Regional Problems Require Regional Solutions
Central Asia and Afghanistan, Cross-regional and Blogosphere, UzbekistanNo Comment
NewEurasia presents a new contributor: Rustam Rasulov, M.Litt in Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland and MA in Political Science from the OSCE Academy in Kyrgyzstan. Now Rustam research on Environmental Security and its links in Central Asia at the Centre on Water Law, Policy and Science at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
On October 10, 2013 United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of International Security Assistance Force’s presence in Afghanistan throughout the end of 2014 saying “the situation in the country still constitutes a threat to international peace and security”. What happens once ISAF will leave Afghanistan is an open-ended question with unavoidable and unpredictable implications to Central Asia. Interestingly, the degree of a threat emanating from Afghanistan is treated differently by Central Asian leaders.
Though Kazakhstan fully shares concerns of the international community at the complex situation created in Afghanistan as a result of many years of conflict, Kazakhstan’s vision to the threats originating from Afghanistan is a bit optimistic. In Nursultan Nazarbaev’s opinion there is no guarantee that the exit of ISAF will lead Afghanistan completely in negative direction and turn the country into chaos again. Kazakhstan is willing while not discounting many problems facing Afghanistan including global terrorism and extremism, to move away from seeing Afghanistan as a problem and more of a productive economic partner of Central Asia. Thus Kazakhstan continues to be an initiator of more viable regional cooperation and strengthening integration processes in the post-Soviet Central Asia including Afghanistan.
The “Friendship Bridge” runs across the Amu Darya River between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Source: ru.wikipedia.org
Kyrgyzstan as Kazakhstan has no borders with Afghanistan; yet serves as a main assembly/transit country of narcotics export from Afghanistan via northern route. Kyrgyzstan’s Afghan interests primarily lie in neutralization of drugs mafia and uncontrolled volume of drugs flowing into its territory which challenges the authority of central government in its southern regions especially due to high level of corruption and involvement of law enforcement officials in distribution and protection of narcotics.
Tajikistan has 1206 km long border (longest among Central Asian countries) with Afghanistan which makes the country vulnerable to threats coming from conflict torn Afghanistan. Poorly guarded borders, unprotected mountainous terrains, ubiquitous corruption and collaboration between drug traffickers and security service present real challenge to stability and development of Tajikistan. In addition, hosting the only legal Islamic party in the region, Dushanbe sees the greatest threat to its security and secularism in the rise of Islamism, regardless, if it is violent or not and terrorism being in such proximity with a country where chaos has been ruling for more than two decades.
Over the years, Uzbekistan has become more involved in Afghanistan. Particularly operating country’s railway (from Khairaton to Mazari-Sharif), supplying energy to its capital and increasing its volume of trade with the northern parts of Afghanistan. Uzbekistan’s interests in Afghanistan are focused on preserving border security, preventing cross-border penetration of boys with a beard and increasing its export capacity. Considering a geopolitical environment in which major foreign players do not become heavily involved in Afghanistan’s security in post-ISAF period, Uzbekistan is more pessimistic about the future of its southern neighbor. Hitherto, unstable Afghanistan perfectly stands in line with current Uzbek domestic and foreign policy to justify government’s repressive policies. Besides, Afghan factor is being well played in favor of tightening state security muscles.
Despite the differences of understating of the situation in Afghanistan in post-2014, Central Asian countries unanimous in view that coordinated actions need to be taken by everyone including themselves to secure a long-term stability in Afghanistan which is an ultimate goal of all of them in the end. After all regional problems require regional solutions.
by Rustam Rasulov