How Central Asian States Should React to New Spiral of Afghanistan Crisis

20.12.2016

On December 19, 2016, the Valdai Discussion Club held a presentation of the report titled "A New Stage of the Afghan Crisis and Tajikistan’s Security".

Presenting the report, Ivan Safranchuk, associate professor of the Department of Global Political Processes of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, noted the increase of instability in the northern provinces of Afghanistan since 2009. From 2013 the process began to accelerate and reached a peak in 2015. Despite the fact that in absolute terms the southern, south-eastern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan are still the most dangerous, the dynamics changed.

The basis for this conclusion was the data provided by the government of Afghanistan, as well as by the United Nations. They show, that in conflicts between the anti-government armed groups and the Afghan security forces the number of civilian casualties from 2009 increased by 35%, reaching a growth by 530% in the regions adjacent to the Central Asia. At the same time, the situation in the regions adjacent to Pakistan revealed the stability and even a slight improvement of the situation.

As Ivan Safranchuk said, the main reason of the increased instability was the influx of militants, primarily of the armed groups from Pakistan and military areas of Afghanistan. The cause of such migration is still not fully identified. Most likely it is provoked by the intensification of anti-terrorist operations carried out by the Pakistani authorities, which especially intensified after the terrorist attack in Peshawar in 2014.

According to Safranchuk, another factor, that demonstrates the crisis growth, became a phenomenon of administrative centers capture by anti-government armed groups (AGG). So, in 2015 the number reached 24 seizures, lasting in average from several months to a few weeks. Safranchuk explained that by the desire of the AGG representatives to become so-called "daytime governors" and transmit their will not only "at gunpoint, but also from the standpoint of official authorities."

Andrey Kazantsev, Director of the Analytical Center of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, drew attention to the role of external actors in the current situation in Afghanistan. In particular, he mentioned the close relationship of the situation in the region with political will of the major actors such as the US, Russia, the EU. Considerable importance also has a humanitarian aid delivery, which determines now all the existing system in Afghanistan. In particular, Japan remains the largest donor, which creates certain risks. Being disinterested directly in the region, Japan can at any moment cut down or even stop the funding. Also important is the level of stability in Central Asia itself, affecting the ability to resolve internal conflicts in the region.

Oleg Kulakov, lecturer at the Moscow Military University, agreed with Kazantsev, pointing to the important role of the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) involvement into the events in Central Asia. Natalia Kharitonova, head of chair of international security and foreign policy of Russia Department of national security, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), underlined the importance of the Afghan-Turkmen border conflict and drug trafficking in the region.

Summing up the discussion, Ivan Safranchuk concluded that in an attempt to stabilize the current situation in the Central Asia the countries react differently to the threat of increasing instability in Afghanistan, trying to solve it through the mediation of players of different levels. Thus, Turkmenistan tends to a diplomatic solution of the problem with the involvement of the UN, Uzbekistan relies on national forces and works closely with the US and Russia, and Tajikistan focuses on national resources and assistance of the regional organizations (such as the CSTO). This, as participants in the discussion noted, allows researchers to observe the search for the most effective solution of the situation on the example of three different approaches.