the resistance, which the Taliban are fighting in Afghanistan’s Panjshar province, are using the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, as a base to plan their next steps. “We plan to announce formal resistance against the Taliban within a month,” said Pedram, who has a $ 200,000 Taliban surplus on his head. He and his wife, journalist, led the politician Fereshta Hazrati, the cousin of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Given the Taliban’s unwillingness to enter into talks over a federal government, they have no choice but to wage war, Pedram said. ‘Either we accept the Islamist state, or we resist. Nothing is more important to us than freedom. “We can not afford to live under the conditions we have under the Islamic State,” he said.
Support for the resistance will increase as soon as it gains momentum, he said. Although so far it is funded only by wealthy Afghans, it hopes to gain more support from Russia, the traditional guarantor of security in Central Asia. “We want good relations with all the countries in the region. “Russia has the most power, without a doubt,” he said.
Pedram said the resistance had “very good” contacts with Moscow “beyond the ministerial level” and that Rahmon, in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union, expected the matter of resistance with President Vladimir Putin in a coming visit will bring to the fore.
But Temur Umarov, an expert on Central Asia at the Carnegie Moscow Center, doubts whether the resistance can rely on support from Moscow. “Russia understands that the most likely scenario for the future of Afghanistan is the case where the Taliban play the key role, while the resistance forces can no longer take back power in some provinces,” Umarov said.
Still members of the opposition argue that Afghan resources, such as copper, lithium, iron and aluminum, provide Moscow with an incentive. “It’s also an economic war. “The Russians are not helping us for the sake of God, but they will help us for the economy,” Pedram said.
While the broader resistance is plagued by infighting, with Pedram and Massoud reluctant to cooperate with Saleh, they are united on the need for global support.
Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan of the former government and now regarded as Saleh’s deputy, said: ‘We do not want some countries to support us, we want the international community to support us. Because it’s international terrorism that we’re talking about here, and it’s threatening the whole world. ”