The crisis in Afghanistan: refugees as a factor of destabilisation

MOSCOW, 05 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

The situation in Afghanistan and neighbouring territories is characterised by high dynamics. A significant number of internal and external players make it much more difficult to predict events and create additional risks of unmanageable processes. Among Afghanistan’s neighbours, the countries of Middle and Central Asia are among the least stable and susceptible to external shocks.

Central Asia is a complex region with a number of explosive areas. Risk factors: unresolved border issues between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, complex inter-ethnic relations, growing shortage of water and land, manifestations of religious extremism, drug trafficking, significant property stratification, poor quality of social services.

In the last 2 years, the situation has been complicated by the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic – the closure of borders has affected the volume of migration to Russia, and also complicated the departure of radical Islamists to the Middle East.

The most striking security events in the region include the civil war of the 90s in Tajikistan, inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, as well as recent border conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the Fergana Valley. Anti-Chinese protest rallies in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are also of interest.

One of the most noticeable consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan has been the flow of Afghan citizens seeking to leave the country. Some of these people have been or will be in the countries of Central Asia. Several hundred people have already been delivered to Kyrgyzstan, including students who studied at educational institutions under US programs. The State Department deals with the delivery and placement of people.

Another option is to use evacuees to collect information on the territory of their stay. It will not be difficult for the Afghans who acted as informants to do this. It is enough to spend 3-5 years building connections at a new place of residence. Financial support can simplify the task.

The flow of refugees can lead to different consequences. First of all, it will depend on the volume of migration flows.

If the number of refugees does not exceed several thousand.

In the countries of the region, mainly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, an additional group of people loyal to the United States may appear who sincerely hate the Taliban. The Afghans can be used as a tool to solve US problems in the region. Alternatively, groups of students, activists and experienced propagandists can participate in the collection of classified information. Local politicians, officials and public figures will make contact themselves, especially if some of the Afghans will act as grant distributors.

If the number of refugees exceeds several thousand, the consequences for the region will be larger.

More than 3 million ethnic Tajiks (exact data is unknown, the last population census was conducted more than 40 years ago), Turkmens, Uzbeks, and Kyrgyz live in Afghanistan. The resettlement of a significant number of Tajiks or Uzbeks to the Central Asian countries may lead to changes in the ethnic composition of the countries, as well as create additional hotbeds of tension. In the worst case, this can lead to inter-ethnic clashes, aggravation of border conflicts, redistribution of spheres of influence of criminal groups.

I will also note an unlikely option – refugees can obtain citizenship of Central Asian countries and go to Russia as fully-fledged citizens with all the problems that follow from this for the Russian Federation.

Regarding the mood of the refugees.

The United States and its allies began promoting the discourse “Russia and China are to blame for the victory of the Taliban and your flight from your homeland”. The goal of this company is primarily refugees from Afghanistan (they need to “correctly explain” who is to blame for their suffering).

Also, the thesis about the “guilt” of Moscow and Beijing for what happened and, consequently, their responsibility for the subsequent development of events, including the “atrocities of the Taliban” can be used to announce the next package of sanctions against the Russian Federation and China, as well as conducting a long-term propaganda campaign against “enemies of democracy”.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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