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Marking Soviet withdrawal anniversary, Afghans call on Moscow to end interference

18 Feb 2020 Salaam Times

KUNDUZ -- About 200 residents of Baghlan Province rallied Monday (February 17) to mark the 31st anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and to call on Moscow to end its support for the Taliban.

The last Soviet troops left the country February 17, 1989.

Participants at the event named "Yesterday's assault, today's interference" in Pul-i-Khumri, Baghlan Province, accused Russia of providing logistical, financial and weaponry support to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. They also called on Moscow to stop interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

Protesters rally against Russian interference in Afghanistan February 17 in Pul-i-Khumri, Baghlan Province. The banner reads in Dari and Pashto "Yesterday’s invasion; today’s interference. February 15, the day of salvation of Afghanistan’s people from the invasion of the Soviet Union." [Noorgul Andarwal]

"Russia's current interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan shows that it has armed terrorist groups in Afghanistan who fight against the Afghan government," Ahmad Naweed Shokorzada, a civil society activist in Baghlan Province, told reporters at the rally.

"Russians still support anti-government armed groups who kill and injure our sons and brothers and make our children orphans and our women widows," Shokorzada said. "Today, we collectively call on Russians to stop such interference in our internal affairs."

"Until when should we be sacrificed and bring the bodies of those killed to their families?" he asked. "It is enough."

"Regional countries, especially Russia, train terrorist groups and interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan to preserve their interests," said Haji Abdul Sami Ghafoori, a tribal elder in Baghlan Province. "The international community should bring more pressure on it and force it to work toward ending the conflict in Afghanistan."

"If Russia does not stop supporting terrorist groups and fueling conflict, Afghan security forces and the Afghans will bring the same fate to it as they did in the past," he added.

Roman Salehi, a civil society activist in Baghlan, reiterated the call for Moscow to end its support for militants in the country.

"In the past, the Red Army attacked Afghanistan, but today it has changed its approach by providing financial and weaponry support to terrorist groups," he said.

"Our request for Russia is for it to learn from the collapse of the Soviet Union and stop interfering in our internal affairs by providing financial and weaponry support to rebel groups," he added.

'We will retaliate'

It is in the interest of regional countries to abandon any support for terrorist groups in Afghanistan, warned Mohammad Zahid Ehsas, a civil society activist in Baghlan Province.

"If Russia, Iran, and Pakistan [...] do not stop providing financial and logistical support to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, it won't be long before these countries become the victims of terrorism themselves," he said.

"We will never tolerate it. We will retaliate against any country that interferes in our internal affairs," he said. "They have burned us in the fire of conflict for 40 years now."

"You should draw lessons today from your mistakes from yesterday," Ehsas said, referring to Moscow.

Regional states will benefit from peace in Afghanistan, said Abdul Basir Qaed, a political analyst based in Baghlan Province.

"If neighbouring countries work toward strengthening inter-Afghan peace talks, these regional countries will also be safer from terrorist threats," he said.

"Afghans are now awakened. They will never give in to self-serving countries," Qaed said.

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