UA-69458566-1

Friday, September 3, 2021

Turkey Aims to Play Stabilizing Role in Afghanistan after NATO Withdrawal

By Ezgi Yazici with Doga Unlu and Kursat Gok

Key Takeaway: Turkey is evaluating the changing security environment and the emerging Taliban government to strike a minimal-risk balance between Ankara’s ambitions and constraints. Turkey evacuated its troops from Afghanistan on August 27 after months-long negotiations with US and Taliban representatives to retain a security role in the country after NATO’s departure. However, Turkish officials are still signaling their intent to adopt a political and security role in Afghanistan and to become the Taliban’s primary interlocutor with the West.The Turkish government will likely remain committed to playing a stabilizing role in Afghanistan—primarily through non-military channels—to promote its international standing as an influential regional power.

The Turkish Armed Forces left Afghanistan, but Ankara is poised to play key security and diplomatic roles in the country. Turkish officials announced the evacuation of the Turkish military contingency from the Kabul Airport on August 25, 2021, despite separate discussions with the United States and the Taliban for Turkey to continue running the Kabul International Airport.[1] Top Turkish officials had argued that the Turkish forces could continue to manage the security and operations of the airport as they had since 2015 if the Taliban so desired.[2] Ankara also pivoted to establishing relations with the Taliban through the Turkish Embassy in Qatar at least as early as August 15, when the Taliban reached Kabul, in a likely bid to maintain and expand the Turkish role in Afghanistan.[3] The bulk of Turkish forces left Afghanistan by August 27 under reported Taliban pressure, but the Turkish Embassy is continuing its operations as of September 3.[4] Recent statements by both the Taliban and Ankara indicate that Turkey is exploring ways to help run the Kabul Airport and support the new Taliban government.[5]

Ankara and the Taliban both believe Turkey can play a role in shaping the new Afghanistan. Ankara will likely double down on its political and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan to prove its ability to stabilize and shape conflicts as a regional power. Turkey has provided training for Afghan security forces, political outreach to various Turkic communities, aid and private sector investment, and non-combatant military services. Turkey refrained from participating in military campaigns against the Taliban and instead took on logistical and security duties like Kabul Airport security, intelligence sharing, and funding and training at Afghan military schools.[6] Turkish officials leveraged this non-combatant history when they offered the Taliban further “technical and security assistance” in August.[7] Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem said that the Taliban wants Turkey’s support in areas ranging from reconstruction and economy to healthcare and education on August 25.[8] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views such a Turkish role as a natural one, underlining Turkey’s long-standing ties to its fellow Muslim country with a significant Turkic population.

Ankara and the Taliban are also in talks about the future of Kabul Airport. President Erdogan stated that the Taliban asked Turkey to run the operations of Kabul International Airport if the Taliban provided its security instead of Turkish forces.  However, anonymous Turkish officials claimed that Turkey would only run the airport in partnership with Qatar and only if security was provided by a private security firm of former Turkish soldiers.[9] SADAT International Defense Consultancy, known for credible reports of its supervision and payment of Turkish-backed Syrian fighters in Libya and Azerbaijan, is the only private Turkish security company that could adopt such a duty.[10] Discussions are ongoing as of September 3 and the Taliban’s position remains unclear.

Turkey’s Ambitions and Constraints

Afghanistan is a theater of opportunity, but not an existential security problem for Ankara. Afghanistan poses little direct threat to Turkish national security, in contrast to the perceived terrorism and internal stability threats the country is fighting in northern Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan’s current situation presents an opportunity for Ankara to maximize its political and security reach by filling growing gaps in foreign investment, projects, and support and by advancing NATO interests. Turkey can advance its mutual interests with NATO in Afghanistan while pursuing its own objectives as an aspiring power in the region. A successful bid in helping stabilize Afghanistan could elevate Turkey as a necessary and capable security player in the region and to its allies—two longstanding goals of the Erdogan government. During an August 25, 2021, speech to celebrate the anniversary of a historic Turkic battle, Erdogan said “We transformed from a country of existential battles inside its own borders to one that has a say in every critical matter in the world.”[11] This self-perception of Turkey as a regional powerbroker helps drive President Erdogan and Ankara’s top leadership’s pursuit of more activist policies beyond Turkey’s immediate neighborhood—including in Afghanistan.

Turkey will likely perceive one or multiple of the following objectives in the near term as advantageous to its regional and global standing: 

  • Deliver legitimacy to a new Afghan government: As a Muslim NATO countryTurkey could be a useful partner for the Taliban leadership to gain international acceptance and legitimacy as well as access to global financial systems.
  • Advance the Turkish security role in line with, and beyond, NATO goals: Turkey has been offering military training and security cooperation deals to an increasing number of developing countries. Turkish forces have hosted Afghan, Somali, Azerbaijani, Pakistani, Libyan, and other security forces for capacity-building trainings as part of, or beyond, NATO missions. Turkey will likely continue its trainings with Afghanistan and offer new technical and military cooperation opportunities to the Taliban government.
  • Insert Erdogan-friendly Turkish companies to Afghanistan for profit: Turkish companies with strong ties to the Erdogan government have won significant reconstruction contracts in Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere. Turkey will likely look for similar construction and investment opportunities in Afghanistan for profit and to benefit the crony network Erdogan cultivates for government-friendly companies. 
  • Improve Turkey’s position within NATO: Turkey is one of the few, if not the only, NATO countries that will maintain a diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. It has also been in frequent contact with many NATO allies to discuss developments in Afghanistan and demand financial support.[12] Ankara will seek to use its unique position in and access to Afghanistan to improve relations with NATO allies, particularly the United States, and gain concessions.
  • Position Turkey as a regional power for security and stabilization: President Erdogan suggested that Turkey, Turkic Central Asian countries, and Pakistan could work with the Taliban if they take “positive steps” during a speech on August 29.[13] Erdogan has not specified what those steps include or how Turkey might support them, but Turkey could leverage its ties to Central Asian countries to promote regional security initiatives.

Meanwhile, Ankara also faces the risks of deteriorating public opinion, increased refugee flows, and growing financial costs

  • Public opinion: The Turkish public is more casualty, cost, and risk-averse for Turkish involvement in conflicts it views as “optional”—such as Libya or Afghanistan—raising the political cost of a potential long-term Turkish involvement. Ankara is also attempting to lessen public opposition to the government’s cooperation with the Taliban by using the pro-government Turkish media to present a moderate image of the Taliban.[14]
  • Refugee flows into Turkey: Ankara receives significant public criticism for hosting more than 4 million Syrian refugees in addition to the Afghans who fled Afghanistan in recent months.[15] Turkish officials will seek to minimize Turkey’s refugee intake similar to Pakistan and other countries bordering Afghanistan. Turkey may attempt to pressure the Taliban leadership to refrain from radical or abusive policies that might destabilize Afghanistan or cause Afghans to flee the country in large numbers.
  • Financial costs: Turkish officials likely understand the financial costs of an extended military-political presence from the extensive Turkish role in Syria. Ankara will likely seek to avoid high-cost responsibilities and aim to subsidize those responsibilities it does take on by pursuing private contracts and external financial resources from NATO allies.

Trends to Watch

Turkish outreach to non-Taliban stakeholders:  A Turkish outreach effort to the Taliban opposition in the Panjshir Valley or other exiled leaders would indicate a change in the Turkish calculus. Turkey has spent years cultivating relations with Turkic communities in Afghanistan and former Northern Alliance leaders with close ties to Turkey.[16] Non-Taliban Afghan political actors may also reach out to Turkey to court Turkish support for their own political objectives. Turkey does plan to continue “close dialogue with all parties” in Afghanistan, but it may damage some of those relationships if it cooperates with the Taliban government in the institutional ways it is considering.[17] Turkey will likely wait for the Taliban government to take shape before making additional commitments to the Taliban.

Turkey’s relations with non-NATO countries: Turkey coordinates with Pakistan and Qatar, in addition to NATO members, on developments in Afghanistan. However, its outreach to Russia and China has been limited. If Turkey plans to maintain a role in Afghanistan, it will likely need to interact with or at least deconflict with other key states that can recognize the Taliban government—namely Iran, Russia, and China.

Turkey’s perception as an interlocutor between NATO and Afghanistan: Turkey’s current objectives for a stabilized Afghanistan align with those of the United States and the NATO alliance. Turkey’s goals go beyond those of NATO, but this alignment could nonetheless create opportunities for the United States and NATO to maintain limited international access and to ensure communication and limited accountability from Kabul in exchange for the support the Taliban says it needs from Turkey.

 

 


[1] Turkish MoD Twitter

[2] https://www.trthaber.com/haber/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-afganistanin-istikrari-icin-her-cabayi-gosterecegiz-602142.html

https://www.ntv.com.tr/turkiye/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-afgan-halkinin-huzuru-icinisbirligine-haziriz,i0PblXrTfU2ioR10cmK4Nw

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-talks-with-all-afghan-parties-welcomes-talibans-messages-minister-2021-08-17/

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/29/erdogan-turkey-diplomatic-embassy-kabul-afghanistan?sf150307620=1

https://twitter.com/ahmetgormez/status/1432410123717185543?s=20

[5] TRT Haber, Reuters

[6] https://www.swp-berlin.org/publications/products/comments/2016C28_sey_srt.pdf

[7] Reuters

[8] https://twitter.com/anadoluagency/status/1430521697162170372

[9] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/afghanistan-turkey-taliban-close-deal-kabul-airport

[10] https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/rise-paramilitary-groups-turkey

https://undocs.org/S/2021/229

[11] https://www.tccb.gov.tr/haberler/410/130137/-bolgesinde-ve-dunyada-her-kritik-meselede-soz-sahibi-bir-ulkeye-donustuk-

[12] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-10/turkey-wants-financial-military-support-to-secure-kabul-airport

https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-57898378

[13] https://www.trthaber.com/haber/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-talibanin-devlet-yonetme-noktasindaki-durusunu-gorecegiz-604939.html

[14] Haberturk interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WphW04KtX9g

A Haber Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOLXfZGTHLs

[15] https://www.voanews.com/europe/turkish-officials-say-deportation-centers-packed-afghan-refugees

[16] https://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/chpden-afganistan-tepkisi-erdogan-kabul-etse-de-biz-asla-izin-vermeyiz-1863479

[17] https://www.trthaber.com/haber/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-sureci-talibanin-sozleri-degil-icraatlari-belirleyecek-604271.html

 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Regional Actors Eye Threats and Opportunities in Taliban Takeover

Authors: Emily Estelle, Mason Clark, Nicholas Carl, Kita Fitzpatrick, Matthew McInnis, Trey Sprouse, Virginia Wang, and Ezgi Yazici

Contributors: Rahma Bayrakdar, Doga Unlu, Kursat Gok, David Patkin, and Kathryn Tyson

This analysis is co-published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

Key Takeaway: The Taliban’s swift seizure of Kabul has altered key regional states’ calculus toward Afghanistan. Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are weighing how to take advantage of the United States’ hurried withdrawal while mitigating the new terrorist threats and refugee waves from Afghanistan that will likely follow. All four states will likely recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan in the coming months. The Taliban’s victory also presents an opportunity for al Qaeda and other Salafi-jihadi groups to expand their havens in Afghanistan and intensify ongoing efforts to inspire terror attacks in the West capitalizing on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Russia

Kremlin messaging on Afghanistan since August 15 has praised the Taliban’s claimed “peaceful” takeover of Kabul, while Russian forces in Central Asia have responded with military exercises. Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin’s special representative on Afghanistan, stated on August 16 that the Kremlin “prepared the ground ahead of time” to work with “the new government of Afghanistan” and claimed the Taliban seized Kabul “peacefully.”[1] The Kremlin is officially predicating official recognition of the Taliban on the Taliban’s ability to prevent jihadist attacks in Central Asia and meet unstated good governance requirements. The Kremlin has previously called on the Taliban to “prevent the spread of tensions” beyond Afghanistan’s borders during meetings in Moscow in early July.[2] Kabulov stated that Russia does not see “a single direct threat to our allies in Central Asia” from the Taliban itself, but noted that regime change can create “a niche for other international terrorist organizations” on August 16.[3] Russian and partner forces are additionally increasing the frequency of joint military exercises and are preparing for a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) exercise in the coming months. Approximately 1,000 troops at Russia’s 201st Military Base in Tajikistan began snap exercises on August 17 that are ongoing as of publication.[4] The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) announced on August 16 that it will hold an exercise designated “Cobalt-2021” in Tajikistan “in the coming months” but did not specify a date or participants.[5]

The Kremlin will likely officially recognize the Taliban and will expand Russian basing and military operations in Central Asia to combat potential jihadist forces. The Taliban is unlikely to completely control Afghanistan’s borders to meet Russia’s demand, and jihadist groups and criminal networks are highly likely to proliferate in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian states. The Kremlin will likely accept a level of insecurity in the region above what the United States and its allies would accept and recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The Kremlin may additionally seek to secure economic concessions such as access to mineral resources from the Taliban in exchange for recognition. The Kremlin will additionally prioritize preventing potentially destabilizing refugee flows from Afghanistan. The Russian military has prepared for several years for the potential of a renewed jihadist threat to Central Asia following a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.[6] Russian military deployments in Central Asia are in large part responses to this legitimate threat. However, additional Russian basing and further military cooperation with Central Asian states will support the Kremlin’s campaign to integrate the militaries of the former Soviet Union under Russian structures and improve Russian force projection capabilities in the region.

China

China has accepted the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after high-level talks between Chinese and Taliban representatives. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other Taliban leaders in Tianjin, China on July 28 to discuss the Afghan peace process.[7] Wang recognized the Taliban as an “important military and political force in Afghanistan,” while Baradar pledged the Taliban will not allow any groups to use Afghan territory to launch attacks against China.[8] Beijing acknowledged “major changes in the situation in Afghanistan” two days after Taliban forces seized control of Kabul, but has not closed the Chinese Embassy or endorsed a Taliban-controlled government.[9] Chinese leaders likely harbor concerns over the potential spillover effects of Taliban rule for Islamist militant activity in the region, which may include terrorist attacks against China. A possible suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive (SVBIED) attack on July 14, allegedly carried out by the Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTiP), killed nine Chinese nationals working on the Dasu Dam, a hydroelectric gravity dam project in Pakistan that is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).[10] Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed the TTiP was operating out of Afghan territory with approval from Afghan and Indian security agencies.[11]

China will likely treat the Taliban as Afghanistan’s de-facto government for the foreseeable future. US intelligence reports said that Beijing was preparing to officially recognize the Taliban once the group defeated Afghan forces, but Chinese officials have not publicly indicated such intentions.[12] China’s top priority in Afghanistan is protecting Chinese citizens, investments, and territory from terrorist attacks. Beijing will likely continue pressuring Taliban leaders to cut ties with other insurgent networks, particularly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which seeks to establish a Uyghur state in Xinjiang. China may offer the Taliban infrastructure investments in exchange for the protection of Chinese nationals in the region and to establish significant political leverage over a Taliban-controlled government.[13] Secondarily, Chinese leaders are looking to increase economic connections with Afghanistan and expand access to the country’s natural resources, including rare earth metals, copper, and oil reserves.[14] China won exclusive rights to the Mes Aynak mine in Logar Province in 2007, but the Afghan civil war has delayed extraction of the mine’s estimated $50 billion copper deposit.[15] Separately, China may be planning to build a 280-km-long expressway between Peshawar and Kabul that extends the CPEC into Afghanistan.[16]

Iran

The Iranian regime has celebrated the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and is supporting a peaceful transition of power that includes the Taliban. President Ebrahim Raisi lauded the American “military defeat” and called for a national Afghan agreement to achieve stability.[17] Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif backed a transition plan drafted by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and expressed Iran’s readiness to facilitate peace talks.[18] Tehran has hosted intra-Afghan dialogues previously—most recently to establish a ceasefire on July 7.[19] The regime is also hosting Afghan warlord and anti-Taliban leader Mohammad Ismail Khan, who fled Afghanistan on August 15.[20] Khan previously fled the Taliban to Iran in the late 1990s before returning to Afghanistan to resume the fight.

Iran will likely recognize the Taliban government in the months ahead if Iranian leaders conclude that they can cooperate with the group. Tehran seeks to work with the Taliban and other international actors to achieve its strategic objectives in Afghanistan. The Iranian objectives include:

  • Avoiding conflict with the Taliban
  • Neutralizing any Salafi-jihadi threat to Iran from Afghanistan
  • Supporting transnational infrastructure projects that connect Iran to central Asia and China
  • Defending Shi’a Afghans

Iranian state-run media has whitewashed the Taliban’s image and framed the group as increasingly moderate in recent months, likely to prepare for improved relations.[21] Iranian authorities have also engaged with their Indian, Chinese, Russian, and Turkish counterparts on Afghanistan since early July.[22]

Tehran has contingency plans to contest Taliban influence if relations deteriorate and cooperation cannot guarantee Iranian interests. Iran’s armed forces have militarized the border region, expanded security cooperation with Tajikistan, and may have mobilized their Afghan proxy, the Fatemiyoun Division, to defend Iranian interests if needed.[23]

Turkey

Turkey rapidly adapted to the changes in Kabul and is now offering assistance to the Taliban to maintain and expand the Turkish presence in Afghanistan. Turkey and the United States had previously been negotiating a now-outdated plan for Turkish troops in Afghanistan to secure the Kabul International Airport and to retain international access to the capital.  Instead, Turkey is now offering  ”technical and security assistance” to help the new Taliban government stabilize Afghanistan, including securing the airport for the Taliban government.[24] The Turkish Armed Forces unit in Kabul has around 500 Turkish and 120 Azerbaijani forces located at the Kabul International Airport and currently supports the US evacuation mission.[25] Top Turkish officials and Taliban members have confirmed Pakistan-facilitated talks between Ankara and the Taliban, including a potential upcoming meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and the Taliban leadership.[26] The Taliban had previously called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops previously but its position on the Turkish offer is unknown since it captured Kabul on August 15.[27] Turkey has not publicly coordinated with Russia or China on the subject but may seek to deconflict or coordinate if it remains in Afghanistan.

If the Taliban is amenable, Turkey can carve out a unique role as the only NATO country with a significant presence in Afghanistan. If the Taliban allows Turkish troops or diplomats to remain in Afghanistan, Turkey can gain outsized influence in arranging the NATO countries’ access to the country. Moreover, Ankara has made positive comments about the Taliban’s “moderate” statements and publicized its informal talks with Pakistan and the Taliban—likely to justify its relations with the Taliban to the Turkish public.[28] The Turkish government may also help the Taliban gain some diplomatic recognition abroad to jumpstart its governing functions, to Turkish officials - a goal also articulated by President Erdogan on August 18.[29] Erdogan added that Turkey’s role in Afghanistan could be similar to its security and military role in supporting Libya’s stabilization. Turkey will additionally prioritize maintaining its longstanding economic ties to Afghanistan while filling the vacuum in the country’s security, reconstruction, and political needs. However, the Turkish public’s disapproval of a permanent military presence in Afghanistan may lead Turkey to prioritize political and diplomatic roles in shaping the new Afghanistan.[30]

Salafi-Jihadi Groups

Al Qaeda supporters are lauding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda affiliates and associates, as well as pro–al Qaeda online outlets and commentators, have largely celebrated the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan as a victory for global jihad.[31] The collapse of the Afghan government now serves as proof of concept for al Qaeda affiliates that have already been praising the Taliban and mirroring its approach, elements of which align with al Qaeda’s strategic guidance.[32] Al Qaeda’s Mali affiliate, Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM), has pursued negotiations with the Malian government to push French forces to withdraw from the country.[33] Al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, draws parallels between the Taliban’s victory over NATO in Afghanistan and its own campaign against NATO member Turkey.[34]

The responses of Islamic State supporters underscore the preexisting animosity between the Islamic State and the Taliban. Islamic State supporters have reacted negatively to the Taliban’s promise that it will not discriminate against Shi’a Afghans.[35] The Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan competes with the Taliban and has continued claiming attacks in the past week to signal its relevance.[36]

Salafi-jihadi groups will expand their havens in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban has sustained a close, if complex, relationship with al Qaeda—including hosting its leaders—and will likely continue to do so.[37] Intelligence officials have begun to warn that foreign fighters will mobilize to Afghanistan.[38] The Islamic State’s Khorasan Province may also attract more recruits as it seeks to challenge the Taliban and capitalize on reduced counterterrorism pressure.

Al Qaeda affiliates outside Afghanistan may become energized and attempt to capitalize on the withdrawal of foreign forces. Several al Qaeda affiliates in Africa and the Middle East are waging long-running insurgencies that aim to expel foreign forces and topple national governments. Al Shabaab in Somalia is one group that is likely to mimic the Taliban’s trajectory. The group has already benefited from the withdrawal of US forces and a significant reduction in US airstrikes in 2021.[39] The withdrawal of African Union peacekeeping forces, which are seeking to draw down, could catalyze an al Shabaab advance on Mogadishu, particularly if political divisions continue to undermine the country’s security forces.[40]

The Taliban’s victory may amplify ongoing efforts by Salafi-jihadi groups to inspire terror attacks in the West, joining efforts by al Qaeda to capitalize on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.[41]

 


[1] https://tass dot ru/politika/12140187.

[2] http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-7-%E2%80%93-july-20-2021.

[3] https://tass dot ru/politika/12140187.

[4] https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/08/17/uchenia/.

[5] https://regnum dot ru/news/polit/3345406.html; https://www.interfax dot ru/world/784715.

[6] vpknews dot ru/articles/42857.

[7] https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-meets-with-taliban-stepping-up-as-u-s-exits-afghanistan-11627492777

[8] https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1895706.shtml

[9] https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/fyrbt_673021/t1900050.shtml

[10] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-foreign-min-says-bus-attack-that-killed-9-chinese-workers-was-suicide-2021-08-12/

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/12/asia/china-pakistan-india-afghanistan-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Dasu+Hydropower+Project,+Wapda/@35.3010338,73.1588783,11.54z/data=!4m9!1m2!2m1!1sdasu+hydropower+project!3m5!1s0x38dd9a612aa60da3:0xc9bb74148a7b08ab!8m2!3d35.2996432!4d73.2026013!15sChdkYXN1IGh5ZHJvcG93ZXIgcHJvamVjdFoZIhdkYXN1IGh5ZHJvcG93ZXIgcHJvamVjdJIBFXdhdGVyX3V0aWxpdHlfY29tcGFueZoBI0NoWkRTVWhOTUc5blMwVkpRMEZuU1VSTmRsOWhMV1JuRUFF?hl=en-US

[11] https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/12/asia/china-pakistan-india-afghanistan-intl-hnk/index.html

[12] https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2021-08-12/china-prepared-to-recognize-taliban-if-kabul-falls-sources-say-undermining-us-threats

[13] https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3140399/china-welcome-friend-reconstruction-afghanistan-taliban

[14] https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1890707.shtml

[15] https://www.arabnews.com/node/1863386/amp

https://chinadialogue.net/en/business/10577-project-to-exploit-afghanistan-s-giant-copper-deposit-languishes/

 

[16] https://www.thedailybeast.com/china-has-a-big-plan-for-post-us-afghanistan-and-its-worth-billions

[17] http://www.president dot ir/fa/130611

[18] https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/1426934665215152133

[19] https://www.farsnews dot ir/news/14000416000013

[20] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1400/05/24/2555100

[21] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1400/04/18/2535308; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1400/04/04/2527533

[22] https://www.isna dot ir/news/1400041611932; https://jamejamonline dot ir/fa/news/1332454; http://www.alef dot ir/news/4000429047.html; https://www.president dot ir/fa/122262

[23] https://www.yjc dot news/fa/news/7812259; https://www.yjc dot news/fa/news/7825886; https://dolat dot ir/detail/365091; http://jepress dot ir/?newsid=261676

[24] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-talks-with-all-afghan-parties-welcomes-talibans-messages-minister-2021-08-17/

https://www.reuters.com/article/afghanistan-conflict-turkey-airport/erdogan-says-turkey-still-aims-to-maintain-kabul-airport-security-idUSS8N2NK04Y

[25] https://twitter.com/wwwmodgovaz/status/1427569591002308613

https://twitter.com/COIN_V2/status/1428093082877272064?s=20

[26] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/afghanistan-turkey-taliban-wants-to-meet-erdogan

https://www.dailysabah dot com/politics/diplomacy/erdogan-says-he-could-meet-with-leader-of-taliban

[27] https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-afghanistan/taliban-calls-turkey-withdraw-military-afghanistan?amp

[28] https://www.dailysabah. Dot om/politics/diplomacy/taliban-remarks-moderate-we-aim-to-run-kabul-airport-erdogan

https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/08/turkey-welcomes-positive-messages-taliban

[29] https://twitter.com/abdbozkurt/status/1428431044102037509?s=21; https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/afghanistan-turkey-kabul-airport-exploring-troops-taliban

 

[30] https://www dot hurriyetdailynews.com/chp-urges-government-to-withdraw-troops-from-afghanistan-167114

[31] https://www.bbc.com/hausa/rahotanni-58233530; https://twitter.com/Minalami/status/1427553339433234486; https://twitter.com/Rita_Katz/status/1427366120873463811

[32] SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Leader Discusses Perceived French Military Failure and Taliban Success, Calls on Lone Wolves to Strike Enemies,” August 10, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com

[33] https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/africa-file/africa-file-salafi-jihadi-groups-celebrate-attacks-in-tanzania-and-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-prisoner-exchange-in-mali

[34] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Says U.S. Defeat in Afghanistan is Fate Turkey Awaits in Somalia, August 17, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com

[35] https://www.npr.org/2021/08/18/1028780816/transcript-taliban-spokesman-suhail-shaheen-interview

[36] https://twitter.com/Natsecjeff/status/1426655101721235456

[37] https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/al-qaeda-global-tracker/al-qaeda-expands-its-presence-in-afghanistan;  https://mwi.usma.edu/untying-the-gordian-knot-why-the-taliban-is-unlikely-to-break-ties-with-al-qaeda/

[38] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-counterterrrorism-surveillance-afghanistan/2021/08/16/d27433ee-feaa-11eb-825d-01701f9ded64_story.html

[39] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/us/politics/pentagon-troops-somalia.html

[40] https://www.voanews.com/africa/somalia-rejects-au-ideas-scaling-back-peacekeepers;

[41] https://smnewsnet.com/archives/494646/u-s-homeland-security-warns-of-heightened-threat-of-violence-and-terrorism/ 

 

 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Russia in Review: August 4 – August 17, 2021

Russia Cements Military Presence in Central Asia and Sets Conditions to Recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s Government

By Mason Clark

Kremlin messaging on Afghanistan since August 15 has balanced praise for the Taliban’s supposedly “peaceful” takeover of Kabul with cautious rhetoric about officially recognizing the Taliban, which is still formally designated as a terrorist organization in Russia. Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin’s special representative for Afghanistan, stated on August 16 that the Kremlin “prepared the ground ahead of time” to work with “the new government of Afghanistan.”[1] Kabulov said that Russia has retained its embassy in Kabul with security cooperation from the Taliban and praised the Taliban for taking over security in the capital “absolutely peacefully.”[2]

The Kremlin is officially predicating recognition of the Taliban on the Taliban’s ability to prevent jihadist attacks in Central Asia and, to a lesser extent, meet unstated good-governance requirementsThe Kremlin previously called on the Taliban to “prevent the spread of tensions” beyond Afghanistan’s borders during meetings in Moscow in early July.[3] Kabulov said Russia does not see “a single direct threat to our allies in Central Asia” from the Taliban itself but noted on August 16 that regime change can create “a niche for other international terrorist organizations.”[4] The Kremlin has additionally paid lip service to requiring the Taliban to meet undefined standards of governance but will likely focus on security concerns. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia is in no hurry to recognize the Taliban but also claimed that the Taliban has expressed the desire to have a government “with other political forces” and continue the functions of the Afghan state.[5] Kabulov said that Russia will likely remove the Taliban from its list of terrorist organizations if the Taliban “continues to behave peacefully.”[6] Russian rhetoric suggests that Moscow is seeking unspecified concessions from the Taliban before recognizing it. Those concessions will likely go beyond assurances about containing terrorism and good governance.

Russian and partner forces are increasing the frequency of joint military exercises in Central Asia and are preparing for a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) exercise in the coming months. Russian and partner forces conducted several major exercises in August prior to the fall of Kabul. Over 2,500 Russian, Tajik, and Uzbek troops conducted joint exercises to practice preventing militants from crossing the border at a training ground in the Khatlon region of Tajikistan, approximately 20 kilometers from the Afghan border, from August 5-10.[7] Roughly 1,500 Russian and Uzbek troops conducted concurrent joint exercises in Uzbekistan from August 2-7.[8] Russian and partner forces announced several additional exercises following the fall of Kabul on August 15. Approximately 1,000 troops at Russia’s 201st Military Base in Tajikistan began snap exercises on August 17 that are ongoing as of August 19.[9] The Kazakh military raised its state of readiness and began readiness checks on August 16 and notified reservists of possible deployment, following Tajikistan’s previous mobilization on July 22.[10] The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) announced on August 16 that it will hold an exercise designated “Cobalt-2021” in Tajikistan “in the coming months” but did not specify a date or the participants.[11] The Kremlin-dominated CSTO has previously declined Tajik requests for military deployments to the border with Afghanistan. The Kremlin maintains that Russian and partner forces are sufficient to secure the border with Afghanistan but retains the option to deploy the CSTO’s rapid reaction force if needed.[12] The Kremlin likely seeks to secure bilateral ties and direct Russian basing in Central Asian states, rather than immediately leverage the multinational CSTO force.

The Kremlin will likely officially recognize the Taliban and will expand Russian basing and military operations in Central Asia to combat potential jihadist threats. Russia’s demands incentivize the Taliban to prevent third-party jihadist groups from attacking neighboring states. However, the Taliban is unlikely to completely control Afghanistan’s borders, and jihadist groups and criminal networks are highly likely to proliferate in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian states. The Kremlin will likely accept a level of insecurity in the region above what the United States and its allies would normally tolerate and recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The Kremlin may additionally seek to secure economic concessions such as access to mineral resources from the Taliban in exchange for recognition. The Kremlin will also prioritize preventing potentially destabilizing refugee flows from Afghanistan. The Russian military has prepared for several years for the potential of a renewed jihadist threat to Central Asia following a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.[13] Russian military deployments in Central Asia are in large part responses to this legitimate threat. However, additional Russian basing and further military cooperation with Central Asian states will support the Kremlin’s campaign to integrate the militaries of the former Soviet Union under Russian structures and improve Russian force-projection capabilities.

 


  1. All four of Russia’s military districts conducted concurrent international military exercises in early August, demonstrating the Russian military’s increasing operational capacity. Russian forces held three exercises with Chinese, Laotian, and Indian forces August 1-13. Approximately 13,000 Russian and Chinese troops participated in the joint Russian-Chinese strategic exercise “Interaction 2021” in the Ningxia Hui region of northwestern China from August 9-13.[14] The Russian and Chinese defense ministers observed the joint conventional operations by Russian and Chinese motorized infantry and aviation units.[15] Russian and Laotian forces held the joint “Laros-2021” exercise in the Primorsky region of eastern Russia from August 11-19.[16] Five hundred personnel from both states practiced counterterror operations in the second iteration of the Laros exercise since 2019, which the Kremlin intends as a regular joint exercise. Finally, Russian and Indian forces held a similar joint “Indra-2021” exercise in the Volgograd region of southern Russia from August 1-13.[17] Five hundred personnel practiced counterterror operations and exchanged best practices from prior operations. The Russian military’s ability to conduct major international exercises in the Southern and Eastern Military Districts concurrent with large-scale exercises in Central Asia commanded by the Central Military District and preparations in the Western Military District for the Zapad-2021 exercises demonstrate its increasing readiness and operational flexibility. The Kremlin is additionally successfully advancing its campaign to secure international security partnerships to offset the limits of Russia’s growing but limited military footprint.[18]
  2. Russian forces deployed to Belarus for the Zapad-2021 exercises in early August that could become part of a permanent military presence in that country. Russia deployed the 60th Command Brigade of the 1st Guards Tank Army to Belarus on August 4.[19] The 60th Communication Brigade is the command and control (C2) element of Russia’s 1st Guards Tank Army – the premier conventional unit of the Russian Army.[20] The deployment of this C2 element to Belarus indicates the likely participation of the 1st Guards Tank Army in Zapad-2021. The 60th Communications Brigade could additionally serve as the primary C2 element of a permanent Russian deployment to Belarus following Zapad, as previously forecasted by ISW.[21] Several additional Russian and Belarusian units deployed to their designated training grounds for Russia’s Zapad-2021 exercise since ISW’s previous publication on Zapad preparations on August 5.[22] Elements of the Belarusian 19th Motor Rifle Brigade deployed to an unspecified training ground in western Russia on August 11 and conducted preparatory exercises with Russian forces on August 17.[23] Elements of the Belarusian 60th Communications Regiment additionally deployed to Russia’s Mulino training ground on August 16. The Belarusian 6th and 11th Motor Rifle Brigades, unspecified logistics units, and several air force and air defense units held exercises to prepare for Zapad in Belarus August 3-12.[24]
  3. Russia’s ruling United Russia party is leveraging individually popular Russians to reverse the party’s declining approval ahead of Russian Duma (parliament) elections scheduled for September 17-19. The top five candidates on United Russia’s parliamentary list participated in the opening of a new United Russia headquarters in Moscow on August 9 and billed themselves as “Putin’s Team.”[25] The top five candidates are Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Moscow hospital chief Denis Protsenko, presidential science and education coordinator Elena Shmeleva, and Children’s Rights Commissioner Anna Kuznetsova. The five participants gave speeches claiming United Russia is essential to success in their respective policy areas. The five candidates are almost certain to decline their parliamentary seats, which will be filled by United Russia candidates lower on the party list. United Russia is likely attempting to leverage approval of key public figures and link support for United Russia as a party to support for Putin to bolster its own popularity ahead of Duma elections scheduled for September 17-19. United Russia held only a 30 percent approval rating as of the most recent state-run polls in June 2021 – compared to a 62 percent approval rating for President Putin.[26] United Russia currently holds 54 percent of seats in Russia’s parliament, and the Kremlin will likely need to heavily falsify results, despite a coordinated Kremlin campaign to sideline potential opposition throughout 2021.
  4. The Baltic states enacted border restrictions to slow the Belarusian campaign to traffic refugees into the EU. The Belarusian government has transported refugees, primarily from Iraq, to the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland in an effort to destabilize its neighbors and reverse EU sanctions enacted on Belarus since June 2021 in response to the Belarusian government’s forcible detention of journalist Roman Protasevich.[27] Latvia announced a state of emergency in its regions bordering Belarus on August 10, and Lithuania announced a program on August 13 to give migrants trafficked from Belarus 300 euros and a flight to their home countries.[28] Lithuanian border guards have filmed Belarusian border guards driving migrants to the border, dismantling border fences, and entering Lithuanian territory to escort migrants.[29] Self-proclaimed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko tacitly admitted to the campaign on August 9, denying Belarus is “blackmailing” Europe with illegal immigration but stating that Belarus is reacting to EU sanctions “according to its capabilities” in response to a reporter’s question on Belarusian support for the migrants.[30] The Iraqi government indefinitely suspended all flights to Belarus on August 6 following pressure from EU officials.[31] Lukashenko’s efforts are unlikely to coerce the EU to remove its sanctions but may destabilize Poland and the Baltic states and lead to political strife.
  5. Belarus announces a socio-economic development program for 2021-2025 that contains several concessions to Russia. Belarus’ official socio-economic development program for 2021-2025, published on August 4, states that Belarus’ “main vector” of economic growth should be with Russia within the framework of the Union State, a Kremlin-preferred supranational structure that Putin seeks to leverage to secure control over several aspects of the Belarusian state.[32] The document states Belarus’ main criteria for further integration with the Union State are ensuring equal economic conditions between Russia and Belarus, equal energy usage, joint access to markets, and Belarusian control of financial instruments. The document also emphasizes developing economic relations with the Eurasian Economic Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The document additionally singles out China as a key country to develop ties with. The Kremlin likely pressured Belarus over the past year to include Union State integration as a key priority. In the wake of EU sanctions on Belarus and reduced trade with Western Europe, Belarus can no longer see European states as viable economic partners and will be increasingly reliant on Russian economic support. However, Lukashenko will likely continue his efforts to delay economic integration with Russia and will seek to diversify Belarus’ economy with China and other states to reduce his dependence on Russia.[33]

 

Contributors to this Report: Mason Clark, George Barros, Will Baumgardner, Catherine Hodgson, Rachel Kenny, and Matthew Sparks


[1] ["Kabulov said that Russia does not see Threats to Central Asia from the Taliban,"] TASS, August 21, 2021, https://tass dot ru/politika/12140187.

[2] Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia in Contact with Taliban via Embassy in Kabul – Diplomat," Reuters, August 16, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/russia-will-evacuate-some-embassy-staff-afghanistan-official-2021-08-16/.

[3] Mason Clark and Rachel Kenny, “Russia in Review July 7 – July 20, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, July 22, 2021, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-7-%E2%80%93-uly-20-2021.

[4] ["Kabulov said that Russia does not see Threats to Central Asia from the Taliban,"] TASS, August 21, 2021, https://tass dot ru/politika/12140187

[5] Yegor Levin, [“The Five-week-long Joint Exercises of Russia and Uzbekistan Started at the Termez Mountain Training Ground,”] TV Zvezda, August 2, 2021, https://tvzvezda dot ru/news/20218171514-KWuu6.html.

[6] Ignat Bakin, [“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Discussed the Procedure for Excluding the Taliban from the list of Terrorist Groups,”] Znak, August 17, 2021, https://www.znak dot com/2021-08-17/v_mid_rf_rasskazali_o_procedure_isklyucheniya_talibana_iz_spiska_terroristov.

[7] [“Russian Soldiers Began the Active Phase of Exercises on the Border with Afghanistan,”] Interfax, August 10, 2021, https://www.interfax dot ru/world/783393; [“Major Military Exercises are Taking Place in Tajikistan with the Participation of Russia,”] Radio Svoboda, August 5, 2021, https://www.svoboda.org/a/v-tadzhikistane-prohodyat-krupnye-voennye-ucheniya-s-uchastie-rossii/31394942.html.

[8] Yegor Levin, [“The Five-week-long Joint Exercises of Russia and Uzbekistan started at the Termez Mountain Training Ground,”] TV Zvezda, August 2, 2021, https://tvzvezda dot ru/news/202182842-ApygI.html.

[9] [“Russia Began Military Exercises in Tajikistan,”] Lenta, August 17, 2021, https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/08/17/uchenia/.

[10] Mason Clark, “Russia in Review: July 21 - August 3, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, August 5, 2021, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-21-august-3-2021; [“Russia Starts Military Exercises in Tajikistan,”] Lenta, August 17, 2021, https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/08/17/uchenia/. 

[11] [“CSTO to Provide Assistance to Tajikistan in Case of Threat from Afghanistan,”] Regnum, August 16, 2021, https://regnum dot ru/news/polit/3345406.html; [“The CSTO will Hold Exercises near the Tajik-Afghan Border in the Coming Months,”] Interfax, August 16, 2021, https://www.interfax dot ru/world/784715.

[12] Mason Clark and Rachel Kenny, “Russia in Review July 7 – July 20, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, July 22, 2021, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-7-%E2%80%93-july-20-2021; Mason Clark, “Russia in Review: July 21 - August 3, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, August 5, 2021, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-21-august-3-2021.

[13] Alexander Lapin, [“Afghanistan Again?”] VPK, May 28, 2018, vpknews dot ru/articles/42857.

[14] “Servicemen of the Russian Military Contingent in Preparation for the SIBU/Interaction 2021 Joint Russian-Chinese Strategic Exercise Fire from the Weapons of PLA Wheeled Armored Vehicles,” Russian Ministry of Defense, August 9, 2021, https://eng dot mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12376242@egNews.

[15] “Servicemen of the Russian Military Contingent in Preparation for the SIBU/Interaction 2021 Joint Russian-Chinese Strategic Exercise Fire from the Weapons of PLA Wheeled Armored Vehicles,” Russian Ministry of Defense, August 9, 2021, https://eng dot mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12376242@egNews; "Chinese, Russian Militaries Hold Drills in Northwest China,” ABC News, August 10, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/chinese-russian-militaries-hold-drills-northwest-china-79373635; [“Sergei Shoigu Observes the Joint Exercises of the Russian Federation and PRC in China,”] Russian Gazette, August 13, 2021, https://rg dot ru/2021/08/13/sergej-shojgu-v-kitae-nabliudaet-za-sovmestnymi-ucheniiami-rf-i-knr.html.

[16] [“The Joint Russian-Laotian Exercise “Laros-2021” began in Primorsky Krai,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, August 11, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12376645@egNews.

[17] [“The XII Joint Russian-Indian Exercise "Indra-2021" is Being Held in Volgograd,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, August 4, 2021, https://function dot mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12375474@egNews; Andrey Arkadiev, [“Russian-Indian Exercise "Indra-2021" Ended Near Volgograd,”] TV Zvezda, August 12, 2021, https://tvzvezda dot ru/news/20218121416-obY9Z.html.

[18] Nataliya Bugayova, “Putin’s Offset: The Kremlin’s Geopolitical Adaptations Since 2014,” Institute for the Study of War, September 2020, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Putin%27s%20Offset%20The%20Kremlin%27s%20Geopolitical%20Adaptations%20Since%202014.pdf.

[19] The Belarusian military did not report the name of the unit and the Russian military has not acknowledged the brigade’s deployment. However, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense reported the arrival of a unit commanded by “Alexander Gorlov” with accompanying photos on August 4. Alexander Gorlov commanded the 60th Communications Brigade as of July 29, 2021 and participated in preparations for Zapad throughout 2021, so it is highly likely his unit has deployed to Belarus. [“Welcome!”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 3, 2021, https://www.vayar dot mil.by/news/137210/;  [“ZVO Signalmen Worked out a Training Alert in Preparation for the SSU ‘Zapad-2021’,”] Izvestia, June 29, 2021, https://iz dot ru/1185587/2021-06-29/sviazisty-zvo-otrabotali-uchebnuiu-trevogu-v-ramkakh-podgotovki-k-ssu-zapad-2021.

[20] Catherine Harris, “Russia’s Military Posture: Ground Forces Order of Battle,” Institute for the Study of War, March 2018, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-military-posture.

[21] George Barros, “Russia in Review: Russia Opens Permanent Training Center in Belarus and Sets Conditions for Permanent Military Basing,” Institute for the Study of War, April 8, 2021, https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-russia-opens-permanent-training-center-belarus-and-sets-conditions.

[22] Mason Clark, “Russia in Review July 21 – August 3, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, August 5, 2021, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-july-21-august-3-2021.

[23] [“Towards Zapad-2021,"] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 11, 2021, https://vayar dot mil dot by/news/137380/; [“On the Eve of the Exercises,”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 17, 2021, https://vayar dot mil.by/news/137930/.

[24]  [“Air Defense Warriors are Learning,”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 4, 2021, https://vayar.mil dot by/news/137233/; [“Zapad-2021: Guards are Getting Ready,”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 9, 2021, https://vayar.mil dot by/news/137335/; [“Logistics is a Continuous Process,”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, August 12, 2021, https://vayar.mil dot by/news/137411/.

[25] Anton Zheleznyakov, ["Shoigu, Lavrov and Karelin Launched the Work of the Headquarters of Public Support for United Russia,"] Moscow Komsomolets, August 10, 2021, https://www.mk dot ru/politics/2021/08/10/shoygu-lavrov-i-karelin-dali-start-rabote-shtaba-obshhestvennoy-podderzhki-edinoy-rossii.html.

[26] Evan Gershkovich, “Putin Promises Russians Billions in Spending Ahead of Polls,” The Moscow Times, June 19, 2021, https://www.themoscowtimes dot com/2021/06/19/putin-promises-russians-billions-in-spending-ahead-of-polls-a74268.

[27] Jon Henley, Andrew Roth, “Latvia and Lithuania Act to Counter Migrants Crossing Belarus Border,” The Guardian, August 10, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/10/latvia-and-lithuania-act-to-counter-migrants-crossing-belarus-border.

[28]  [“Latvia has Declared an Emergency Regime on the Border with Belarus due to the Situation with Migrants,”] Mediazona, August 10, 2021, https://mediazona dot by/news/2021/08/10/latvia2; Eugene Lutsenko, [“The First Illegal Migrant from Iraq has Left Lithuania under the New Program. He was Bought Tickets and Given 300 Euros,”] Hromadske, August 13, 2021, https://hromadske dot ua/posts/z-litvi-za-novoyu-programoyu-viletiv-pershij-nelegalnij-migrant-z-iraku-jomu-kupili-kvitki-ta-dali-300-yevro.

[29] Tadeusz Giczan, Twitter, August 3, 2021, https://twitter.com/TadeuszGiczan/status/1422464824546635806?s=20; Lithuanian State Border Security Office, Facebook, August 17, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/pasienislt/posts/2849743705280341.

[30] Jon Henley, Andrew Roth, “Latvia and Lithuania Act to Counter Migrants Crossing Belarus Border,” The Guardian, August 10, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/10/latvia-and-lithuania-act-to-counter-migrants-crossing-belarus-border.

[31] Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, Twitter, August 6, 2021, https://twitter.com/Iraqi_Civil/status/1423713519158145032?s=20.

[32] [“On the Approval of the Program of Socio-economic Development of the Republic of Belarus for 2021-2025,”] Belarusian Government, July 29, 2021, https://pravo dot by/document/?guid=12551&p0=P32100292&p1=1.

[33] [“Meeting with Senior Officials of Council of Ministers,”] President of the Republic of Belarus, August 17, 2021, https://president.gov dot by/en/events/soveshchanie-s-rukovodstvom-soveta-ministrov-1629192881.