Afghanistan: source of terrorism or promising partner?
The members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are going to create a single global anti-terrorism front. According to the secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, Afghanistan is the main source of terrorism. At the same time, the ministers of foreign affairs of the SCO countries developed a "roadmap" for cooperation with Afghanistan. The SCO Secretary-General, Vladimir Norov, said that this and other issues will be discussed at the SCO summit on June 13-14 in Bishkek.
The working meetings of the security councils secretaries and the ministers of foreign affairs of the SCO countries were already held in Bishkek. The situation in Afghanistan was discussed during both meetings. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev is convinced that "Afghanistan remains the main source of terrorism in the SCO region.” According to the information of the main Russian security official, in the northern provinces of the Islamic Republic, there are about 2.5 -4 thousand militants of the banned in Russia ISIS group. Terrorists consider the SCO member states, primarily the countries of Central Asia, as a recruiting base for replenishing their ranks and spreading the radical extremist ideology. According to Patrushev, "the political situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate." The Afghan government is losing influence as a competent center for managing the state’s political system. At the same time, in Afghanistan, ISIS is increasingly gaining strength and poses the most serious threat, including through resonance terrorist attacks.
The foreign ministers, in turn, developed a draft ‘roadmap’ of further actions in the framework of the SCO - Afghanistan cooperation. " For the first time, the draft document is submitted for consideration by the heads of state," the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, Chingiz Aidarbekov said. So far, the cooperation with Afghanistan has been of a bilateral character.
The expert of the MGIMO Institute of International Studies, Leonid Gusev considers the development of an SCO-Afghanistan roadmap as an attempt to stimulate Kabul for cooperation with the SCO countries. ”As it was stressed many times on the highest level, security and development of Central Asia are linked to Afghanistan. Central Asia countries have their own interests, especially in economic areas. In particular, Uzbekistan. (President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said Afghanistan has always been and will remain an integral part of Central Asia). Kazakhstan also has projects with Afghanistan. However, law enforcement agencies put a spoke in the wheels, declaring that Afghanistan poses a threat for Central Asia, ”Leonid Gusev told Vestnik Kavkaza. The expert believes that the situation may change, since the Taliban organization, which is banned in the Russian Federation, tightly participate in the negotiations. “If earlier, only the US negotiated with them before, now the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan have joined the talks,” Gusev said.
Uzbek interests are met by the implementation of transport projects capable of connecting Central Asia with ports in Iran and Pakistan through Afghanistan. To discuss the prospects for building the Mazar – Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway, not only representatives of Afghanistan and Pakistan but also Russia and Kazakhstan came to Tashkent. This road can be included in the Eurasian concept of interconnectivity, which is currently supported by the European Union.
Another major infrastructure project is the Surkhan-Puli-Khumri power line, which will connect Kabul to the unified energy system of Central Asia. The power lines will increase the supply of electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan by 70% - up to 6 billion kW / h per year. At the same time, from January 2018, Uzbekistan reduced the price of electricity supplied to the neighboring state by almost 45% to 5 cents per kW.
The third area of cooperation is related to the training of Afghan specialists. An educational center for Afghan citizens successfully functions in Termez, where 130 students study. In the future, it is planned to increase the number of students to 250.
Special importance is given to the trade relations with Afghanistan. Thus, the international logistics center with the Termez-Cargo-Center customs terminal was opened in Termez. Its aim to increase the export-import and transit cargo flows. In the framework of the Termez free economic zone, it is planned to launch production for projects and programs implemented in Afghanistan.
In the second half of 2019, a meeting of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) will be held in Tashkent.
Tajikistan is ready to provide electricity to Afghanistan. Dushanbe plans to deliver about 5 billion kW / h when the construction of the first major inter-regional project CASA-1000 is completed. The construction of the Tajik section of the regional CASA-1000 project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2021. Dushanbe also plans to complete the construction of the Tajikistan-Turkmenistan railway through Afghanistan. The memorandum on the construction of this railway line was signed in March 2013 by the presidents of three countries. Through this road, Tajikistan can gain access to the international railway routes bypassing Uzbekistan, which previously under various pretexts prevented the movement of Tajik freight trains through its territory. However, after improving the relations with Tashkent, Dushanbe is not in a hurry with the completion of construction.
Kazakhstan is the largest Central Asian sponsor of Afghanistan. According to the Foreign Ministry, Kazakhstan provided Afghanistan with approximately $ 75 mln. "The provided sum includes the training of Afghan citizens in Kazakhstani universities, delivery of food, clothing, essential goods and the construction of infrastructure facilities," the department explained.