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South Asia

China to build Tajikistan police base near Afghan border amid Taliban concerns | Source: The New Arab

China will build a base for police in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, amid concerns from both countries about the Taliban’s ability to keep a lid on extremist groups. Tajikistan, a country of 9.5 million, has received financial assistance from both China and the United States to build and reinforce its border posts and hosts a major Russian military base.

Source: The New Arab


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central asia

China slowly shifting its role into security matters in the Central Asian region | Source: Asia Plus

Chinese troops have reportedly controlled a remote stretch of land near the Wakhan Corridor not far from Tajikistan’s mountainous border with northeastern Afghanistan, a strategic location from a collection of buildings and lookout towers as part of Beijing’s nascent but growing hard-power footprint in the region that is focused on security in neighboring Afghanistan. China’s stepped-up security presence is driven in part by a desire to protect its investments and by Beijing’s view that Central Asia can act as a bulwark against extremism in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Source: Asia Plus


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Russia-led security bloc to conduct military exercises in Central Asia due to situation in Afghanistan | Source: Asia Plus

Three more military exercises will be conducted close to the Tajik-Afghan border in October.

The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) says it plans to conduct military exercises in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan due to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. There were already war game conducted against the background of the aggravation of the situation and the threat of penetration of radical terrorist groups into the border countries of the Central Asian region.

Source: Asia Plus


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China Holds Anti-Terrorism Drills With Afghanistan’s Neighbor to the North | Source: Caixin

China held joint anti-terrorism exercises with Afghanistan’s neighbor Tajikistan to counter a growing regional terrorist threat, according to Chinese state media. Some terrorist groups are moving towards and concentrating in northern Afghanistan, posing a grave threat to China, Tajikistan and regional security.

Source: Caixin


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China, Tajikistan conduct joint anti-terrorism drill amid regional changes after Afghan political reshuffle | Source: Global Times

China and Tajikistan started a two-day joint anti-terrorism drill, aiming to strengthen coordination of anti-terrorism forces of the two countries in the face of terrorism threats in the region. Currently, the international situation has experienced dramatic changes and the regional anti-terrorism situation is not optimistic.

Source: Global Times


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Taliban seizes Afghan borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan: Russia | Source: Al Jazeera

Afghan security forces are struggling to hold off the Taliban’s blistering offensive.

Taliban fighters have taken control of Afghanistan’s borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as they continue their rapid offensive, Russia’s defence minister has said. He added that Russia would continue holding joint drills with its allies in the region. Russia held drills with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan near the Afghan border this month. Russia has also reinforced its military base in Tajikistan with new armoured vehicles and firearms.

Source: Al Jazeera


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Russia Showcases New Arms at Drill Near Tajikistan-Afghanistan Border | Source: News 18

Moscow and its Central Asian ex-Soviet allies have held two separate sets of military exercises close to Afghanistan as Taliban militants overran much of the country’s northern provinces directly adjacent to Central Asia.

Source: News 18


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Expert Analysis

What’s The SCO’s Game Plan For Afghanistan?

What’s The SCO’s Game Plan For Afghanistan?

9 JULY 2021

What

The SCO would do well to coordinate its members’ efforts to contain Afghan-emanating regional terrorist threats such as ISIS-K, encourage a political compromise between Kabul and the Taliban, and devise a plan for developing the war-torn country’s connectivity potential so as to ensure its long-term stability.

The future of Afghanistan is more uncertain than ever before against the backdrop of the Taliban’s rapid advance throughout the country in the wake of America’s impending military withdrawal by 31 August. Most observers predict an intensified period of civil war if the group, which is still regarded as terrorists by most countries such as Russia despite Moscow pragmatically hosting them on several occasions over the years for peace talks, isn’t able to take Afghanistan’s main cities that still remain under government control. The resultant chaos might create a dangerous opportunity for ISIS-K to expand its presence in the country and even become a major security threat to Central and South Asia. With the US practically abandoning its anti-terrorist commitments, perhaps for what some suspect might be Machiavellian reasons related to provoking this very scenario, it therefore falls on the SCO to ensure regional security instead.

This group comprises most of the Central Asian Republics (CARs, with the exception of Turkmenistan), China, India, Pakistan, and Russia. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia are observers while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are dialogue partners. One of the SCO’s mandates is to jointly confront the threats of terrorism, separatism, and extremism as well as enhance economic cooperation between its members. Considering the fast-moving events described in the first paragraph of this analysis, it therefore follows that they have a natural interest in working together when it comes to Afghanistan. This can take security, political, and economic forms. The first concerns supporting the two member states bordering Afghanistan, especially highly fragile and formerly civil war-torn Tajikistan, while the second involves facilitating dialogue between the warring parties. The third, meanwhile, concerns Afghanistan’s connectivity potential.

To elaborate a bit more, nearly 1,600 Afghan troops reportedly fled to Tajikistan in recent weeks in order to escape the Taliban’s rapid advance in Northern Afghanistan. Sputnik reported that the group has allowed a major border crossing to continue operating unimpeded, and it’s widely known that the Taliban doesn’t harbor any regional expansionist plans. It’s therefore highly unlikely that they’d pose a threat to Tajikistan or any other CAR. Even so, the prevailing uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future might result in large-scale refugee influxes, especially if ISIS-K exploits the situation. For this reason, President Putin recently promised his Tajikistani counterpart full support for ensuring its border security. There should be no doubt that the Russian military base in that country is more than capable of fulfilling this mission if requested to do so, but it nevertheless provides an excellent opportunity for the SCO’s members to cooperate more closely on the security front.

Thus far, its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) hasn’t seen any real action. The SCO is comprised of very diverse members who lack meaningful security coordination apart from largely symbolic drills that are held every now and then. It would immensely boost the organization’s effectiveness if Tajikistan requested its assistance, even if only for the purpose of functioning as a so-called “live action exercise” in support of the Russian-led mission. That doesn’t imply the prolonged dispatch of their servicemen under the SCO banner either since this could also be accomplished by more intelligence sharing through this structure as well as the provisioning of relevant material support. Although India is in a rivalry with China and Pakistan, they all might put their differences aside in the interests of pragmatism so as to obtain the multilateral security experience that could be put to use during future regional crises, whether concerning Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The second dimension of the SCO’s game plan for Afghanistan should involve all members doing their utmost to encourage a political compromise between Kabul and the Taliban. Reuters reported earlier this week that the latter intends to present a peace plan during talks sometime next month, which might in effect function as an ultimatum for preventing their speculatively planned move on the capital. The Taliban denies that it’s seriously considering any such attack, but observers fear that it might become an inevitability if Kabul refuses to submit to their demands. In order to avoid the pronounced instability that would likely follow that battle, it’s in the SCO’s interests to see to it that the Taliban and Kabul reach a deal during the next round of talks. The Afghan government is already largely demoralized by the US’ withdrawal and its official American ally will soon be less capable of defending it than ever before following its September withdrawal, so this scenario is indeed possible.

Therein lies the third part of what the SCO should do to help Afghanistan and that’s present the basics of a comprehensive regional economic integration proposal for showing all domestic stakeholders that peace would veritably be in everyone’s best interests. February’s agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan to construct a trilateral railway (casually referred to as PAKAFUZ after the first letters of each participating country’s name) could unlock the war-torn country’s supercontinental integration potential by finally bringing together Central and South Asia. That could in turn lead to the establishment of a new economic axis stretching from Russia in Eastern Europe all the way down to India in South Asia that could tentatively be referred to as the SCO Corridor. This ambitious proposal should ideally be presented to Kabul and the Taliban by the SCO as a whole with the assistance of all its members during the next round of peace talks in August.

There isn’t enough time to flesh out the exact details, but each country could still generally commit something or another to this plan, even if only broad promises of financial assistance (whether grants and/or loans) as well as technical expertise. What’s most important is that both warring parties (but especially obstinate Kabul) realize that coming to a pragmatic compromise would suit all of Eurasia’s interests, not just their own, and that the supercontinent’s most promising multipolar body has a direct stake in that outcome. The SCO must walk the walk instead of just talk the talk, so to speak, hence the need to put aside some of its rival members’ differences in order to jointly present a credible plan to this end (whatever its lack of detail for the moment considering the short time frame). The much-needed goodwill and trust that could facilitate this could be greatly advanced through the earlier proposal of providing multilateral security assistance to Tajikistan.

To bring everything together, the SCO has the responsibility to take the lead in ensuring that the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t soon spiral out of control and create fertile ground for ISIS-K’s regional expansion. The bloc can only accomplish this by jointly containing such terrorist threats to the neighboring CARs like Tajikistan, encouraging Kabul and the Taliban to pragmatically reach a political compromise during the next round of peace talks in August so as to prevent the feared intensification of the Afghan Civil War, and greatly assisting the aforementioned by devising a credible plan for transforming Afghanistan into the centerpiece of the proposed SCO Corridor from Eastern Europe to South Asia. This is admittedly a lot to ask for an organization that hasn’t yet ever been confronted with a real crisis, let alone one that’s as urgent as the Afghan Civil War, but it’s still possible to accomplish even some of what’s been suggested so long as the political will is present.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Afghanistan, SCO, Tajikistan, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, ISIS-K, Taliban, US, SCO Corridor.


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India Has Very Limited Security Options For Ensuring Its Interests In Afghanistan

India Has Very Limited Security Options For Ensuring Its Interests In Afghanistan

8 JULY 2021

India Has Very Limited Security Options For Ensuring Its Interests In Afghanistan

The Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan in the wake of the US’ full military withdrawal by September 11th presents certain security concerns for India, but the South Asian state only has very limited options for ensuring its relevant interests, none of which credibly involve any conventional military involvement contrary to widespread speculation about this scenario.

India is struggling to ensure its security interests in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of broad swaths of the country in the wake of the US’ full military withdrawal by September 11th. The South Asian state is concerned that the war-torn nation might become a training ground for Kashmiri militants, or even worse, that some Taliban fighters might consider crossing over the Line of Control (LOC) into the Indian side of Kashmir. It should be kept in mind that the Taliban promised the US as part of last year’s peace deal that it won’t support any foreign militants, nor does it have a track record of expansionist plans outside of its native territory, but India still fears the aforementioned worst-case scenarios.

There’s been widespread speculation over the years and especially in recent weeks that India might provide conventional military assistance to Kabul in order to stem the Taliban’s rapid advance. According to those who ascribe to that scenario, this could possibly involve arms transfers, intelligence support, actual troops, and/or private military contractors (PMCs). The first two options are the most credible since they entail comparatively low costs and almost no risks to India itself. The last two ones, however, are much costlier in all respects. India’s leadership must also certainly understand that if it’s still struggling to contain what it regards as security threats in the part of Kashmir under its control, then it’ll be much more difficult to contain the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Some further elaboration on this insight is required in order to better understand India’s strategic calculations. Those who predict that India might commence some sort of conventional military intervention in Kabul’s support are likely influenced by one or two ideas: that India is pursuing a policy of regional expansionism and/or to trap the country in a deadly quagmire. They’re not mutually exclusive either since accepting the first observation as valid can in turn be instrumentalized through a clever information campaign to influence India into taking the second seemingly natural step of getting itself caught in the Afghan quagmire due to its earlier described fear of the Taliban taking over that country.

No matter how afraid India is of the Taliban conquering Afghanistan, there’s almost nothing that it could do to stop this. Even in the best-case scenario of it dispatching military equipment to the internationally recognized authorities there on an emergency basis and ramping up its intelligence support for their forces, that likely won’t be sufficient to stop the Taliban. At most, all that it could do is temporarily delay what appears to be the inevitable outcome of the war. As for the third and fourth policy options, they’d fully depend on Iran passively facilitating India’s military intervention since there’s no way that Pakistan would support this. The incoming “principalist”/”conservative” administration, however, might not be in favor of doing so.

President-Elect Raisi is predicted to take a stronger stand against the US and its proxies upon assuming office. Although Iranian-Taliban ties are complicated, the Islamic Republic might balk at being portrayed as having anything to do with another foreign military intervention in one of his country’s neighbors, especially one which would indirectly aid American strategic goals. It’s one thing for Iran to assist India’s regional economic integration plans through the Central Asian branch of the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and another entirely for it to approve the overflight of Indian forces and/or PMCs to Afghanistan in order to fight the Taliban. Some secret agents might still transit through Iran to enter the country, but not on a large scale.

Under these conditions, the best that India can unilaterally do is the first two options that were earlier discussed. It would be much better for its long-term interests, however, if it explored the possibility of entering into secret talks with the Taliban. Some outlets reported that this happened last month even though New Delhi recently denied it. Nevertheless, that’s the most pragmatic policy that India could follow at the present moment. It shouldn’t wage a proxy war against the Taliban via Kabul and/or its own forces/PMCs, but should prepare for the seemingly inevitable reality of that group returning to power to some extent in the coming future. They might still hold a grudge against India, but some level of dialogue is always better than conflict.

India’s Russian ally is the most reliable partner to facilitate such contact if New Delhi had the political will to see this proposed policy through. Although Moscow still officially regards the Taliban as a terrorist group, it nevertheless pragmatically hosted its representatives several times in the Russian capital over the years as part of its efforts to advance the difficult peace process. If Russia could talk to the Taliban despite that group having emerged from the US-backed Mujaheddin of the 1980s that was responsible for killing approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers and wounding around 35,000 more, then there’s no reason why India can’t do so as well since it never suffered the same level of losses at their forerunner’s hands.

Speaking of Russian-Indian cooperation on Afghanistan, they could also jointly assist Tajikistan with bolstering its border security in the face of ISIS-K’s presence along this frontier. Dushanbe might feel somewhat uncomfortable accepting Indian military aid considering its recent partnerships with New Delhi’s Chinese and Pakistani rivals so it would be more acceptable for everyone if this assistance is coordinated through the SCO in which they all participate. Afghanistan is an observer in this organization so each member’s intelligence support could potentially be funneled through it in order to avoid any perception among some that one or another country’s relevant assistance to Kabul is somehow aimed against their interests (whether directly or indirectly).

With this in mind, an entirely new plan might begin to take shape. Instead of seeking to defeat the Taliban through proxy warfare, something that’s practically impossible to pull off since not even the world’s most powerful military in history could accomplish this task directly despite its two-decade-long occupation of Afghanistan, India should moderate its security goals to containing the threat of ISIS-K’s expansion into Central Asia. This would enable New Delhi to present itself as a responsible regional security stakeholder, especially if it coordinated such efforts through the SCO, perhaps by following Russia’s lead in this respect if Moscow is the first to propose a multilateral campaign to this effect.

There is nothing that India can realistically do to stop the Taliban from training Kashmiri militants apart from retaining a very limited intelligence presence in post-withdrawal Afghanistan to possibly sabotage such efforts on an extremely limited scale. Truth be told, however, that wouldn’t even be necessary to begin with since the Taliban seems to be working very hard to improve its international reputation and therefore is disinclined to train any foreign militants no matter how sympathetic it may speculatively be to their cause. Going back on its word concerning such a globally significant security matter would immediately raise suspicions about its grand strategic intentions and thus reduce the likelihood of it ever being accepted into the international community.

Considering this, India should reconceptualize its security concerns in Afghanistan. The Taliban will most likely take over the country at some time in the future, after which it’ll be cautiously welcomed into the international community for pragmatic reasons. Refusing to enter into dialogue with the group would therefore be a mistake for India’s regional economic interests. Its threat assessment should shift from the Taliban to ISIS-K, and India should accordingly coordinate its relevant security assistance to the Central Asian Republics and especially Tajikistan through the SCO, ideally under Moscow’s aegis. This proposal would enable India to present itself as a responsible regional security stakeholder while pragmatically defending its regional economic interests.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: India, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, Kashmir, Taliban, Tajikistan, SCO, Iran, US.


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Geopolitics and Terrorism

Putin ready to help Tajiks against the Taliban | Source: Asia News

Russia is ready to help Tajikistan against the Afghan Taliban, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. The Kremlin offered its support in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which in addition to the Russian Federation includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan itself.

Source: Asia News


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