Recent Actions By Taliban Will Not Help Them Gain International Legitimacy: White House

Kabul: Recent actions by the Taliban will not help them gain international legitimacy, the White House said on Friday, after insurgents from the group killed the government’s senior media officer in Kabul.

“Our view is that, if the Taliban claim to want international legitimacy, these actions are not going to get them the legitimacy they seek,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing. “They do not have to stay on this trajectory. They can choose to devote the same energy to the peace process as they are to their military campaign.”

Taliban attackers killed Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the Government Media and Information Centre, in the latest in a series of killings aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected government.

Meanwhile, the Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will be used in protecting the borders of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) member nations in case of a direct aggression from Afghanistan, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry press center says.

“Our base in Tajikistan is powerful and strong enough. Of course, if necessary, it will be involved in protecting the CSTO borders in case of a direct aggression. The same relates to our base in Kyrgyzstan. Such a need may also arise there,” the defense minister said at a meeting with the scientific community of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk in response to a question about measures being taken to ward off threats emanating from Afghanistan. The CSTO member states cannot be on a par with Russia by their scope and defense potential and need assistance in the Afghan direction as this finally concerns Russia’s military security, Shoygu pointed out.

“We hope that the agreements that exist with the Taliban will be fulfilled. However, considering the previous experience, it is hard to believe in this at once. It is necessary to tackle this issue so that all these threats do not confront our country. In this regard, it is necessary to support our CSTO partners in every possible way and help them,” Russia’s defense chief stressed. Moscow and Dushanbe are implementing a joint program of rearming the Tajik army but now a need has arisen to deal with strengthening the combat potential of the republic’s border guards, Shoygu said.

The Russian defense minister also said that Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had launched large-scale drills to practice tasks related to the situation in the region. The Russian military base deployed in Tajikistan is subordinate to the Central Military District. It is Russia’s largest non-naval military facility outside the country.

In fact, the Collective Security Treaty Organization is closely monitoring the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border, CSTO spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov told BelTA while commenting on the general situation on the border with Afghanistan and the exercise that began there.

“We welcome the exercise of the Armed Forces of Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan that began at training grounds near the border with Afghanistan today,” the spokesman said. “The CSTO is closely monitoring the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border and neighboring regions. In the event of an escalation and a threat to the Republic of Tajikistan, the CSTO will take all necessary measures to assist its ally in protecting the CSTO’s southern border. Now the Tajik security forces are keeping the situation on the border under control, and there is no need yet to use the mechanisms of the CSTO.”

Russia’s special military group maintains the security of command centers at the Russian-Tajik-Uzbek exercise, being held against the backdrop of destabilization in Afghanistan. The drills are underway at the Kharb-Maidon proving ground 20 kilometers away from the Afghan border, the press service of the Central Military Region said.

“The personnel of Russia’s 201st military base maintain the comprehensive security of field command centers in the course of a joint exercise by military contingents from Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. For this, a special group was created to operate on its own and together with the combat forces of mechanized infantry and reconnaissance, armor, artillery and other units. The group incorporates radio-electronic warfare crews and air defense, UAV, communication and guard units,” the news release states.

Central Asian countries are concerned over the possible infiltration by Afghan militants disguising as refugees, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told the Security Council Friday. “The risk of infiltration of Central Asian countries by Afghan militants disguised as refugees causes concerns among the countries of the region,” he said.

He added that Russia stays in contact with the Central Asian countries on this issue.

The leaders of five Central Asian countries gathered for talks in Turkmenistan on Friday, with the spiral of war in neighbouring Afghanistan topping their agenda as US-led forces leave the country.

The talks in the Caspian Sea town of Avaza come as the Taliban challenges Afghan government forces in several large cities after weeks of gains in the countryside, including in provinces next to the three former Soviet ‘stans’ that border the country – Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov called Afghanistan “the question that worries all of us” on Wednesday as state television showed him receiving his Tajikistan counterpart Emomali Rakhmon for bilateral talks ahead of the summit.

Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, arrived in Uzbekistan for talks Thursday, and to observe military drills that are expected to wrap up next week. During a meeting with Uzbek counterpart Shukhrat Khalmukhamedov, Gerasimov said the drills took place “to practise actions to repel terrorist threats”. “The main threat to the Central Asian region today comes from the Afghan direction,” Gerasimov said, noting that Moscow was increasing its supplies of weapons to the region. The annual summit being held in Avaza is a rare instance of the Central Asian states convening for talks without powers from outside the region, such as Russia, China or the United States.

Also, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said, “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. And we are doing everything possible to support those people who have supported us in our efforts there, and we will work to find ways to speed up that process. We have now brought over 400 SIVs into the United States, and they’ve been processed into our program. And we have thousands more who have also applied for the program, and we’ll be working as expeditiously as possible to get them into the United States. As a refugee, a refugee has to be outside of their country of birth to apply for refugee status. And we will be building up our programs to support those individuals who reach out and apply for refugee status. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights is an organization that is very much engaged on this and assisting those people who need protection. And we will be working closely with them as well as other organizations to find ways of supporting those individuals who will need protection moving forward.”

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