Russia Offered US Use of Central Asia Bases for Afghan Intel
As an alternative to US bases Russia does not want
Machine translated from Russian.
The rapidly degrading situation in Afghanistan became the key topic of the high-level international conference in Tashkent, dedicated to the prospects for cooperation between Central and South Asia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that the US mission in Afghanistan “failed” and there is a threat of “an overflow of instability to neighboring states.”
At the same time, he warned his Central Asian colleagues about the risks associated with the US request to deploy new military bases in the countries of the region and thousands of Afghans collaborating with the Americans.
Not wanting to give the United States an opportunity to re-gain a foothold in Central Asia, Moscow, as Kommersant learned, offered Washington an alternative – to use Russian bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to control the situation in Afghanistan.
The Uzbek authorities decided to hold a high-level conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” in Tashkent about a year ago, it was the idea of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev personally.
The key idea was to consider the prospects for connecting Central Asia and its southern neighbors from the point of view of transport and logistics, energy, trade, production, investment, technological, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
At the opening of the conference, Shavkat Mirziyoyev unveiled several potential projects at once. Among them – the construction of the railway Termez (Uzbekistan) -Mazari-Sharif-Kabul (both – Afghanistan) -Peshawar (Pakistan).
However, the events of recent months and especially of recent weeks have made the discussion of the economic prospects of the region irrelevant.
After US President Joe Biden began to gradually withdraw the American military contingent from Afghanistan, the Taliban (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) began to seize more and more significant territories in this South Asian country.
As the situation in Afghanistan becomes more tense and chaotic, of the two key words in the title of the Tashkent conference, only one remains relevant – “challenges”.
Until the situation in Afghanistan is normalized, there is no need to talk about “opportunities”.
Moscow, Beijing, Washington and Brussels are interested in the integration of South and Central Asia, which entails the creation of transport corridors and the opening of new markets.
For Russia, this is a logical continuation of the process of Eurasian integration that it has begun, and for China, its “One Belt – One Road” project. But the majority of the conference participants admitted that without stability in Afghanistan, it would not be possible to implement the plans.
“Plans to promote transport, logistics and energy projects linking Central and South Asia must fully take into account the security situation on the ground. Only under the condition of a comprehensive settlement of the intra-Afghan conflict can one count on the successful implementation of economic undertakings and initiatives with the participation of Kabul, ”said Sergei Lavrov.
At the same time, he stressed that Russia has a desire to participate in the integration of Central and South Asia. In particular, we are talking about the creation of a single logistic space that would connect the southern ports of Iran and India with the northern cities of Russia and the EU countries.
“Russian Railways, together with its partners, are ready to take part in the preparation of a feasibility study for relevant projects,” the minister said.
“Americans will go small and expand”
In his speech, Sergei Lavrov complained that the situation in Afghanistan has been rapidly degrading in recent days. And he made it clear whose fault it was:
“In light of the hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO contingents, the uncertainty of the development of the military-political situation in and around this country has sharply increased.”
According to him, the Afghan crisis aggravates the terrorist threat and the problem of illegal drug trafficking, which has reached an unprecedented level. “It is obvious that in the current conditions there are real risks of an overflow of instability to neighboring states,” said Sergei Lavrov.
The Russian Foreign Minister also expressed concern about the aggravation of the situation in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, which directly border on the Central Asian states, at a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held on the sidelines of a conference in Tashkent.
According to Sergei Lavrov, the US mission in Afghanistan “failed”. At the same time, Russia, as it followed from his further words, does not consider the further US military presence in the countries adjacent to Afghanistan expedient.
We will remind, earlier the American media reported that, having left Afghanistan, the United States would like to be able to “be near”, for which they need military facilities on the territory of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. From 2001 to 2014, the United States had a large air base at the Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan, and from 2001 to 2005 at the Khanabad airfield in Uzbekistan.
Kommersant’s sources in the Russian government insist that both military installations appeared in the region due to the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help the United States in its fight against terrorism after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
However, Moscow has always viewed the emergence of American bases in its “underbelly” as a temporary phenomenon, while the United States sought to gain a foothold in the Central Asian region.
As a result, the Americans left both countries involuntarily – at the request of local authorities.
Today, Tajikistan, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has no right to deploy foreign military bases on its territory without the consent of other members of the bloc, and Uzbekistan has enshrined in the Constitution the principle of preventing the deployment of foreign military bases on its territory.
However, the American media clarified that Washington is ready to discuss the creation of smaller-scale facilities – for example, logistics, anti-crisis or training centers.
A Kommersant source in the CSTO structures insists that “you cannot believe this, it will be a screen, the Americans will start small and then expand.”
As Kommersant wrote, in the spring, the Russian authorities warned the countries of the region that the United States is not so much interested in maintaining control over the situation in Afghanistan as it is seeking to use Central Asia as a springboard for containing Russia.
At the same time, according to informed sources of Kommersant, during the June 16 summit in Geneva, Vladimir Putin offered Joe Biden an alternative: joint coordination of actions with Russia in the Afghan direction with the possibility of using Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for practical purposes. The Kremlin did not officially comment on this information to Kommersant.
Meanwhile, according to Kommersant’s sources, we could talk, in particular, about the exchange of information, including information obtained with the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles of small and medium range are at both Russian bases). “If the Americans were only interested in keeping an eye on the situation in Afghanistan, they would accept this generous offer. But so far they have not given a clear answer, which suggests that perhaps they still have other goals,” one of Kommersant’s interlocutors said.
US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who participated in the conference in Tashkent, refused to give Kommersant a comment on the Russian proposal.
Without giving Russia a clear answer, the United States continues to persuade Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. For example, on July 1, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken received the foreign ministers of these countries, Sirojiddin Mukhriddin and Abdulaziz Kamilov. Official reports following these meetings contain lengthy language about the “importance of bilateral relations”, as well as “efforts to achieve sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
At the same time, Bloomberg and Reuters, citing sources, reported that Washington has made another request to the Central Asian guests: the United States would like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan with them to host up to 10 thousand Afghans who collaborated with NATO, and their families, who may now be in danger. This is allegedly a temporary asylum. Somewhat later, information appeared about the displacement of about 100 thousand people.
Kommersant’s interlocutors in Moscow say that the countries of the region must make their own sovereign decisions on this issue. But if they ask the opinion of the Russian side, they will hear that such plans may be associated with problems and risks. “Who will finance the accommodation and provision of such a large number of refugees? Will the Americans delay issuing visas and get these people stuck in the region? How to integrate them into local communities? Will there be extremist recruiters and other dangerous elements among them? Will countries that have accepted those who helped the United States become a magnet for the Taliban seeking revenge? ” – lists one of the interlocutors of “b”.
Sergei Lavrov, answering Kommersant’s question following the talks in the Central Asia + 1 format (five Central Asian republics plus Russia), also held in Tashkent on Friday, said that he had discussed both topics with colleagues from the region’s countries.
He recalled that Uzbekistan (like Pakistan, to which the United States also turned) has already officially stated that the appearance of US military facilities on its territory is out of the question. “None of our allies announced their intention to expose their territories and population to such a risk,” said Sergei Lavrov.
And speaking of the US request to host thousands of Afghans who collaborated with them, he added: “My Central Asian colleagues are well aware of all the risks that lie in these plans. They will probably make the right decision based on their own interests. “