It was reported in mid-June that NATO is negotiating with Armenia the question of increasing the number of Armenian peacekeepers in Afghanistan. Reports came as U.S. – the initiator of international peacekeeping anti-terrorist operation in Central Asia – rushed to adopt a decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and suddenly, yet before Donald Trump’s victory in last year’s presidential election, admitted its decision untimely without public knowledge. As for Armenia’s agreement even to consider an increase in the number of its peacekeepers under NATO flag, it looked quite ambiguously as of late June 2017, and here is why.
NATO Secretary General Special Representative for South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai told journalists about Armenia’s “potential” decision to increase the number of its peacekeepers in Yerevan on June 12.
He said Defense Minister of Armenia Vigen Sargsyan would travel to Brussels shortly to attend Brussels meeting for Defense Ministers of countries involved in NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. The increased presence of NATO allies in Afghanistan would be discussed at the meeting, he said. Reporting Appathurai’s statements, all media outlets spotlighted his words about brilliant Armenia-NATO relations and that “NATO respects Armenia’s balanced foreign policy and doesn’t perceive Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and Eurasian Economic Union as an obstacle. Armenia remains NATO’s reliable partner.” According to Appathurai, the current situation will hardly change in the near future and NATO will continue developing relations where reasonable and expedient.
Washington assigned Appathurai to the post of NATO Secretary General’s SR for South Caucasus and Central Asia in order he regularly reminds the countries like Armenia that they assumed “commitments” voluntarily. In addition, they need to “work off the debts” – the West’s financing of “army reform,” training of peacekeepers, reconstruction of buildings and structures for peacekeeping brigades etc. It is not clear why doesn’t Armenia remind Appathurai and NATO that it is a sovereign, independent country and would like to hold talks about withdrawal of its troops, for instance, from Afghanistan (after all, Appathurai is not the United States, if any high ranking official in Yerevan fears to damage Armenian-U.S. relations). In 2010, when the then president Barack Obama guaranteed a full withdrawal of troops of NATO and allies from Afghanistan by 2012-2013, Armenia had already agreed to increase the number of its peacekeepers. The given agreement was made at the meeting of NATO Assistant Secretary of State Claudio Bisogniero and Head of Armenia’s Mission to NATO Samvel Mkrtchyan. Eventually, Yerevan doubled the number of Armenian military in Afghanistan, therefore Brussels’ present “requests” are no longer surprising or unusual.
Nevertheless, there is still something surprising. NATO leadership started probing Armenia just after explosions rocked diplomatic quarter in Kabul on May 31, and when they started talking about a very dangerous “penetration” of the ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) militants into Afghanistan and that ISIS terrorists and militants of another terrorist group Taliban “combine efforts” in Afghanistan. It seemed NATO initiatives were grounded. However, yet in 2012, the then president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly accused all the countries involved in peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan saying that drug trafficking from the country increased during military presence of NATO and partner-countries. He knew that for sure as Iran repeatedly experienced armed raids in the borderline zone. Besides, he said, armed attempts of drug couriers to penetrate into the territory of Iran intensified too. Neither any NATO member-country nor NATO Headquarters had dismissed Ahmadinejad’s accusations within 5 years. But. it’s yet half the trouble.
Some two-three days prior to the terror attacks in Kabul, ex-president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai gave an extensive interview to Anadolu, Turkey’s semi-governmental media outlet. His accusations are extremely sensitive and unpleasant to U.S., NATO and its partner-countries. An insight into Karzai’s words will help assess Armenia’s potential decision to satisfy Appathurai’s request to deploy more Armenian peacekeepers to Afghanistan. The ex-president of Iran suddenly blamed U.S. for presence of ISIS militants in Afghanistan. He said ISIS militants in Afghanistan arrived from other countries and U.S. supports them. Karzai believes that U.S. does not seek a full defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan. According to him, U.S. military contingent has been deployed in Afghanistan to fight terrorist since 2001. Meantime, he said, terrorism threat is growing in Afghanistan day by day. U.S. military just contribute to ISIS improving its positions, Karzai told Anadolu. He is sure that U.S., Britain and some other Western countries may be tied to the Afghan movement of Taliban that has improved its positions with the help of some foreign players. Actually, Washington’s puppet blames it for failing to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and even assisting ISIS militants.
What made Karzai speak of the real state of affairs in Afghanistan so suddenly? Perhaps, it was death of his brother killed allegedly by “terrorists” or an attempt to get personal security guarantees? It is quite possible considering that the world has not yet forgotten about the fate of Afghan field commanders and politicians, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Noteworthy that U.S. and NATO did not respond to Karzai’s statements, instead “terrorists” attacked the diplomatic quarter in Kabul. Most damages were caused to Iran’s diplomatic mission and the house accommodating correspondents of Chinese Xinhua news agency. One can only guess whether it was a coincidence or not. Meantime, Armenia’s government for some unknown reasons refuses to admit that Ahmadinejad’s accusations in 2012 and Karzai’s accusations in 2017 are serious accusations against U.S., NATO and its partner-countries. Criminal collective campaigns have organizers, ideological leaders and executors. There are accomplices too and they are also responsible for the results of what Karzai called “growing terror threat in Afghanistan” and “strengthening of ISIS’ positions” in that country.
Sergey Shakaryants for EADaily