The Afghan situation has created a domino effect, generating a security crisis throughout the Central Asian region.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
In the contemporary world, acts taken by National States and international organizations very often have a domino effect on the geopolitical scenario. The consequences of a single maneuver are witnessed in many countries at the same time, in a constant flow of effects and reflexes. In the Afghan case, it was no different. The withdrawal of US troops was succeeded by the exponential increase in terrorism, not only in Afghanistan itself, but also in all the other countries of Central Asia, creating a new route for terrorist organizations that directly harms Russia, whose objective to maintain influence on the former Soviet republics is becoming more and more threatened.
Western analysts, following Washington’s announcement of troop withdrawals, immediately warned of the dangers of advancing terrorism in Afghanistan. For Western experts, it was the American presence that prevented Kabul from being taken over by the various terrorist militias operating in the country and, with an end to that presence, the Afghan state would not be able to contain the progress of terrorism and would succumb to the enemy.
However, the Taliban factor was ignored. While this group has always been recognized as the strongest within Afghan soil, the quick and immediate victory surprised all sides. Indeed, Washington could not have imagined that it would see the Taliban seizing Kabul even before the troop withdrawal was completed. This generated a different scenario than the one previously thought. Although Afghanistan is at war and several terrorist groups are fighting in the country, the Taliban’s supremacy is absolute and this group is the one that actually governs in Kabul, being the strength of the other militias absolutely insufficient to change this scenario.
Unable to defeat the Taliban, other terrorist organizations have increasingly migrated to neighboring nations in Central Asia. The tactics of these groups is simply to gain space, forming more and more bases and thus allowing an expansion of their activities in that region. Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, in this sense, have become the targets of several terrorist organizations originating in Afghanistan. The result of this is the constant spread of chaos across the Central Asian subcontinent, undermining local governments and the possibilities for international cooperation between these countries and other states.
In parallel, pre-existing organizations in these countries began to boost their activities from the moment they began to receive Afghan terrorists as a “reinforcement” to their troops. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) have grown exponentially in recent months. These organizations have historic ties to the Taliban, with mutual support, military, and financial cooperation. However, unlike these groups, the Taliban has struggled to take a “softer” stance to justify its rule in Kabul in recent times, which has undermined the alliance and generated friction. The Taliban recently promised Beijing that it will repress acts contrary to Chinese sovereignty and that it will not support actions by Uyghur terrorists, as is the case with ETIM.
In the same vein, the IMU has been declining its relations with the Taliban since the 1990s, when it carried out raids on Afghan soil during the Taliban government. In 2015, the group entered into an alliance with ISIS and with that the ties were completely broken, being the Taliban and the IMU enemy organizations today. More than that, other local ISIS-affiliated militias have intensified their violence in recent maneuvers, forming a huge international network of extremist organizations working together against all Central Asian governments – including the Taliban, which is the de facto government in Kabul today.
Making the security crisis in the region even more tense, the Taliban itself tends to “internationalize” its actions as its enemies build more bases abroad. So, it is possible that in the near future the Taliban will operate raids in other Central Asian countries with the aim of trying to neutralize enemy bases.
In this scenario, what happens is a big stability crisis where all sides try to protect themselves. Russia has been trying for decades to consolidate a policy of influence over the Central Asian space that belonged to the Soviet Union, and this has been reasonably successful, but now, there is a frontal threat. With so many conflicts arising in the region, Russia will only be able to maintain its influence if it actively participates in ensuring the security of countries victimized by violence. But for that, it will have to confront other external interests, such as Washington’s plan – supported by Turkey – to create military bases in Central Asia to fight terrorists.
China has also moved to influence the region in guaranteeing peace. In addition to negotiations with the Taliban, Beijing has promoted military maneuvers in preparation for conflicts, such as the recent drills with Tajikistan. A coalition of forces between Moscow, Beijing and the Taliban may prevent an even worse scenario from being formed in the region, but it is not in the interests of either side that the Taliban expand beyond Afghanistan, so in a possible deal the Taliban should agree not to carry out incursions abroad.
So, apparently, the only certainty we have is that tensions in Central Asia are far from over.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- India Wants To Get More Involved In Afghanistan
- Taliban Uncovered Dozens Of Anti-Tank, Anti-Aircraft Missiles In Panjshir Valley (Videos, Photos)