The US and Russia vie for military clout among Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors.
As the United States’ longest-ever war comes to an end with a military withdrawal in the face of a nationwide Taliban advance, the future stability of Afghanistan and its implications for neighboring Central Asia have left both the US and Russia scrambling to demonstrate their commitments to the strategically located region.
However, any excursions by Washington here, particularly in the military realm, pose a challenge to one of the last major blocs of Soviet-era power, as many Eastern European countries have turned toward NATO over the last three decades.
Russian officials are now keeping a close eye on the United States’ future moves.
“Afghanistan and the wider Central Asian region are part of Russia’s’southern underbelly,’ a term that emphasizes the country’s sense of vulnerability along its southern border,” Tracey German, a reader at King’s College London’s Defence Studies Department who specializes in Russian foreign and security policy, particularly in the post-Soviet space, told This website.
She noted that the region’s immediate threats include drug trafficking and an increase in terrorist activity, both of which could be exacerbated if Afghanistan’s opposing parties fail to reach an agreement and the country descends into civil war. Both the internationally recognized government in Kabul and the Taliban are attempting to minimize the possibility of this happening.
Unlike the United States, Russia’s proximity to the Afghan conflict poses a serious problem for the country, particularly considering the country’s history of unrest in majority-Muslim provinces like Chechnya.
The intangible risk of allowing a Western presence to take root in the region, on the other hand, has the Kremlin bolstering its own well-established Central Asian ties.
“Russia has deep historical, cultural, economic, and societal ties to Central Asia, and it is attempting to restore its power there in order to counter the impact of entities from outside the region, primarily the United States,” German added.
She went on to say, “It sees the region as its own strategic backyard.”
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are all sovereign states in this region, each with its own unique perspective and interests on how to maintain national and regional security.
The latter three are immediately bordered by Afghanistan, and the situation there is of the utmost importance to them. Kazakhstan is the only country that has a direct border with Russia. Russian troops are stationed in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, respectively. This is a condensed version of the information.