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Cooperation in Central Asia Against Afghanistan-based Threats

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Today, the ongoing conflicts and uncertainty in Afghanistan constitute one of the most significant problem at the heart of rising Asia. As it will be remembered, it has been claimed that a new era started in the history of Afghanistan with the intervention of the United States of America (USA) in 2001. However, for the USA, the conflicts that have been going on for 20 years have become unsustainable and the Washington administration has decided to withdraw from Afghanistan. Within the framework of the Doha Agreement signed on February 29, 2020, the Taliban accepted the withdrawal of the USA as a victory in their favor. The possibility of a civil war in Afghanistan is being expressed more intensely with each passing day. Central Asian states, on the other side, are concerned about the developments in the country in question and the possibility of these developments evolving into a civil war.

It is possible to say that there are various reasons behind the aforementioned concern. These can be listed as follows:

  • There is a possibility that the conflicts in Afghanistan will spread to the countries of the region.
  • It is thought that increasing instability will create a safe environment for terrorist organizations.
  • A large migration from Afghanistan to Central Asian countries is expected.
  • It is possible for radical religious terrorist organizations to return to Central Asian countries and damage the stability in these countries.

In addition to the security problems in question, it is known that Central Asian countries want to open up to South Asia. Nevertheless, the conflicts in Afghanistan prevent the realization of this plan and negatively affect the regional states economically. In particular, due to security threats and the expectation of immigration, the countries in the region allocating more resources to defence may interrupt their economic development.

After the regional states gained their independence, it is possible to say that there was no significant conflict in Central Asia when some problems in the Fergana Valley were ignored. While this feature encourages the region to return to a basin of peace and stability; Central Asian states, especially Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have realized that the basis of any regional development is consensus. In the conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, it was seen that Nur-Sultan and Tashkent were in an effort to reduce the tension and reconcile the two countries.

While the conflicts in Afghanistan worry the regional states; It remains a risk that the countries in question have reduced their cooperation at this stage and that the regional integration steps will slow down due to the existing cross-border threats. However, this will only serve for a short time to protect the Central Asian countries from the aforementioned threats. Besides, the decrease in regional integration efforts will negatively affect economic relations between the countries of the region. However, the cooperation to be developed between countries in political, military, economic and other fields will both encourage solidarity in security and thus facilitate the fight against terrorism and pave the way for the economies of the countries to overcome this process with the least casualties in the face of increasing threats.

The support of the countries of the region to each other in difficult times can create an environment of trust that will accelerate their cooperation in processes where threats are reduced to a minimum. On the other side, an economic-based protest that will take place in one of the Central Asian countries is likely to affect other regional states by creating a “domino effect”. Such a situation may reveal the disadvantageous side of the possibility of closing the borders and taking decisions while ignoring other countries.

For all these reasons, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have a great responsibility in the current situation because Kazakhstan is one of the most significant actors that can establish peace in the region with its increasing influence. Uzbekistan, on the other side, has the capacity to influence the developments, as it is one of the historically attributed role and cultural center in the region.

In addition to the roles assumed by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan has become one of the most peaceful countries in the region through its Permanent Neutrality Status. Also, it can be said that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have demonstrated a will to strengthen their relations despite the previous conflicts. In particular, the visit of President of Kyrgyzstan Sadir Japarov to Dushanbe and the hospitality of President of Tajikistan Imamali Rahman in this process have been a concrete indicator of the desire for solidarity, cooperation and stability among the countries of the region.

In the face of developments in Afghanistan, Central Asian countries can implement a new example of cooperation both in Asia and in the world through the rapprochement they will demonstrate. As it is known, the conflict between European countries left its place to cooperation within the scope of sharing underground resources after the Second World War. It is also indispensable that Central Asian countries act together over regional threats. This situation may pave the way for the acceleration of the integration process.

The most fundamental condition for the creation of permanent stability is the establishment of friendly relations between the states of the region. At the same time, this rapprochement will reinforce the sovereignty and independence of the countries in the region. Central Asian states are not satisfied with the pursuit of a policy that will harm the independence of different actors, as well as their discomfort with any threat that will adversely affect their security and development. It can be said that regional cooperation is inevitable in order to prevent foreign actors who try to increase their influence especially by citing various conflicts or threats in the region.

As a result, there are developments in the heart of Asia that disturb many actors and uncertainties about the future continue. Central Asian countries, which have been independent for 30 years, are trying to maintain their economic development, ensure their security and protect their independence. However, conflicts and the resulting uncertainty make the situation in the region fragile. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan need to develop regional cooperation to reduce both their vulnerabilities and concerns. Besides, cooperation in Central Asia will enable economic development and, accordingly, the welfare of the people, as well as strengthening sovereignty and ensuring security. In this way, while Central Asian countries can resist regional threats; It will also gain the opportunity to act as a regional pole in the medium term.

Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı