Russia: U.S. Shouldn't Stay In Afghanistan, Nor Should It Go
Russia doesn't want the U.S. and NATO to leave Afghanistan by 2014 unless Afghans are ready to secure the country themselves -- but Moscow also doesn't want the Westerners to stay if they're not going to finish the job. That's the message that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave in an interview with Afghanistan's Tolo News. Lavrov suggested that the U.S. is angling for permanent military bases both in Afghanistan and in Central Asia, while leaving Afghanistan unstable and threatening to Russia.
Here he discusses the U.S. withdrawal (from a transcript on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website):
The presence of international stabilisation force in Afghanistan has been mandated by the UN Security Council. The mandate is clear. They must fulfill this mandate before they leave and before they leave of course they must report to the Security Council that the mandate has been fulfilled. Everyone understands that by the time the international forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Afghan government itself must possess the capabilities to maintain law and order and to be able to address all security problems inside the country ....so I don't think it would be productive to withdraw the international contingents without fulfilling their mandate if you wish. And it's also, it's also strange that while insisting that in 2014 the American troops, Nato troops I assume, would leave Afghanistan, at the same time Washington discusses with Afghanistan very purposefully the establishment of four five military bases for the post 2014 period. I don't think why this should be done this way because if you need the military presence, then you continue the implement the mandate of the Security Council. If you don't want to implement the mandate of the Security Council or you believe that you have implemented the mandate already, but still want to establish and keep the military bases, I don't think it's logical. I also believe that Afghan territory should not be used to create some military sites which would cause concern by third countries....
I don't understand the purpose of the military bases and besides the United States is talking to Central Asia countries asking for long-term military presence. We want to understand what the reason is for it and why this is needed. We don't think it would be helpful for the stability in the region.
Lavrov also suggested the Collective Security Treaty Organization is carrying out offensive operations against drug traffickers in Central Asia, which I don't believe has been said before:
Collective Security Treaty Organisation, regularly, organises operations to intercept drug caravans coming from Afghanistan the operation called Canal. And for quite a number of years, we have been proposing to Nato that and this Collective Security Treaty Organisation should cooperate in real time to identify and intercept the drug caravans. So far the Nato is not very much responsive but more than half individual Nato members participated in this operations as observers. So I hope sometime soon Nato would also change its mind.
He also declined to deny reports that Pakistan and Russia would cooperate on attacking drug facilities inside Afghanistan:
TOLOnews: There was some reports in media that head of Russia's anti drug agency said that together with Pakistan, Russia will target drug labs inside Afghanistan. Do you confirm that?
FM Lavrov: Look, we don't do anything which would not be supported by the Afghan government. All our efforts are aimed at addressing the drug problem and any other problem inside Afghanistan is only done through the Afghan government.
The headline here is that Lavrov said the U.S. military should stay somewhere, which of course Russia almost never believes. But it's the logical consequence of Russia warning about the chaos that could result from a post-2014 Afghanistan, a theme Kremlin officials really started focusing on last fall. And this is a backhanded way of highlighting the U.S.'s failure, by calling attention to the U.S.'s dirty secret: that Afghanistan is certainly not going to be ready to take care of itself by 2014, unless the current government and the Taliban come to some sort of mutually satisfactory political arrangement. And if someone manages that, they should get the next ten Nobel Peace Prizes.