Wednesday, October 7
Besieged Afghan government asks Russia for help in stopping Taliban, IS
Gee, they're all lining up now. Iraq is planning to ask Russia for help with air strikes. It's about time, although I see the US-led coalition is waking from its beauty sleep in Iraq. From a RFE/RL report today (the headline reads that it was "Dostum" asking for the help; President Ashraf Ghani, who exists in his office at the pleasure of the U.S. government, wouldn't dare put the request directly):
With the Taliban threatening to overrun large parts of Afghanistan, First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is seeking help from an old ally -- Russia.
A graduate of the Soviet Military Academy and a general in the Soviet-backed Afghan army, Dostum is hoping his old links to Moscow will help him secure crucial military support for Afghanistan's besieged security forces.
A trip to Russia took him to Moscow and Chechnya, where he met with Ramzan Kadyrov on the Kremlin-backed regional strongman's birthday on October 5.
Dostum, who led an ethnic Uzbek militia during the civil war of the 1990s, landed in Moscow last week. He has held talks with top Russian security officials, pleading for heavy weapons and helicopter gunships for the 350,000-strong Afghan National Security Forces.
"The Russian side is committed to support and help Afghanistan in terms of helping its air and military forces," Dostum's spokesman, Sultan Faizy, told RFE/RL by telephone.
"We're lacking air support, weapons, ammunition. We need a lot of backing and support to fight against terrorism."
But Faizy said that would not mean direct military intervention by Russia, which is still mindful of the 1979-89 war that killed some 15,000 Soviet soldiers and has repeatedly said it would not send troops to Afghanistan.
Faizy said that Moscow had promised to evaluate the situation in Afghanistan and "see what they can help with."
Russia has also pledged to pressure the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, three of which border Afghanistan, to boost support for the country, Faizy said.
While in Russia, Dostum paid a visit to the North Caucasus region of Chechnya -- and posted a photo with his "friend" Kadyrov on Facebook on October 5. Kadyrov posted the same snapshot on Instagram.
Dostum said the two discussed "the fight against terrorism, especially against Daesh," using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS.
"Dostum noted that ISIS is trying to make Afghanistan into a bridgehead," Kadyrov wrote on Instagram on October 5. "In order to prevent this threat, Kabul needs Russia's support, as in Syria."
Kadyrov added that he was confident that Moscow would make a "positive decision in response to this request."
Local Chechen media quoted Dostum as praising Kadyrov's own experience in battling terrorism. "Both Ramzan Kadyrov and I have been waging the struggle with international terrorism," Dostum was quoted as saying by Grozny-inform.ru.