By Johan Engvall
March 14, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s economic response to it has put Central Asia in a precarious position. As part of what Moscow perceives as its sphere of interest, the repercussions of Putin’s war are bound to affect the Central Asian countries particularly hard. While anything but static, the nature of the Russia-Central Asia relationship still enables Moscow to retain a strong influence in the region. Russia remains the dominant security actor in Central Asia, even more so following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their economies remain closely interlinked with Russia, and at the political level, a distinct type of post-Soviet authoritarian leadership model with roots in the Soviet system facilitates political dialogue. Western disengagement from the region has left them more vulnerable, but the unpredictable consequences of Russia’s military adventurism might force them to realign their external relations.
By Stephen Blank
October 6, 2021, the CACI Analyst
The U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan should force American policymakers to rethink America’s position and goals in Central Asia. For years U.S. policy in Central Asia was subordinated to the goal of winning the war even though Washington never fashioned either a satisfactory definition of what winning meant or an Afghan government capable of standing on its own and acquiring the legitimacy and capacity it needed to survive. Despite a more regionally inclusive white paper by the Trump Administration, neither it nor its successor have been able to overcome the primacy of military factors in regional policy and the insufficiency of economic and political means to conduct a truly robust regional policy in Central Asia.
By Umair Jamal
September 20, 2021, the CACI Analyst
After the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence agencies are seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism presence in the region. One of few options is Pakistan, which has previously provided U.S. intelligence agencies with bases for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. After the recent attack by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) at Kabul Airport that killed scores of U.S. soldiers and Taliban fighters, Pakistan may open its airspace for U.S. counterterrorism operations against ISKP in Afghanistan. However, for any such deal to become possible, Pakistan would want the U.S. to only target the ISKP after getting the nod from the Taliban – Islamabad’s longtime allies and the new rulers of Afghanistan.
By Sudha Ramachandran
August 26, 2021, the CACI Analyst
Relentless violence against Afghanistan’s Shia Hazara community by the Sunni extremist Taliban and the Islamic State-Khorasan in recent years had prompted some of their youth to pick up arms to defend their community. Their fears have intensified with the Taliban coming to power. Recent attacks have heightened their sense of insecurity. Should violence against them persist, Hazara militias will proliferate. The Fatemiyoun Brigade, which is lying low, could be activated. Shia Iran could intervene to support the Hazaras.
By Umair Jamal
August 25, 2021, the CACI Analyst
For more than two decades, India has openly opposed any prospect of the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan. New Delhi has continued to oppose the Taliban even in the face of the international community’s ongoing effort to engage the group to find a negotiated settlement. Pakistan, on the other hand, supports efforts to engage the Taliban in an attempt to bring the Taliban back to power. After the collapse of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Islamabad believes that it has scored a major win against India as it can isolate New Delhi’s political influence and interests in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s return to power risks turning Afghanistan into an India-Pakistan proxy battleground.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.