16 November 2012, 20:58

Afghanistan: regional conflagration fuse?

Afghanistan: regional conflagration fuse?

Experts believe the future of Central Asia is hinged on the outcome of the current talks on an American presence in Afghanistan after the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force pulls out in 2014.

Appearing at recent hearings in the US Congress, General Joseph Dunford, who is to lead the ISAF beginning with January, said the US military will probably stay in Afghanistan in a support and advisory role, leaving it to the new Afghan army to deal with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

We have an opinion from Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Professor Viacheslav Belokritnitsky:

"The Afghan government has invited the Taliban to join mainstream politics and take part in Afghanistan’s next presidential elections scheduled for April 5 2014. The residual military presence of the United States may help the government and the Taliban come to terms on many issues, including security and drug trade. In the event their tentative rapprochement fails, Afghanistan is likely to break up into at least three parts, constantly warring with one another and sustaining themselves economically with the help of the opium industry. The consequences for Russia and former Soviet Central Asia would be very serious, to say the least. The only way to avert them is to bolster national reconciliation in Afghanistan."

Already, there has been speculation about the need for an international ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Afghanistan. For instance, Colonel Ted Donelly of the US Army War College has proposed and team=up of the US, Russia and China for preventing Central Asia’s Fergana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan meet, from becoming an unruly hotbed of Islamic extremism and terrorism along the lines of Pakistan’s tribal territories. In a similar vein, head of the post-Soviet Collective security Organization Nikolai Bordiuzha has proposed close cooperation between the CSTO and NATO for the sake of containing potential threats from Afghanistan.

Many argue geopolitical rivalries must be put to one side when common security is at stake.

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