Russia predicts revival of Islamic State and ‘caliphate 2.0’
Terrorism threats in unstable regions in the Middle East and Afghanistan still remain a key threat to Russia’s safety, Moscow has cautioned, speculating that radicals could be making gains on the African continent.
Speaking to RIA Novosti on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said that “the situation for counterterrorism remains very tense. The environment remains difficult in Syria and Iraq, where the main destabilizing factors are the holding of the Idlib de-escalation zone by radical groups and the presence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda cells.”
The official went on to add that “in Africa, especially in the Sahara-Sahel zone, [the Russian Foreign Ministry] can essentially observe the preconditions for… the revival of the terrorist ‘caliphate version 2.0’ there.”
Syromolotov also said that Moscow is “closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan”, where there is a high level of terrorist threats from the ISIS and Al-Qaeda sympathizers who have settled there after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban this summer. He cautioned that this poses a risk for Russia and Central Asian states.
ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are designated as terrorist organizations and banned in Russia.
The capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, was seized by the insurgent group on August 15 after capturing swathes of the country’s territory. In the wake of the takeover, Moscow positioned itself as a peace broker in Central Asia, hosting a delegation of political representatives from the Taliban.
Following the hasty withdrawal of Western troops from the war-torn country, Russia beefed up its presence in the region, holding joint exercises with former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan along the shared frontier.
In July, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Operation Barkhane, a France-led military campaign against Islamist insurgents in Mali, was set to finish in early 2022. In September, the Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said Paris had “abandoned” the African country amid backlash against Bamako’s reported intention to hire up to 1,000 mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group.
The news that Mali had contacted Russian mercenaries, notorious for their involvement in Syria and Africa, came under fire from several European countries. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed to RT’s Caleb Maupin that EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned him to stay out of Africa, calling the continent “our place.” The Russian official insisted that it was important for Moscow and Europe to mount an effort to help the Sahel region.