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Web Log - May, 2021

Summary

3-May-21 World View -- US withdrawal from Afghanistan threatens Central Asia stability

Violence on Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan border worst in 20 years

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Violence on Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan border worst in 20 years


Ironically, some crockery survives an enormous blast that reduced homes to rubble near the Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan border (BBC)
Ironically, some crockery survives an enormous blast that reduced homes to rubble near the Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan border (BBC)

For years since the end of the bloody Tajikistan civil war (1992-97), there have been border disputes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but they've all been isolated incidents. But in the last few weeks, the Tajik army has been mobilizing along a long section of the border, for the first time. The border is 971 kilometers long, of which 471 km are disputed.

At least 31 people have been killed, and over 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the worst violence in decades between Kyrgyz and Tajik army forces. Entire villages on both sides have been burned down. On Sunday, the two governments agreed to a ceasefire, but it's not clear that the people on the ground agree.

Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan belong to Russia's Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and Russia has military bases in both countries, so Russia would like to see the conflict settled peacefully.

The borders between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were set up in the 1920s by Josef Stalin, making them part of the Soviet Union. Stalin had no concern for ethnic, demographic, and tribal considerations when he set up those boundaries. He was only interested in commericial benefits. And the boundaries didn't matter, since both countries were part of the Soviet Union. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, suddenly the boundaries mattered.

The boundaries were never clearly defined, and there have been calls over the years to officially mark the boundaries. Of course, this would bring any border disagreements into sharp focus, so this project hasn't been pursued. But recently, the government of Kyrgyzstan announced that it would like to complete border demarcations between the countries, and to build a reservoir along the river that supplies water to both countries. These announcements caused the Tajiks to panic, and led to the current border clashes.

Taliban and Afghan forces clash as US begins withdrawal

The US and Nato began withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan on May 1, with the withdrawal to be completed on September 11, on the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. The Taliban had promised to coexist peacefully with the Afghan government provided that the US withdrawal was fully completed by May 1, as agreed with the Donald Trump administration early last year. But the Taliban now say that the US has violated the agreement, so they're free to attack anyone they want. Joe Biden has said that the the September 11 completion date for the withdrawal is absolute, not conditions based, so the Taliban know that they can just go ahead and attack.

On Friday, 30 people were killed when a car bomb exploded near a guest house where high school students were staying, in preparation for university entrance exams. Dozens of people were hurt. Witnesses described roofs collapsing and victims being trapped under the debris.

In the last two days alone, there have been dozens of new casualties, from clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban. Once the Americans leave, there will be nothing preventing the clashes from escalating.

Reports indicate that the people of Kabul are feeling increasingly anxious, particularly about girls' education, which the Taliban have promised to abolish. Friday's car bombing may have been designed to target girls' education.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan threatens Central Asia stability

The withdrawal of US and Nato troops from Afghanistan threatens more than just the stability of Afghanistan. It threatens new kinds of instability in the entire Central Asia region. The countries in the region are concerned that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan will create the same regional instability that the American withdrawal from Iraq did in 2010.

The heads of the countries in Russia's Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have been meeting to discuss this precise concern. In fact, villagers in Tajikistan, along the Afghanistan border, are being told to be prepared "to take up arms," in the words of a provincial governor:

"In coordination with the police and intelligence departments, we've registered all hunters who live in the border areas. They will have to take up arms to defend our country. In fact, all of us will have to take up weapons if the situation dictates."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is not surprising at all. Both Afghanistan (1991-96) and Tajikistan (1992-97) had extremely bloody ethnic civil wars during the 1990s.

In Afghanistan, the war was between the Pashtuns in the south versus the Northern Alliance in the north, consisting of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. These opposing groups have fresh memories of the atrocities, torture, rape, beatings, dismemberments, mutilations, and so forth that the other side performed on their friends, wives and other family members, so they will be looking for revenge.

It's been over 20 years since those civil wars ended, so the region is in a generational Awakening era, with new nationalistic generations having grown up since then, and having little fear of a new civil war. It's way too early for a major new war, but as typically happens, there will be periods of bloodshed separated by periods of ceasefire, with each bloodshed period worse than the previous one.

Furthermore, new terrorist groups with allegiance to al-Qaeda or ISIS have been springing up in Afghanistan, but have been kept under control with the help of American forces. These groups will be encouraged to grow again, with the departure of the Americans.

In 2009, I told readers to make a mental note of the Fergana Valley (or Ferghana Valley), in central Asia, because it was going to become increasingly important in world affairs. The Fergana Valley sits at the intersection of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and is a hotbed of terrorist activity by al-Qaeda. ( "Islamist Uzbeks lead terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan (2-Nov-2009)")

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan will encourage these clashes. That may be why there have been reports that the Biden administration has been talking to the government of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to reposition the US forces leaving Afghanistan in abandoned American military bases in those two countries. American forces had occupied those bases between 2001 and 2014, before the host countries demanded that the Americans leave.

Little is known publicly about these negotiations, but it would be ironic if the withdrawal of American forces from the "forever war" in Afghanistan led to American forces becoming involved a "forever war" in Central Asia and the Fergana Valley.

Sources:

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-May-2021) Permanent Link
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