As the US main forces withdrawal from Afghanistan slated for the middle of 2014 is drawing near, the prospects for Central Asia are becoming more uncertain. As is known a part of US military equipment is to leave Afghanistan to stay in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The US military are discussing the issue with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Since June 18 Kyrgyzstan is holding the multinational exercise codenamed "Regional cooperation – 2012" involving about 300 military personnel of its armed forces along with the servicemen of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the USA. It confirms the US resolve to preserve its presence in the region after the pull out. The exercise will be carried out under a plan of bilateral military contacts between the Kyrgyz Armed Forces and the US Central Command at a joint centre for training military personnel of the Kyrgyz Armed Forces. The drill will be focused on joint operations in emergency conditions “caused by destructive forces”. The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry has reported the US military will teach participants methods of preparing and holding computer exercises and training, and working with electronic maps.
The US plans a phased withdrawal. 10 thousand troops left the Islamic Republic last year. 23 thousand more are to pull out by this autumn. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the USA wanted to terminate the combat mission in Afghanistan by the middle of the end of 2013 to shift focus on training the Afghan military and providing consulting assistance. After the main forces leave Bagram, Shindand and the province of Nangarhar, only a few military facilities will be left in Kandahar and Mazari-Sharif to provide assistance to the Afghan army. The US says it plans to allocate about $4 billion annually for the purpose after 2014. The Afghans themselves don’t believe these promise. Some time ago President Karzai asked to make the size of assistance package part of an agreement on paper, otherwise the promise may result in empty words.
The US military displays obvious interest in keeping the base in Kyrgyzstan under the guise of “civilian transitional center”. Previously the US made known its plans to deploy mobile special operations units to defend the Northern route, as well as training facilities, check points and other objects. The planned infrastructure is designated to exercise control over the region. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already expressed concern over the base in Kyrgyzstan to be used for waging war against Iran making the Central Asian states involved in combat…
There is a great doubt the US will be capable of containing the Taliban after the major part of their military forces pulls out of Afghanistan. Even the very first steps to curtail the US military presence in Afghanistan caused concern in Central Asian states capitals.
The issue was close to top the agenda while Vladimir Putin visited Tashkent on July 4 to hold talks with Islam Karimov. The both leaders are of accord that the withdrawal of foreign armed forces from Afghanistan is to prompt terrorist activities going beyond the state borders.
No doubt the prospects of Central Asia’s “afghanistation” are a matter of concern for Moscow. In April Nikolai Bordyuzha, the Secretary General of Collective Security Treaty Organization spoke with preoccupation about the consequences of the US pull out of Afghanistan. Talking about the threats to be faced he mentioned the intensifying activities of radical religious and nationalist structures that successfully use to their advantage the existing social, interethnic and interconfessional contradictions. In December the Collective Security Treaty Organization adopted a plan listing measures to counter the “Afghan” threats and challenges. The focus is on fighting drug trafficking, it envisages creation of anti-drug and financial security areas, personnel training and cooperation with Afghan anti-drug agencies. But in case the situation in the country goes out of control there will be on one to join efforts with. Speaking at the press-conference organized by Ria-Novosti news agency on May 24 director of the Second Asian Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov said Moscow was watching closely the developments in Afghanistan to take the necessary measures in a worst-case scenario leading to a civil war breaking out along the ethnic lines. “There are several scenarios of development of the situation in Afghanistan, and we will respond in accordance with the situation” – he added. The absence of strategy is the most alarming factor. There are no natural geographic barriers or duly protected bounder lines between Russia and the states of Central Asia. The Russian border guards left the Afghan-Tajik border in 2005, all the attempts to get them back happened to be futile. Uzbekistan is the only country in the region possessing border protection capability. The Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan military are too weak. The more difficult it is to protect the Russia-Kazakhstan (over 7 thousand km long) border.
Yes, there is the Collective Security Treaty Organization including four out of five Central Asian states. It has created the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, Russian and Kazakh paratroopers forming the major striking component of it. In case emergency dictates Russia’s return to Central Asia, its military will anyway have to defend the southern boundaries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Collective Security Treaty Organization will have to take on the functions previously preformed by the USA and NATO.