The Republic of Chechnya-Ichkeria, as rebellious Chechnya calls itself, attained its first international recognition as a sovereign and independent country. Mullah Omar of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement made the announcement on January 16, following a meeting with Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Chechnya’s former president. The Taliban government itself is recognized only by Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, along with Chechnya, which extended recognition about a year ago. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the association of the Chechen and Taliban leaderships a “bandit international” and alleged that Afghanistan supplies the Chechens with military assistance.

That charge may have substance. The Jordanian-born Chechen commander Khattab fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan and established close relationships with mujaheddin commanders. Shamil Basaev, the Chechen commander whose murderous raid on a Russian hospital was a turning point in the 1994-1996 war, told a Monitor correspondent two years ago that he and his men had trained three times in Taliban camps.