Putin: Iraq, Syria militants entering Afghanistan


MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that militants hardened by the battle in Iraq and Syria are entering “actively” Afghanistan.
“The situation in Afghanistan is not easy,” he added. Putin he said during a video conference with the heads of the security services of the former Soviet states.
“Militants from Iraq, Syria with experience in military operations are being actively drawn there,” he said.
“It is possible that terrorists will try to destabilize the situation in neighboring states,” he added, warning that they could even attempt “direct expansion.”
Putin has repeatedly warned of members of extremist groups taking advantage of the political turmoil in Afghanistan to cross into neighboring former Soviet countries as refugees.
While Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new Taliban leadership in Kabul, the Kremlin is concerned about instability spreading to Central Asia, where it houses military bases.
Following the Taliban takeover, Russia conducted military exercises with former Soviet Tajikistan, where it operates a military base, and in Uzbekistan. Both countries share a border with Afghanistan.
Tajikistan’s head of national security, Saimumin Yatimov, for his part, said in the videoconference that he had recorded an “escalation” in attempts to “smuggle drugs, weapons and ammunition” from Afghanistan into his country.
Afghanistan has long been the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin, and profits from the illicit trade have helped finance the Taliban.
Early Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Tajikistan’s leader Emomali Rakhmon in Paris, vowing to help the central Asian state maintain stability.
While the Taliban have said they pose no threat to Central Asian countries, the region’s former Soviet republics have previously been targeted by attacks attributed to allies of Afghan Islamists.
Last week, the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said that Russia will invite the Taliban to Moscow for international talks on Afghanistan scheduled for October 20.

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