Security

Protests in Herat, Baghlan show enduring Afghan resentment of Russia

By Omar

More than 100 Herat residents, including women, youth and civil society activists, May 4 protested against Russian interference in Afghanistan. The protesters accused Moscow of providing political and military support to terrorist groups, especially the Taliban. [Omar]

HERAT -- The angry protests that erupted earlier this week in Herat and Baghlan provinces show that Afghans have little patience for Moscow's ongoing efforts to interfere in Afghanistan, interviews with protestors show.

Hundreds of protestors on May 4 accused Moscow of providing ongoing political and military support to terrorist groups, especially the Taliban, and condemned comments attributed to Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.

Russia could send troops to Afghanistan to fight terrorism if the Afghan government requested it, Kabulov said in an interview with Russia's Federal News Agency on March 3.

For that to happen, it is necessary to wait for the results of the inter-Afghan dialogue and the formation of a coalition government that will represent the interests of all Afghans, he said.

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Russian servicemen dressed in historical uniforms march during the military parade at Red Square in Moscow on November 7, 2019. [Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP]

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More than 100 residents of Herat Province, including women, gather in Herat city May 4 to protest against Russian interference in Afghanistan's affairs. [Omar]

"We do not impose our good offices, but when we are asked politely, we are ready to do so," Kabulov said in his interview with the Federal News Agency, which has been linked to the Internet Research Agency "troll factory" in Saint Petersburg.

Kabulov's remarks sparked outrage among Afghans, but it is not clear why the protests took place two months later.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to deny the interview ever took place, calling it "distortion" and "absolutely false" even though Kabulov's statements are still seen on local and Kremlin-backed media outlets, including Sputnik, and Tehran-based Afghan Voice Agency.

Condemnation of Russian interference

Many Afghans, still angry with Russia for the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979, expressed resentment at the notion that Russian combat troops could return.

"Russia killed and disabled millions of Afghans and forced them to leave their country during their occupation of Afghanistan," said Feroz Ahmad Behzad, a resident of Herat city who participated in the protest on May 4. "When we read history, we see that Russians committed unforgivable crimes in our country."

"We, the residents of Herat, condemn Kabulov's comment, and we will not allow [Russia] to send a single soldier to Afghanistan," he said.

Behzad and other protesters accused Russia of financially supporting and equipping the Taliban, a group that has slaughtered countless civilians in its almost 20-year fight against the Afghan government.

"In addition to Russia, Iran is involved in equipping and supporting the Taliban, and we want both of these countries to stop supporting the terrorists," he said.

"We Afghans call on the UN [United Nations] and UN Security Council to put pressure on Russia to provide compensation to the Afghan people," he added.

Although the Kremlin is the main reason behind Afghanistan's 40-year-long war, it still has not ceased meddling in the country as it overtly equips and supports the Taliban, said Shabir Bakhtyar, a resident of Herat city.

"The former Soviet Union left Afghanistan [in 1989] with shame and humiliation after being defeated, but Kabulov has blatantly spoken of deploying Russian forces to Afghanistan," he said. "These statements of Russian authorities show their clear interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs, which we condemn."

Afghans have bitter memories of Russians because Soviet soldiers murdered hundreds of thousands of Afghans and ruined the country's infrastructure, he said.

More than 100 residents of Baghlan Province also condemned Russian meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

"We don't want Russian soldiers to enter Afghanistan and make the lives of Afghans miserable again," Naveed Shakorzada, a resident of Baghlan Province, told reporters on May 4.

"Unfortunately, Russia is involved in Afghanistan's internal wars," he said. "We expect them to stop interfering in Afghanistan. As our grandparents defeated them in the past [through war], they will be defeated in politics this time too."

Ramiz Noori, a Baghlan resident who participated in the protest, accused Russia of supporting the Taliban.

"The Taliban continue fighting in Afghanistan because Russia supports them," he said. "Russia has been supporting the Taliban for years, resulting in the killing of our people."

Moscow, Tehran supporting the Taliban

If Russian troops return to Afghanistan, Afghans will see a new and cruel war, said Sayed Ashraf Sadaat, a civil society activist in Herat city.

"Russians and Iranians jointly arm and finance the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.

"There are very close relations among the Taliban, Russians and Iranians, and these two countries openly support the Taliban," Sadaat said. "In the absence of these countries' support, the Taliban won't even have anything to eat."

The Kremlin intends to have a stake in the politics and future of Afghanistan, and it achieves this goal through the Taliban, he said.

"The recent statements of Russian authorities are [examples of] their obvious meddling in internal Afghan matters, which will lead to tensions and war."

The Russian and Iranian regimes provide weapons and finances to the Taliban so they can fight against the interests of the United States in Afghanistan, because these countries are not able to face the United States directly, said Safiullah Yaran, a resident of Herat city.

"We call on these countries to support peace in our country instead of promoting terrorism," he said.

History will not forget the destructive interference of Moscow and Tehran in Afghanistan's internal matters, said Malang Shah Haidari, a civil society activist in Herat city.

"The support of these countries for the Taliban has allowed the group to commit crimes in Afghanistan on a daily basis and kill dozens of civilians and security personnel in the country every day," he said.

"We expect the international community to prevent Russia and Iran's interference because these countries are the main perpetrators behind the war and bloodshed suffered by innocent civilians," Haidari said.

Compensating the families of war victims

Families of victims of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan are calling on Russia to compensate them for their losses.

"When I was a child, my father and uncle were killed," said Nafisa Danish, a resident of Herat city. "We couldn't even see [their] bodies ... because [the Soviets] had buried them alive."

"Russians took my dad from me and left us with no guardian," she said. "We cannot forget the scar Russians have left in our hearts, and we feel that pain every day."

"We call on the UN and other international organisations to investigate the crimes of Russians in Afghanistan and ask them to compensate us," she said.

"Russians caused growth and development in Afghanistan to stagnate," said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political affairs analyst in Herat city. "They scattered mines everywhere in the country."

"Russians are responsible for their brutality, and they have to be held accountable," he said.

[Hedayatullah from Kunduz contributed to this report.]

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O people!!! If the United States uses its 5% technology and weapons that it has, by God you will see Taliban neither in Afghanistan, nor in Pakistan nor in Iran. Its small example is American drone which determines even a man carrying a knife in his pocket from the height of 25 thousands meter. Seeing a motorcycle or car of Taliban is seen like a mountain for the drone. I have traveled many times and on the way I have seen Taliban who stopped the passenger buses in the plains in the early morning and check the passengers. There is neither house of the common people nor civilians in that plain in that very morning. So why doesn’t the drone hit them????? Anyway, this country will be built by you Afghans, that is all.

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Is there difference between white killer and black killer? But where are the Arab countries that know Qur'an and Hadith much better and more accurate than me and you? Why didn’t they come to Afghanistan as followers of the school of the Prophet and talk with Taliban, ISIS and so on and all the parties and tell them that shedding the blood of Muslim brother without any legal reason is unlawful??!!! However, they continue their trips to Pakistan, which is the center of prostitution, brothel, unlawfulness, and the place from which political dirt has originated, and they continue their luxurious lives there, but our honor and dignity are ruined in the name of jihad against our Muslim brother, and if we tell the truth, we will be killed for being infidel. Today in our country, we have real Taliban, American Taliban, Russian Taliban, Iranian Taliban, Pakistani Taliban, as well as people who follow Atta Mohammad Noor, Rabbani, Abdullah, Marshall Fahim, Mullah Rasool, Mullah Hebatullah and Mullah Niazi. God is one, truth is one, paradise is one, martyrdom is one, but I don't know which one of these groups is close to the truth. According to Mr. Karzai who himself has said in an interview with CBS and the New York Times that the United States does not want to eradicate and destroy Taliban; otherwise, Taliban is like a mosquito against an elephant before the United States. However, it is obliged to keep the battle ground warm for its political opponents such as Russia, China, Iran, etc. Sometimes Taliban have to strike and kill, and sometimes the United States has to kill Taliban. This game of cat and mouse continues. And the fact is that, it is true.

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May your obedience and worshipس are accepted in this auspicious and graceful month before the almighty God. I hope you will not forget the poor, needy and destitute people in this blessed month, and grant your alms and gifts for the humans and Muslims. First of all, I don't think Russia will come to Afghanistan again and establish a puppet regime like the current government, which is called system of democracy, but our presidents and ministers have been all assigned based on political influence of the countries involved in Afghanistan constantly. As Mujahedeen themselves also know that Russians were not defeated by Mujahedeen because they did not have that power. They were 50 or 60 Western and Arab countries which infiltrated the hearts of our naive people by changing their minds (i.e. through war of ideology) as well as through dollars and Arab dinars, and made them all miserable. Is infidel from Russia different from infidel of America? Why was jihad obligatory against Russian infidel, but it is not obligatory against American infidel, and American’s reception is considered obligatory as a guest inside your country? Where are those Mujahedeen who fought against Russian infidels yesterday and support American infidels today? Is there difference between white killer and black killer? Alas for us people who are always being deceived and have been deceived in the name of Islam and in the name of Muslim. O Afghans! Know that this country will be built neither by Russia, nor by the United States, or by the Arab countries. If these countries are invaded or insulted, I and you tear our throats by chanting slogan and insulting others for them.

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In fact, Russians have no shame as they are speaking so. Instead of sending soldiers to Afghanistan, they may better properly regulate their soldiers. Look, they are as much disorganized as the soldiers of the third world; one of them looks one side and the other looks the other side. On one side, these sons of honor-less help Taliban, on the other side they assist the former Northern Alliance criminals such as Atta Mohammad Noor, Abdullah, Qanooni and other warlords, thieves and [heroin] smugglers. Their main purpose is to make Afghans fight against each other, destroy Afghanistan and that is all.

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In the past, Russia has had a significant presence in Afghanistan, but was eventually forced to withdraw. Following the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan and the intensification of Taliban activities, Russia wants to re-engage in the Afghan issue. The traces of the Russians can be tracked in various ways in Afghanistan: from cooperating with the Kabul government to negotiating with the Taliban and eventually equipping the insurgent group. Having contact with the Northern Alliance etc.

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Moscow is seeking a foothold in Afghanistan so as not to lag behind the United States in geopolitical competition and to have closer oversight of Islamist groups such as the Taliban and ISIS. I believe that the Russians are in contact with the Taliban and provide the group with equipment.

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I don't think Russia intends to increase its influence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops. Russia knows that Afghanistan now has a strong government, and that this government may have some inclination toward the West, but Russia is by no means in favor of weakening the government and creating chaos in Afghanistan.

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Russia has enmity against the United States, so I think Russia has taken advantage of the opportunity to get closer to the Taliban and provide financial resources and weapons to the Taliban. Russia and Iran are working to support and arm the Afghan Taliban and the Fatemiyoun Division against their armed opposition elements, such as ISIS.

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