Central Asia and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Central Asia and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

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There is a growing interest in Central Asia from Brussels. Against the background of statements about the unacceptability of the restoration of the Islamic Emirate and the need to preserve democratic progress, including the rights of women and the protection of minorities, as well as the strengthening of state institutions and the fight against corruption, the EU leadership is simultaneously probing the channels for its entry into the Central Asian republics.

Russia’s Glorius Return to Afghanistan Image © The Radical Outlook

By Katehon

©Translated and Published by The RO

After the change in the supreme political leadership in Afghanistan, Central Asia is gaining additional importance. And its role increases regardless of the negative and positive scenarios.

In a negative scenario, the states of the region will need assistance to guard the borders and ensure comprehensive security – from the placement of refugees to monitoring the internal political situation. The CSTO includes Tajikistan, and Russian troops are stationed there. In addition, the country is a member of the SCO. Also, there have previously been internal conflicts and clashes on the border with Kyrgyzstan. But the movement of the Taliban (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation) across the border can hardly be expected. Rather, there may be attempts to mimic local Islamist groups and requests to the Taliban for assistance to establish such an emirate in Tajikistan. 

In neighboring Uzbekistan, there are also extremist organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation), which was associated with both Al-Qaeda (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation) and the Taliban. While in Tajikistan, the Russian security forces help to maintain control over the border, in Uzbekistan they are forced to do it on their own. Although joint military exercises in both republics have already been planned, they began in Tajikistan on August 17.

In a positive scenario, the role of Central Asia will be no less significant. First of all, infrastructure transport and energy projects can be unfrozen and implemented. CASA-1000 aims to link Central Asia’s energy systems to South Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan to Afghanistan, and Pakistan – and to develop mechanisms for electricity trading in line with international standards. 

In Turkmenistan, due to complete neutrality, the situation is more critical. Previously, the Taliban terrorized local border guards by conducting combat training on them, and the Turkmens were often forced to buy them off in exchange for guarantees that there would be no attacks. If there is no centralized Taliban decision to strike at these republics, then another option is possible. Namely, with the reform of the Taliban (since the war in Afghanistan is officially over), there will inevitably be potential cadres who will not be able to integrate into the future system and move on to a peaceful life. Therefore, they will have to operate abroad, either as mercenaries, or “wage jihad” on ideological grounds. And naturally, their eyes will fall, first of all, on neighboring countries.

In this case, the countries of Central Asia will need close cooperation with other neighbors of Afghanistan – Iran, Pakistan, and China, as well as Russia.

In a positive scenario, the role of Central Asia will be no less significant. First of all, infrastructure transport and energy projects can be unfrozen and implemented. CASA-1000 aims to link Central Asia’s energy systems to South Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan to Afghanistan, and Pakistan – and to develop mechanisms for electricity trading in line with international standards. In February 2021, Kyrgyzstan announced the start of the construction of power lines under the CASA-1000 project. Initially, work will begin in Batken oblast, then continue in Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts. Within the framework of the project, it is planned to modernize the necessary power grid complex, build new substations and a high-voltage power transmission line.

Central Asia has enormous human potential and natural resources. The European Commission believes that it has something to offer European investors. The EU is already the main trading partner with these countries. For example, in 2020, the volume of bilateral trade in goods amounted to 22 billion euros, and with a population of 114 million, the region has significant market potential.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program has also promoted regional cooperation in transport, trade, and energy since 2001. CAREC consists of 10 countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank oversee this program.

Finally, the construction of the TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) in the originally conceived or modified format can be launched.

If earlier the United States actively intervened in these projects, now there is an opportunity on the part of Russia to adjust some directions and propose its own initiatives.

There is a growing interest in Central Asia from Brussels. Against the background of statements about the unacceptability of the restoration of the Islamic Emirate and the need to preserve democratic progress, including the rights of women and the protection of minorities, as well as the strengthening of state institutions and the fight against corruption, the EU leadership is simultaneously probing the channels for its entry into the Central Asian republics.

Russia should be proactive in this regard. So far, only two states in the region – Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are members of the EAEU. At the same time, against the background of various provocations in these countries directed against the use of the Russian language, there is a feeling of a man-made script for carrying out information and psychological operations, in which an external customer is interested. Uzbekistan has observer status in the EAEU, but so far it is taking a wait and see attitude. 

After a visit to Tashkent for a conference on Central-South Asia Relations, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell wrote on his blog that “We discussed with the ministers of Central Asia our desire to build strong and non-exclusive partnerships, open to cooperation with others, on common goals, as outlined in the 2019 EU Strategy for Central Asia. This means increased collaboration across sectors ranging from climate, environment, health, water, human rights, and capacity building in border management. I reaffirmed the EU’s readiness to participate in the development of regional ties and overcoming joint security challenges … Regional cooperation between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries can not only contribute to socio-economic development but also solve common security problems, including illegal migration,

In general, Central Asia has enormous human potential and natural resources. The European Commission believes that it has something to offer European investors. The EU is already the main trading partner with these countries. For example, in 2020, the volume of bilateral trade in goods amounted to 22 billion euros, and with a population of 114 million, the region has significant market potential.

Clearly, the EU’s goal will be to push the region towards structural reforms and better conditions for doing business. An EU-Central Asia Economic Forum is planned for November, which Borrell believes will be another opportunity to work towards sustainable and inclusive connectivity.

Russia should be proactive in this regard. So far, only two states in the region – Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are members of the EAEU. At the same time, against the background of various provocations in these countries directed against the use of the Russian language, there is a feeling of a man-made script for carrying out information and psychological operations, in which an external customer is interested. Uzbekistan has observer status in the EAEU, but so far it is taking a wait and see attitude. Presumably, EU representatives will try to influence decision-makers in Uzbekistan in order to slow down or disrupt the process of joining the EAEU. Moscow needs to develop a roadmap, including countering European attempts to sabotage Eurasian integration.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not correspond to our Editorial Policy


Author

Katehon ὁ κατέχων) is a Russian Center that brings together leading contemporary Russian thinkers, public and political figures, historians, philosophers and economists who are staunch supporters of the Conservative Turn and the Imperial Renaissance of Russia.


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The Radical Outlook

The Radical Outlook is an online news web Portal designed for in-depth news analysis from the Eurasian region and beyond. It is Founded by a geopolitical analyst Shahzada Rahim.
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