Withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan may trigger new flash-point of tension

Kazakhstan Materials 30 October 2014 15:29 (UTC +04:00)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct.30

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:

The situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF forces may become a source of new opportunities for meeting the interests of great global actors in the region, senior fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations and former director of the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan, Doctor of Political Sciences Elkhan Nuriyev said.

"Such developments may create another flash-point of tension in the relations between the West and Russia," Nuriyev told Trend.

He said after 2014, the situation in Afghanistan will have a serious impact on the strategic policy of global and regional actors such as Russia, the US, China, European Union, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India which have different visions regarding the withdrawal of the military contingent from Afghanistan.

"Taking into account the impact and the extent of their involvement in the political and economic processes in Central Asia, the whole region in fact will be developing under the close attention and control of the geopolitical trio consisting of the US, Russia and China, in which the weakening of one of the actors will lead to strengthening of the other," Nuriyev added.

He said the big players, and especially the US and the EU will boost efforts to involve the Central Asian countries in addressing Afghanistan's issues.

Russia and China, for their part, will try to strengthen the role of multilateral structures, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

"Given the inadequate military potential of the Central Asian states, the problems associated with the spread of terrorism, extremist organizations and drug trafficking are likely to be settled in the format of CSTO and SCO," the expert said.

He went on to say that along with using bilateral mechanisms, Russia and China will actively strengthen the military potential of the CSTO and SCO, to create a wide security zone along Afghanistan's borders, and this in turn can become a barrier to drug trafficking and intrusion of illegal armed groups.

As for the security in the countries of Central Asia, the expert believes that everything will depend on the development of domestic political situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the coalition forces.

"If the situation in this country escalates and worsens, this development will negatively affect the neighboring states of Central Asia. In this case, the level of threats and challenges to security of the entire region will dramatically increase," he added.

"There are serious concerns about the current instability in Afghanistan," he said. "That's why, the Central Asian countries will have to consider the potential risks and increase the expenditure for strengthening the security of its borders."

"Among the main threats coming from Afghanistan and having long-term nature for the Central Asian countries are the growth of religious extremism, the intensification of the terrorist groups' activity, drug trafficking and illegal migration," the expert said. "In this context, the extent of spreading terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking greatly increase the vulnerability of the security of Afghanistan and the neighboring Central Asian countries."

"In particular, the fact that many Afghan terrorist groups and local radical organizations are greatly replenished by young citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan causes a big concern," he said. "As a result, different organizations, such as underground and open ones, posing a threat to stability and national security occur on the territory of the Central Asian countries."

However, the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of Central Asian countries are unlikely to sufficiently independently confront the terrorist groups, religious extremism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan, especially in case of their massive penetration into the region, he said.

"It is extremely important to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders in order to maintain the stability and strengthen the security in Central Asia," the expert said. "Taking into account the severity of the threats and challenges that may face the states of Central Asia, it is necessary to develop the best strategies to neutralize them."

The last units of US marines and British troops officially ended all combat operations in Afghanistan October 26. A contingent of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) will be withdrawn completely from the country until the end of 2014.

About 12,000 foreign troops - 10,000 from the US and about 2,000 from the NATO countries will be placed in Afghanistan within the framework of the "strong support" mission starting from 2015. The mission will be a non-combat one and will train Afghan soldiers and police, who will fully take over security in the country.

Edited by CN