What can be expected in the Central Asian countries with the change of government in Afghanistan

Stanislav Ivanov

In Russia and the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, the fateful events for Afghanistan and the region are being followed with great attention and concern. The hasty withdrawal of US and NATO troops from this country, similar to the surrender, the flight of President Ashraf Ghani and his inner circle, the refusal of the army and security forces to defend the previous regime, and finally, the rapid seizure of power by the Taliban – all this remains in the spotlight of politicians and the media.

The events in Afghanistan, their possible consequences and threats to regional and international security are assessed in the world in different ways. Some experts believe that without a foreign military presence, the multinational Afghan people finally had an opportunity to decide on the future state structure and power system. They say that the Afghans themselves will figure out in their homeland how they should live better.

The Taliban are expected to take into account the mistakes and shortcomings of their tenure in power in 1996-2001. and will try to rule in a more civilized manner, establish interaction with all regional elites, create an inclusive government, avoid unjustified medieval atrocities and repressions against supporters of the previous regime, etc.

Allegedly, such a moderate domestic policy will contribute to the international recognition of the new government and the early exclusion of DT from the lists of terrorist organizations.

Others believe that the Taliban are unlikely to be able to fully adhere to the commitments and promises made in Doha, in particular, to prevent activities in the country by Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and similar terrorist groups. Indeed, along with the moderate Taliban, radical elements remain in their ranks, who regard the agreement with the United States as a betrayal and call on their co-religionists to continue the jihad.

Rumors about the increased threat of the expansion of terrorism and a new flow of drugs from the Afghan direction are circulating in the media.

Obviously, it will take some time to be convinced of the correctness of certain assumptions.

So far, we can only state that the Taliban have begun to form a new government and other central government bodies, are introducing Sharia law and their own rules of conduct, and are trying to solve the problem of the remaining hotbed of resistance in the Panjshir Gorge by force. Allegedly, the Taliban state will be called the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

It seems that the fears of experts in connection with the coming of power of the Taliban in Kabul are not groundless. Even if we assume that the Taliban will be able to fulfill most of their promises in Doha and will eventually receive international recognition, like the Islamist government in Iran, all the neighboring Central Asian countries will still face new problems.

First, the radical Taliban and related Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Khorasan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, not to mention IS or Al-Qaeda, one way or another, will strive for ideological and direct expansion to the countries of Central Asia. The Taliban can simply oust these groups from the country as competitors and adversaries in the struggle for power.

The issue of reunification of nations separated by borders may also be on the agenda; thousands of Tajik and Uzbek refugees from Afghanistan have already found temporary shelter in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Secondly, the Taliban who came to power gained access to the state media, the Internet and will do their best to promote their way of life and ideology in neighboring countries.

The ideological vacuum formed after the collapse of the USSR, the pace of demographic growth in Central Asia, unemployment, growing stratification of societies, poverty of the poorest strata, high levels of corruption, social injustice – all this can become a breeding ground for the radicalization of Muslim communities in the region.

The possible successes of the Taliban in building a new Muslim society based on Islamic justice may become detonators for social protests and political crises in Central Asian countries.

It can be assumed that Pakistan can become the main sponsor and ally of the “Emirate of Afghanistan”, and the Taliban’s ties with other Muslim countries of the Sunni branch of Islam will be strengthened: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. As a result, the influence of these states in the Central Asian region can significantly increase. In this case, the process of Islamization of the region may accelerate and representatives of Muslim communities or parties will come to power in a number of Central Asian countries.

The weakest link among the Central Asian states may be Turkmenistan, whose authorities unsuccessfully tried to make their country neutral like Switzerland and rich like Kuwait or Qatar.

Neither they succeeded, and with the coming to power in Afghanistan of the Taliban in Ashgabat they felt a direct threat to their totalitarian regime.

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