Amrullah Saleh is the new President of Afghanistan. The man has been crucial to Afghanistan progressing under a civilian government since 2001, when the US drove the Taliban back into its caves. Saleh is fast emerging as the “lion of Afghanistan”, and his idol is Ahmed Shah Massoud – recognised as one of the greatest sons of Afghanistan. Amrullah Saleh is a Pakistan hawk, he hates the Taliban from the very core of his heart. He has one mission – to drive Talibani savages out of Kabul and exterminate them. He is not a fan of Joe Biden and his administration in Washington.
Amrullah Saleh is a decisive man. He has worked as a spy and a high-ranking intelligence officer in the early 2000s. Thereafter, he served as interior minister of the war-torn country – which is among the most important portfolios which one could have in civilian Afghanistan. Then, Saleh went on to become the Vice President of the country due to his tremendous connection with Afghan minorities, including Tajiks, Uzbeks and even the Hindus and Sikhs. Today, he has become the President of Afghanistan and is leading a resistance against the Taliban from the lone free province of Panjshir, which the Talibs cannot dare capture because it is simply beyond them to win it.
Russia has already warned the Taliban, that any ties between it and Moscow will solely depend on the extremist organisation’s behaviour. The ball is now in the Taliban’s court. It desperately needs to win the goodwill of Russia, but knows that doing so will not be an easy task. President Vladimir Putin has conveyed to the Taliban that they must behave themselves. Now, while these savages attempt to behave themselves, it seems Russia is fulfilling its Afghanistan mission, which it had failed at in the 1980s under the umbrella of the erstwhile Soviet Union. While the Taliban attempts to get in the good books of Russia, Putin seems to be playing a double game with the organisation, by putting his weight behind Afghan President Amrullah Saleh.
Amrullah Saleh is a man which Vladimir Putin can connect with. For the lack of a better word, Putin and Amrullah Saleh share the same vibe. They are both badasses in their own right, both are unsparing towards the enemies of the countries, both have formally served as high-ranking intelligence officers and spies, and both have an undying love for their nations. Now, there are many indications which point towards the direction of Vladimir Putin backing Amrullah Saleh in his fight against the Taliban.
Tajikistan – a former Soviet state and a CSTO ally of Russia denied permission to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s flight to land on its territory as the man was fleeing his country while the Taliban ran over Kabul. This forced Ghani to divert his route to Oman, from where he flew to the United Arab Emirates – where he has currently taken refuge. Meanwhile, Afghan soldiers who had fled to Tajikistan are beginning to return to Panjshir, and joining forces with Amrullah Saleh’s resistance.
Furthermore, the Afghan embassy in Tajikistan has “requested” Interpol to detain former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, as well as two others, for allegedly stealing public wealth. Ghani, it was reported, took “four cars and a helicopter full of cash” with him while escaping from Afghanistan. The arrest of Ghani would strengthen Amrullah Saleh’s hold over the presidentship of the Afghan government in exile, and Russia seems to be pushing for the same.
Meanwhile, dozens of aircraft belonging to the Afghan air force have been parked at the Termez Airport in neighbouring Uzbekistan, which is also a former Soviet state. An image, taken on August 16, by Planet Labs shows the sudden appearance of at least 22 small fixed-wing planes and 26 helicopters. These could be parked in Uzbekistan probably at the behest of Russia, which would make such equipment available to Amrullah Saleh’s forces as and when required.
An undated video of Saleh has gone viral on social media platforms where he can be nuancedly seen dissecting the situation if the US decided to abandon Afghanistan. Even then, he had remarked that he will never leave his country and if the US leaves, it won’t mean his struggle will end. He said, “…if they withdraw, it doesn’t mean I will stop. We are very clear in that also. We will continue because we are from here. These mountains will remain, forever. These rivers will flow, forever. Yeah, it would be great to have them but if they leave, it won’t mean we will cease to exist.”
— Shaunak Agarkhedkar (@ShaunakSA) August 18, 2021
Before changing his Twitter bio to ‘Acting President – Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’, Saleh had proudly written “spies never quit” and it is all one needs to know about the character of the person. Earlier, Saleh had vowed to never kneel in front of the Taliban. He tweeted, “I will never, ever & under no circumstances bow to the Talib terrorists. I will never betray the soul & legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend & the guide. I won’t disappoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with the Taliban. NEVER.”
I will never, ever & under no circumstances bow to d Talib terrorists. I will never betray d soul & legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend & the guide. I won't dis-appoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban. NEVER.
— Amrullah Saleh (@AmrullahSaleh2) August 15, 2021
This is a man who Vladimir Putin can back. In his words and with his actions, Amrullah Saleh oozes courage. He is a man which is still haunting the Taliban, and they can do nothing about it. The Taliban cannot enter Panjshir, but Amrullah Saleh can very well deal some very heavy blows to the organisation’s interests already. Recent reports have stated that Saleh and co., in a show of military strength in their stronghold have claimed to retake Charikar in Parwan, which, if true, will put them within striking distance of the massive Bagram airport complex.
The recapturing of Charikar could enable Saleh to land militias of Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum from Uzbekistan. A strategically important road passes through Charikar via the Salang Tunnel, which connects Kabul with Mazar-i-Sharif – the largest city in northern Afghanistan and once held by Dostum’s forces. Amrullah Saleh has effectively started showing his mettle and muscle already, which would immensely please Vladimir Putin.
It must be remembered that Russia has historically never been in favour of Islamist warlords, mujahideen and the Taliban gaining control over Afghanistan. It launched an entire invasion in 1979 to prevent the mujahideen groups from rising to power. That invasion failed, but Putin seems to be back in action to fulfil the Soviet dream of a non-Islamist regime being established in Kabul, and one which remains indebted to Moscow. Therefore, the moves made by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan assume great significance, as they could not have been made without Moscow’s nod.
Russia would also be inspired to back Amrullah Saleh against the Taliban since China and Pakistan are currently jubilant. China views a Taliban regime in Kabul favourably, since it can easily debt trap it, and take over the $3 trillion worth of mineral resources of the country as collateral. The Taliban too desperately needs China in the absence of any major world power backing it. Pakistan can be an ally of the Taliban only on paper, but cannot help it in any physical form, since Islamabad is bankrupt itself. Moreover, the Taliban, Pakistan and China together form a major threat for former Soviet states in Central Asia – and that is what really worries Moscow, which is why Putin seems to be strengthening Amrullah Saleh and his resistance front in the Panjshir valley of Afghanistan.