MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) – The intended pullout of the NATO-led forces from Afghanistan starting in 2014 is “too hasty,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister said Wednesday adding that Russia will reinforce its military bases in Central Asia ahead of the withdrawal.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has been fighting the radical Islamist Taliban movement in Afghanistan since 2001, is expected to withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of 2014, handing over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to local police and military forces.
ISAF “has been too hasty about making the final decision to pull out in 2014,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, adding that Afghan “domestic security forces capable of countering radical elements have not yet been created.”
Antonov said Moscow is “doing very much to strengthen our contingents” in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan ahead of the pullout.
Some 7,000 Russian troops are stationed at three military bases in Tajikistan, whose border with Afghanistan stretches 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). Collectively known as the 201st military base, it is Russia’s largest military contingent deployed abroad.
Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian airbase with about 700 servicemen outside the Central Asian nation’s capital, Bishkek. The Kant airbase serves the interests of the Collective Security Treaty Organization – a Moscow-led security bloc.
The bases are seen by Moscow as a bulwark against the threat of Islamist militancy and drug-trafficking in Central Asia.
In May, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, said it expects the influence of the radical Islamist Taliban to grow in Afghanistan after international coalition forces are pulled out. GRU head Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun said the situation in Afghanistan poses a “serious challenge to international stability” and the ISAF withdrawal could also increase the threat of terrorism and religious extremism.
US national security analysts have also expressed skepticism that Afghan forces will be capable of ensuring stability in the country, saying they have garnered little trust among the local population and do not have the resources and training in ancillary aspects of combat, such as logistics and medical care.
Anti-government forces pose an increasing threat to Afghan children, women and men, the United Nations said in late July. It registered a 23 percent increase in civilian deaths in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, mostly due to “anti-government elements.”
The United States currently has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan.