Viktor Dubovitski: “Withdrawal of the US Troops and Their Allies from Afghanistan will Significantly Change the Situation in Central Asia”

Despite many unsolved problems which were planned to be solved by the introduction of the armed forces of the US and their allies from Afghanistan, a gradual withdrawal of the troops is expected to start  in 2011. How will affect the withdrawal of the coalition troops the situation in the states, bordering Afghanistan? PhD in History, Deputy Director of the institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of A. Dohish of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Tajikistan Viktor Dubovitsky shares his forecasts with the Politcom.ru readers.
- Viktor Vasiljevich, the US troops and their allies gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan will definitely invoke the changes within Central Asia situation …

-  I would even say that it will be not a significant change. The problem of domestic Afghan regulation has remained tobe one of the main international problems, for more than 30 years. Domestic Afghan conflict has gained a new level of tension in October 2001 due to the introduction of the US troops and their allies to Afghanistan. At the moment, thegroup of foreign troops in IRA exceeded 150 thousand military men, and this is already impressive power. Significant part is the employees of western private military companies (PMC), acting intensively within the territory of Afghanistan. And although the objectives, set by the USA and their allies in the beginning of the introduction of the troops to the country have not been fully accomplished, in 2011 their gradual withdrawal is expected. Provided the troops withdrawal will be carried out within the stated period, this will result in a number consequences inside Afghanistan, as well as in the states of the region and first of all those bordering Afghanistan.

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- Probably, primarily you mean Tajikistan?

- For sure. The Republic of Tajikistan, possessing a common frontier with Afghanistan of 1344 km long, is exposed to threats, challenges and risks of the non-solved Afghan problem more than other Central Asia states of the CIS.
- What do you mean by “threats”, “challenges” and “risks”, forecasting the development of the situation in Afghanistan?

- Dwelling on the forecast of the modern situation development in Afghanistan, its current state can be characterized as a threat of the second level under the scale we developed. A “threat” includes phenomena which are highly dangerous and able to harm severely. Threats demand immediate actions on their neutralization, including force implementation. They include armed aggression at state and supranational levels (for example, international terrorism), military actions from ethnic groups and terroristic organizations outside Afghanistan. The category of real threats, in the reference of Afghanistan, can also include drug business, organized crime.

In comparison with the “threats”, “challenges” and “risks have more blurred definitions”, as geopolitical categories. Thus, “challenges” are characterized as “a phenomenon, influencing the situation and possessing destabilizing potential”. To reply, as a rule they need a set of long-term measures, first of all political and economic. Amendments should be done to a political and economic strategy to overcome the risks.
- How shall threats, challenges and risks influence the situation in Tajikistan?

- Considering the current situation, the first and main one from challenges is related to the resumption of civil war in Afghanistan between main ethnic-territorial groups of the country: the block of Pashtun tribes from the one side and the coalition of Middle Asian peoples and Hazara, and maybe also a number of other peoples (Beluch, Nuristani and others) – from the other. For the Republic of Tajikistan this will cause several problems, related to the adoption of decisions on military-political and economic support of any group (as it was with the support of the “Northern Alliance” in 1996-2001-ss). The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan will also have to consider the prospects of interrelations with that part of Muslim world which will support the group in opposition. The most probable risk can be the dissemination of military actions of the civil war from to territory of surrounding states. The attempts to destabilize the situation in Pakistan during last three years – this is an example of “proliferation” of Afghan problems outside Afghanistan.
- Do you relate recent local armed clashes in eastern part of Tajikistan to the kind of risks and threats?

- Naturally. The sample of the kind of regular risks is the pervasion of triggermen from Afghanistan to Tajikistan, connected with the movement of Taliban. Under the estimation of a number of observers, exactly they comprise the driving force of the local armed conflicts (in the valley Obikhingo in 2009 and in Rashta in august this year). In the first as well as in the second case we can talk about the problems and the “remains” of the things happened in Tajikistan in 1992-1997-ss of the civil war, “preserved” within the conditions of the Afghanistan in war. Special worries are incited by the second from the enumerated conflicts of the “rebellion”, which included children of former Tajik refugees of military service age and indoctrinated of international extremism. Under the estimations of some experts, their number in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be up to 1500 people. And if it’s true, it is a serious threat for Russian friend Tajikistan.
- Does the location of armed forces of the USA and its allies within Central Asian states of the CIS affects the situation in Afghanistan?

- Yes, it does. To my mind, the reason for the escalation of the conflict from one of the groups participating in the civil war in a post-occupied Afghanistan, can be a presence within the territory of Central Asian states military commitments and military infrastructure of the USA and its allies. The example of the objects of the kind can include airbase of American Air Force, located in the international airport “Manas” in Bishkek. Or Tajik airbase in Ayni (in case it is used by the military and military-transport aviation of the USA). The kind object in case of locating American commitments of trainers, can become a training center of the Defense Ministry of Tajikistan and National Guard of Tajikistan in Karatag the erection of which began in summer of 2010.
- Recollecting a recent story, flows of Afghan refugees ran to Tajikistan weakened with civil war. Do you consider mass flow of refugees to be threats and risks?

- Refugees are also serious risks, and Tajikistan has already practiced that in 1990-s and early 2000-s. From 10 to 12 thousand of Afghan refugees were focused within the islands of the bordering Amu Darya. However the situation will be much more worse in case of the new turn of domestic Afghan conflict – not dozens but Afghan hundreds thousand refugees can find themselves within the lands of Tajikistan. In this case it’s worth mentioning the example of long-term existence of the camps of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, where in various periods there were from 2 to 5 million people.
- What can happen along Tajik-Afghan border?

– Specific problems may occur by Central Asian states of the CIS in case when armed Afghan formations of any military group will come to their lands, as it already happened in Tajikistan in 1993-1994 in the area of Pyanj borderline. I would also consider grave risks urgently worsening sanitary situation, which accompanies any war especially in terms of hot climate and good water deficiency. Considering modern state of the armed forces, frontier troops of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the possibilities of their health system and social assurance, the solution of the conflict will involve the interference of allies from Central Asian of the CIS in CSTO, SCO. And this will result into the growth of social and economic tension and significant financialexpenses of all states, engaged with the localization and settlement of the conflict.
- In your opinion, which measures should be undertaken by the CSTO states in connection  with the expectedwithdrawal of the US troops and their allies from Afghanistan?

- The withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan planned in the middle of 2011 will incite serious and long-termconsequences for the whole region of Middle East, as well as for the member-states of the CSTO, SCO. That is why referring to the pretty predictable challenges and risks for the Republic of Tajikistan, connected with the problems of Afghan regulation, I think that the CSTO states already now should plan and coordinate the measures of preventive reply on the situation change. Otherwise, having lost time, the reaction on unexpected change of the situation can be purely reflexive and that is why inefficient, or useless at all.
- Lately Tajikistan is more often considered to be a state with multi-vector policy. How firm to your mind are the ties of the Republic of Tajikistan and Russia?

- Tajikistan is a sovereign state, a full-right member of the UNO. But this country is a special world. Historically Tajikistan, so to say is a “part of a Grand Iran”. At the same time it is the most ancient part of the Grand Iran. The destiny of Tajik people goes hand in hand with the destiny of total Middle and Near East. Tajik people are the heirs of the whole cultural treasure of the Islam civilization, its traditions and values. At the same time they have cautiously preserved the traditions of Zoroastrianism and Avestan culture. Tajiks play the most important role of the cultural bridge between Grand Iran and Turkic world. Simultaneously Tajiks are the link of the Grand Iran and Central Asia with a great Eurasian civilization - Russia. Special relations of Tajikistan with Russia are fixed not only with bilateral talks and participation within the CIS, EurAsEc, CSTO and SCO. Tajikistan and Russia are united with mass labor migration – up to 1.5 citizens of Tajikistan annually go to Russian regions to work. At the moment, Tajik Diaspora is one of the biggest in Russia. That is why according to most Russian and Tajik political analysts and experts, leading a multi-vector policy, Tajikistan gives Russia the main role within its foreign policy.
- And how do you assess the prospects of rapprochement of Persian speaking states of Central Asia? What willchange in the result of this process?

- I guess that the accomplishment of the project under the code name “Persian Speaking Union” can have definite prospects; the project was first claimed in July 1995 in Teheran during the meeting of the Leaders of Persian speaking states of Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan – Emomalii Rahmon, Mohammad Khatami and Burhanuddin Rabbani. Under the idea of its initiators, the union of the three states, where Persian (farsi-dari-tajik) is a state (or one of state) language, should become a political and economic organization, uniting Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan involving them into the accomplishment of a number of big economic and cultural projects. Up to today, “Persian speaking union” hasn’t claimed itself with big political projects, which to our mind is related to the dual ethno-political character of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which is the member of the Union after 2001 only by political inertia. However the situation is able to change cardinally in case of possible breakage of Afghanistan after the withdrawal from there of the US troops and their allies. Exactly the development of interstate cooperation within the framework of “Persian speaking Union”, as well as the involvement of this organization into the system of Eurasian project, de-facto fulfilled by Russia after 1999, is the right way to solve successfully many problems which the Republic of Tajikistan will face after the Afghan regulation in 2011.
Translated by EuroDialogue XXI from politcom.ru