The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General Mark Milley, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, discussed the situation in Afghanistan in Helsinki after the withdrawal of international troops from the country and the Taliban seizure of power. “Both sides are striving to increase transparency to reduce misunderstandings and increase stability,” said a spokesman for the US general.
General Milley refused to provide reporters with the details of a six-hour meeting with General Gerasimov. A spokesman for the US general, Colonel Dave Butler said the conversation lasted all day and was focused on “military matters.” “Both sides are working to increase transparency to reduce confusion and increase stability,” Butler said. – The meeting was serious, both generals showed mutual respect, they had the opportunity to joke from time to time – he added.
It was agreed that the details of the meeting would not be disclosed, as was the case with previous meetings and phone calls of both military personnel.
As the PA agency writes, Washington wants to ensure the possibility of having bases and other support in post-Soviet countries bordering Afghanistan in order to continue the fight against terrorism, which was met with staunch opposition from Moscow. With no troops in Afghanistan anymore, the US needs new base agreements or intelligence sharing to monitor al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters in this region of the world.
A few days ago, General Milley made it clear that the issue of bases in Afghanistan’s neighbors was the highlight of his trip to Europe. He said he discussed the issue with his NATO allies during a meeting in Greece.
Al Qaeda and Islamic State threat warnings
General Milley, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US intelligence officials have warned that in one to two years, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State “may recover and pose a threat to the United States.”
US military commanders have announced that they can conduct anti-terrorist surveillance and, if necessary, conduct attacks in Afghanistan using weapons located in other countries. However, they admitted that the observation flights from the Persian Gulf bases are long and have a limited duration in the air over Afghanistan. The American side wants to conclude agreements on bases, and an increased exchange of intelligence with countries neighboring Afghanistan, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
For much of the war in Afghanistan, the US used the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, but under pressure from Russia and its allies, Kyrgyzstan terminated its lease from 2014. The Americans also leased a base in Uzbekistan in 2001-2005.
As the PA writes, it is unclear whether there is a potential room for negotiation with the Russians to ease their reservations about the presence of the US or its allies in the region. However, Russia has also expressed concerns that the Taliban may destabilize Central Asia and is concerned about the growing threat posed by the Islamic State.
Main photo source: JIM LO SCALZO / EPA / PAP