After the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) seized power in Afghanistan, developments there have led to growing instability in Central Asia and can worsen even further, Chief of the CSTO’s Joint Staff Colonel General Anatoly Sidorov warned on Thursday.
At talks with US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov pointed to the unacceptability of a US military presence in Central Asia.
He told TASS that Afghanistan had been discussed at a meeting with Victoria Nuland. “We emphasized the unacceptability of a US military presence in Central Asian countries in any form whatever,” Ryabkov said.
The Wall Street Journal said earlier referring to its sources that Russia and the US had allegedly discussed the possibility of the US military using Russian bases in Central Asia.
Almost two decades ago, Japan adopted the 5+1 approach to dealing with Central Asia, a model other outside players have copied. Now, Japan is increasing its involvement in the region given the Taliban’s recent victory, which has created new diplomatic opportunities but also uncertainties for many major powers. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world and is committed to dealing with other countries primarily in terms of economic development rather than geopolitics and in terms of regions rather than simply in bilateral terms. Given these factors, Tokyo’s presence in Central Asian capitals individually and Central Asia as a region is likely to expand, making it a far larger player in the future than it has been up to now.
The dramatic siege of Afghanistan by the Taliban has posed serious questions about the stability, security, geostrategy, and geopolitics of the Central Asia Republics (CARs). A recent UN report highlights the presence of over 10,000 foreign fighters from the neighbouring countries of Central Asia, Pakistan, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China in Afghanistan, most of whom are in the ranks of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (ISKP). In addition, the presence of Central Asian terrorist groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamaat Ansarullah, and others in Afghanistan have heightened the fears of the current turmoil in Afghanistan spilling over into the CARs.
In the last few years, India has conducted bilateral dialogues with Central Asia, the most recent one being the 2nd India-Central Asia Dialogue in October 2020. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) meetings provide regular channels for communication with the region and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the region to meet Central Asian leaders and vice-versa. In spite of regular engagements, stable relations as well as historical and cultural linkages with Central Asia, India has arguably remained a nominal actor in the region. But, owing to the ongoing developments in Afghanistan and its vested interests there, bolstering ties with the Central Asian states would be highly beneficial for India.
The fall of Kabul will have profound implications for Central Asia and wider Eurasia — presenting both risks and opportunities. The risks associated with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan can be construed as an opportunity to test and advance the Greater Eurasian Partnership, writes Valdai Club expert Glenn Diesen.
It goes without saying that the crisis in Afghanistan will create new risks for the region, but Central Asia has long lived with chaos on its borders, and already has twenty years of experience in dealing with the Taliban.
The Taliban seized most of Afghanistan much faster than anyone expected and, as the militants moved into Kabul, Central Asian governments quickly tried to react to the changing situation along their borders with the country.
As expected, the Central Asian governments had to deal with the issue of refugees, but for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan more pressing was how to respond to Afghan military aircraft that flew into their airspace and requested to land.
On this week’s Majlis podcast, RFE/RL Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderates a discussion on how Central Asia has responded so far to the Taliban seizing power and what might be coming next.
This week’s guests are: from Washington, Erica Marat, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington and author of many works on Central Asia; from Prague, Kayumars Ato, a journalist at RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi; Pahlavon Turgunov, a journalist from RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog.
The suddenness of the Taliban’s victory amidst the final departure of United States forces from Afghanistan has intensified fears in Central Asia about the threat that movement poses to them. Consequently, it has sparked discussions across Central Asian capital about how they should respond—both in terms of their own policies at home and through the alliances they have with others. At the same time, what has happened in Afghanistan has led outside powers like Russia and China to beef up their current positions in some regional countries and, intriguingly, to use the current crisis to expand security cooperation with Turkmenistan, which has been reluctant to cooperate in this way in the past. In this rapidly changing situation, both Moscow and Beijing have a common interest in stability; but their larger goals may well put them at odds in the future. At a minimum, their differences in focus and approach are certain to be exploited by the Central Asian governments themselves, including Turkmenistan’s.