Russia should in every possible way avoid any unilateral forceful involvement in intra-Afghan affairs. One of the invited participants, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, candidate historical Sciences, Mikhail Konarovsky. The conference was organized by the Alexander Knyazev Public Foundation; Afghan Center "Ariana"; Faculty of International Relations KazNU named after al-Farabi (Kazakhstan); Center for German Studies; IA REGNUM Eastern Bureau; Information Agency "InfoRos"; Internet portal "Radiotochka" (Kazakhstan), Internet portal Zonakz.net.
REGNUM, as a conference partner, publishes the full report presented by the author.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, the world community showed excessive optimism, believing that the Afghan crisis was finally resolved. However, everything went according to a different scenario, although, in principle, it was precisely such a development of events that we are seeing now and could be expected based on the experience of the historical realities of this country. The more than a decade-long stay of foreign troops and massive external financial injections could not ensure the stable military-political and economic positions of the new government in Kabul and undermine the influence of its armed opponents. Having failed to reach the goal, NATO began the gradual withdrawal of contingents in NATO’s 2011 year, which should be completed by the end of the year’s 2014.
As this date approaches, the expert community intensifies the discussion of various scenarios of possible developments in the IRA and its impact on neighboring regions, primarily in Central Asia. The prevailing understanding is that without appeasement in this country and a withdrawal of the Afghan problem from the current impasse, it will be almost impossible to ensure stability and security in this part of the continent. The situation in Afghanistan after 2014 will have the most serious impact on the region, and to a much greater extent than that observed during the period of active presence of foreign troops in the country. With the recent intensification of activities in the northern enclaves of the Central Asian IRA associated with the Taliban military-political groupings, we can expect such activity to continue beyond the 2014 year. While it is difficult to predict how effective such an activity will be, however, the fact that it will take place is quite obvious.
The general situation in Afghanistan in the new configuration and the possible further destabilization of the situation in the country will inevitably (through Central Asia) affect Russia. The more radical the regime in Kabul is, the more negative such influence can become. An additional breeding ground for this may be the permanently increasing number of illegal migrants from Central Asia in the Russian Federation. Even now, recruitment of mercenaries and the creation of illegal centers for the dissemination of Islamist ideas of extremist content have become more frequent on Russian territory. At the same time, the theses that the observers sometimes allegedly deliberately exaggerate in Russia in such an attempt to secure additional influence in the region are sometimes sent by observers.
In the same context, it is possible to summarize several analysts' scenarios for the development of the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops. The most optimistic is the preservation of power by the current regime and its ability to ensure overall stability in the country. Such a development would certainly be the most desirable for Kabul and the entire regional and international community. Proponents of this position say about quite favorable foreign policy conditions for the implementation of this scenario, which are fundamentally different from the situation before the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1988 - 1989. In its favor, measures are also presented to stabilize the positions of the central government, including the formation of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). At the same time, it seems a somewhat superficial thesis that all these new conditions are supposedly capable of ensuring the ability of the ANSB to retain power in the country, since now they will fight for their survival. Among the military, especially the rank and file, there are hardly many principled supporters of the current government. Therefore, when, after 2014, the government in Kabul will be left alone with its opponents, the security forces will at least face a sharp weakening of their combat potential. Moreover, even now, despite the organizational and incentive measures taken by the government and foreign advisors, desertion remains one of the most serious problems of the ANSF, which sharply reduces their ability to independently control and ensure security in the country.
The process of national reconciliation is also significantly slipping. The warring parties remain at their inquiring positions. It is clear that the Taliban are not interested in negotiations and expect that after 2014, power in a large part of the territory of the IRA, one way or another, will fall under their control. At the same time, as in the period of “Mujahideen” confrontation with the PDPA, and now, the moral and political superiority remains on the side of the rebels. A powerful external factor supporting their movement is the growing potential of Islamic extremism and terrorism in the world, the Arab Spring, the continued growth of Islamization in Pakistan against the backdrop of the growing influence of the Pakistani Taliban on political issues in Islamabad. The main trend towards the “archaization” of Central Asia additionally forms a favorable and wider sub-regional environment.
Despite their disunity, the Taliban and in the future are unlikely to go to serious negotiations with Kabul (especially under the terms of the government about the cessation of hostilities, the recognition of the current Constitution of the country and its political system). On the other hand, the Taliban’s demands are also unacceptable for Kabul. Accordingly, the confrontation will continue. At the same time, the Kabul inquiry positions are dramatically weakened as a result of renewed in June of this year. direct contacts of Americans with representatives of the Taliban. The close interaction between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban contributes to large-scale infiltration of militants across the Afghan-Pakistani border.
One of the most serious domestic political challenges to Afghanistan will remain an inter-ethnic problem against the background of a significant increase in self-awareness and political activity of national minorities over the past decades, which was largely promoted by more than ten years in power of the PDPA. As part of the search for options that would provide, if not a solution, then at least a certain decrease in the severity of interethnic relations, some analysts suggest a confederative structure of the country on the basis of national enclaves (north, center and extreme south-west - national minorities, the rest of the territory - Pashtuns). The implementation of such a scenario, however, would be extremely difficult, both because of the absence of clear boundaries in Afghanistan for each particular ethnic group, and politically. This could provoke a new round of civil war and push disintegration processes in a wider geopolitical space, which would lead to even greater destabilization in the region.
A particularly significant issue in the future will remain the fate of foreign aid to Afghanistan and its sources. Kabul urgently needs a "positive agenda", assistance in the implementation of which could be effective, including through multilateral programs. Such a mission could take the so-called. "Istanbul process". Launched in 2011 on the initiative of Kabul and Ankara, he set the task of combining the efforts of the IRA government and its neighbors in order to increase comprehensive cooperation in the field of security and economic development while recognizing the role of Afghanistan as the most important link between the countries of the region. The leading countries of the West have committed themselves to provide the process with all-round support, while remaining as if in the background. This line may be another confirmation that neither the United States nor its European allies are no longer interested in maintaining a leading role in Afghan affairs, seeking to shift the entire responsibility for the socio-economic development of the country to regional states while maintaining its military-political dominant in Afghanistan. However, no practical actions of the participants of the "process" on a joint basis are yet to be seen. At the same time, such influential neighbors of Afghanistan as Pakistan, India and Iran prefer to develop economic ties with Kabul, mainly at the bilateral level. The situation is similar in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. At the same time, in the general political context, of all its members, only Russia openly identified with the prerequisites of Kabul for its dialogue with the Taliban.
The threat of the upcoming 2014 year of the new round of the Afghan crisis is evidenced by the permanently degrading situation in the IRA, the incessant armed sorties and terrorist acts of the Taliban. Manifestation of uncertainty and Washington in the crisis-free development of the situation in the country is evidenced by the abandonment of plans to reduce the total number of national security forces (ANSF) to 2015 thousand people after 228 and to save up to 2017 thousand people to 352. In the light of the upcoming new challenges, the US administration, interested in continuing cooperation with Russia, is searching for updated forms of cooperation with the Central Asian republics - members of the SCO and CSTO. At the same time, as in the early years of the Afghan campaign, from the American side such cooperation is seen not only through the prism of the tasks of logistical support for the withdrawal of NATO troops, but also in the interests of long-term monitoring of this sensitive region of Russia and China. For their part, the ruling elites of the Central Asian states also mean rationally using the situation in their own interests, including in dialogues with Moscow and Beijing. This line is particularly noticeable from Tashkent, which is actively encouraged by Washington, which is well aware of the special place of Uzbekistan in Central Asia, as well as in the structure of the Northern Distribution Network of NATO cargo transportation. This is also facilitated by the permanent desire of the RU to secure a privileged place in the north of Afghanistan, both through the ethnic factor and control over the main transport arteries, in the prospective expansion of which, with its leading role, it is very interested.
The United States pays serious attention to the Central Asian direction and dynamically developing Kazakhstan, which in the future can become the leading force in the region, including as a result of the growing image of Astana on the world stage. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which of the Central Asian IRA neighbors may be most vulnerable in case of aggravation of the situation south of their borders, are particularly sensitive to practical military cooperation with Washington. In addition to the optimistic, negative, but more realistic scenarios of developments in Afghanistan after 2014 are also considered. These include the ability to maintain only partial control of the central authorities over the territory of the country; the de facto geographical and political fragmentation of Afghanistan and the formation of several quasi-states on its territory; the general civil war of "all against all"; full return of the Taliban to power. Do not exclude the combination of these scenarios, as well as the emergence of some kind of third force with its slogans and political attitudes. It seems, however, that she will wear predominantly conservative - traditionalist features.
In this regard, most likely, one should be prepared for the most complex and complex scenarios on the background of the fact that the future regime in Kabul will be not only Islamic, but also Islamist. However, for the time being, one can only speculate about the degree of his conservatism and hostility towards everything that is not Islamic. Therefore, international solidarity and cooperation are needed on issues of principle related to the subsequent development of the situation in the IRA, which can only be partially achieved. In this context, the main thing that will be required from the regional and world community in any scenario of the development of the situation in this country is the political consensus that the new government in Kabul should not pose a destabilizing threat to the region. At the same time, if earlier the task of avoiding the creeping "Talibanization" from Afghanistan was in the interests of, first of all, the country's neighbors from the north, then recently this problem is becoming increasingly troubling and Islamabad - originally raised for Afghanistan, now the Taliban periodically threaten Pakistan’s stability . The ideas of “neutralizing” Afghanistan under the political guarantees of neighbors and world powers put forward in the same context to a certain extent echo the proposal of Russia (supported by the SCO countries) to return the country to neutral status, which was fixed in the 1964 constitution of the year. It seems that any future government of Afghanistan, even the most odious, in the foreign policy arena would benefit from proclaiming such a status.
Based on the lessons of the past, it is now important to finally clarify the further intentions of the US NATO in Afghanistan to alleviate the concerns that arise in Russia, China, and some other states. An important manifestation of the solidarity of the international community in the face of future challenges from the IRA could be further strengthening cooperation between the Russia-NATO Council. There are already positive examples of this: the Northern Distribution Network, the Trust Fund for the repair of helicopters), training of anti-terrorist personnel. A significant element could also be a certain institutionalization of interaction between the Alliance and the CSTO (which is supported by Moscow, but Brussels objects). At the same time, Moscow will have to decide how such cooperation should be matched with its well-known position on the unacceptability of a long stay of American servicemen in Afghanistan. At the same time, an independent line should be actively pursued to further strengthen the southern flank of the CSTO, raising its overall visible "profile" in the Central Asian direction (which, incidentally, has been observed recently). In the same vein, we should work on the further development of bilateral military ties with Uzbekistan. Even after the withdrawal of NATO troops, Afghanistan will remain a shaky zone of instability and contradictions for a long time, and involving the country in a matrix of regional economic cooperation will require considerable efforts from the global and regional community.
At the same time, regardless of the development of the situation in Afghanistan and around it after the 2014 year, Russia should in every way avoid any unilateral forceful involvement in intra-Afghan affairs. This would have the most negative strategic consequences for its national interests in general, and for internal stability in particular.