The crisis in Afghanistan: the impact on the countries of Central Asia

MOSCOW, 20 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

The chaos in Afghanistan is not only a threat, but also a temptation for the countries of the region that have representatives of their own nationality on the territory of Afghanistan to try benefiting from the situation.

There is a possibility that a number of countries in Central Asia will try to implement options going up to the actual annexation of part of the territory of Afghanistan. This scenario can become realistic in the event of a significant weakening of the Taliban and the final disintegration of the country into separate warring territories.

As an example – the actions of Turkey, which, citing the need to eliminate the terrorist threat, occupied part of northern Syria. Uzbekistan, for example, can act in a similar way “to protect fellow tribesmen”.

Not only be local elites may be the initiators of attempts to interfere in the Afghan processes in the countries of Central Asia. External players may also show interest in Afghanistan. In the latter case, local authorities will be assigned the role of intermediaries in the implementation of projects of major geopolitical players.

I would like to note that the active participation of Central Asian countries in the Afghan crisis and attempts to take control of the territories of Afghanistan may cause a negative reaction from major geopolitical players.

The mass flight of the military from Afghanistan may also lead to an increase in the military potential of a number of countries in the region. For example, the Afghan military left more than 40 aircraft on the territory of Uzbekistan. They can become part of the country’s air force.

Also, hundreds of soldiers of the Afghan army, including high-ranking officers, can stay living on the territories of the countries of the region, primarily Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Some of them have combat experience, and also probably have the management skills of modern equipment of Russian and American production. The strengthening of the military potential of the countries of the region can become an incentive for the use of force in practice, for example, for the forceful solution of long-standing disputed issues.

The change of power in Afghanistan calls into question the prospects for the implementation of a number of major regional projects. These include, in particular, the CASA-1000 project (creation of infrastructure for the export of electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the TAPI project (laying a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan).

In recent decades, the initiators of projects that strengthen the economic ties of the countries of Central Asia with Afghanistan have been the United States. Implementing these projects, Washington supposed to minimise the economic ties of the countries of the region with Russia.

Now, when the United States has finally lost control over the territory of Afghanistan, the already dubious prospects for projects have become even more illusory. The prospects for the development of cross-border transport corridors passing through Afghanistan are also in question.

I would like to note that in the future, the new Afghan authorities can, by stabilising the situation, guarantee the security of such projects.

The success of the Taliban, which won war against the US, will lead to an increase in the popularity of the movement in neighbouring countries. The actions of the Taliban are perceived as a model of success, and the Taliban themselves – as heroes who defended the independence of the country and the true faith.

The ideas of social justice declared by the Taliban can find a significant number of fans, especially against the background of the difficult economic and social situation in the region and the degradation of local managerial personnel.

The Afghan crisis may also partially increase the likelihood of the appearance of Islamic political parties and extremist organisations in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The activity of such structures can manifest itself both in the region and in Russia – through migrants going to work there.

At the moment, the elites of Central Asia are beginning to comprehend the events in Afghanistan. However, the inertia of thinking and a number of other circumstances lead to the fact that most of the political figures in the region perceive the situation within the framework of 10-15 years ago.

Only a small part of experts and politicians are beginning to realise that the situation has changed qualitatively – China has strengthened, the United States has lost some of its positions, China and Russia are squeezing out fragments of American influence. Now this applies primarily to Afghanistan, but in the future it will also affect each of the countries of Central Asia, and especially those where the influence of the United States (and the representation of their organisations) is the greatest.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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