Afghanistan fired from the air. Moscow blamed

Afghanistan fired from the air. Moscow blamed

Statements by the Afghan officials of the Takhar Province on air strikes against the Taliban military targets in the Darqad district were carried out by Tajikistan’s Air Force or Russia's Air Force have been refuted in Dushanbe and Moscow. Experts believe that this incident should be seen as an attempt to provoke a conflict between Russia and the Taliban on the eve of the international conference on Afghanistan, which is due on September 4.

The spokesman for the governor of Takhar Province, Ahmad Jawad Hijri, told the Afghan media that an unknown military aircraft carried out a strike on the Darqad district of the Takhar Province, having emerged from the territory of Tajikistan. According to the local authorities, it could be a fighter aircraft of the Tajik or Russian Air Force, which has a 201st military base on the Tajik territory. This strike was allegedly the response to a clash took place between local drug smugglers and Tajik border guards in the Farkhor district bordering Afghanistan the day before. Two Tajik citizens were killed, one injured.

Meanwhile, the Tajik Ministry of Defense denied the participation of its air force in the attack on the territory of Takhhar Province. “We do not have the right to launch airstrikes on foreign territory. And even if such a necessity arises, then a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be summoned to consider the issue of a strike. And only after long consultations of military departments, such a decision can be made,” a Tajik ministry source was quoted as saying by Asia-Plus news agency. The Russian Defense Ministry also denied its involvement in the air strike on the territory of Afghanistan.

A police spokesman in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, Halil Asir, told Radio Ozodi (RFE/RL’s Tajik service) that he was informed of the incident. He does not know exactly who was behind this attack, but there is a Taliban camp on the shelled territory.

Afghanistan officials argue that the air strike was carried out after an incident occurred in the neighboring Farkhor district of Tajikistan. Last Sunday, an unknown group of up to 12 people violated the state border in the area between the 3rd and 4th frontier outposts of the Hamadoni Tajik border detachment. The criminals fired the Niva car, which belonged to the local forestry, from rifles and rocket anti-tank launchers. Two forestry personnel were killed, one received multiple gunshot wounds. The armed border guard was sent to search for violators. "Tajik border troops are conducting an operation on the border with Afghanistan to eliminate a group of armed Afghans who invaded the territory of the country," the head of the press center of the frontier troops of Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security, Mukhammad Ulugodzhaev, said on Monday. According to him, an alarm has been announced in the border detachment of Hamadoni, an operation is currently underway to locate and dismantle an unknown Afghan armed group. The results of the operation are not yet reported.

A source in the power structures of the Farkhar district told Radio Ozodi that all three were forestry personnel, and the attack occurred from the Afghan side. Local residents report that there are representatives of the authorities and law enforcement agencies in the area of the incident, helicopters flying. In particular, it is reported that the chairman of the State Committee of National Security Saimumin Yatimov and his deputy Mansurjon Umarov arrived at the scene.

As expert on Central Asia and the Middle East Alexander Knyazev told Vestnik Kavkaza, the reports of the air strike allegedly inflicted by the Air Force of Tajikistan or Russia on the Darqad district on the Afghan border can be unambiguously regarded as an anti-Russian action aimed at stalling the forthcoming Moscow conference on Afghanistan is scheduled for September 4. Accusations against Russia should increase the conflict in the already difficult Russian-Afghan relations and reinforce Kabul's argument in its refusal to participate in Moscow-led negotiations. The Taliban leadership, which earlier confirmed its visit to Moscow, may also doubt its participation. The answer to the question qui prodest (to whose advantage?) is unambiguous, it is the last thing Russia would need now, while the U.S. and the Kabul government extract the maximum political benefit from such an incident, disavowing the significance of the already straining Moscow negotiating initiative. There are only two main versions regarding the event itself.

The first version is that the attack could have been caused by planes from the U.S. military base Camp Marmal near Mazar-i-Sharif, from where it takes no longer than 25 minutes for modern assault aviation to get there. The airspace of Afghanistan is controlled by U.S. and NATO forces, which will easily confirm any interpretation formulated by the U.S. military and political leadership. The possibility of any ground-based investigation is unlikely, since the Darqad district has long been under the control of an anti-government group (there is no reason to say that it is linked to the Taliban, its criminal nature is more obvious).

The second version is that there was no air strike at all, and we are dealing with an episode of information war. All media outlets refer to two or three Afghan news agencies, this information stream is replicated and a short interpretation of the Russian air strike reaches a final audience (in particular, the regions of Afghanistan, far from Darqad), supported by a reminder of the Soviet-Afghan war. It contributes to the emergence or growth of anti-Russian sentiments in society, which, in fact, is the main task of this provocative information provocation.

On September 4, Moscow will hold consultations on Afghanistan, attended by representatives of the Taliban and participants from 12 countries. The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the purpose of the upcoming consultations in Moscow is to bring the positions of Kabul and the Taliban closer to launch a direct dialogue. However, representatives of the Afghan government, under pressure from Washington, refused to arrive in  Moscow.

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