World View: Russia and China Prepare for Central Asia Meltdown when U.S. Pulls Out

World View: Russia and China Prepare for Central Asia Meltdown when U.S. Pulls Out

This morning’s key headlines from

  • President Obama outlines withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • Suicide bomber strikes in Kabul Afghanistan after Obama’s speech
  • Tensions grow with Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan in Fergana Valley
  • Russia and China prepare for Fergana valley instability

President Obama outlines withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Barack Obama gave a speech to the nation on Tuesday outlining the plans for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The troops will be coming home “at a steady pace,” and “by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.” However, American and Nato troops will remain in Afghanistan for a decade ” to train, advise and assist the Afghans, … including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions.” He added, “But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.”

Part of his plan involves negotiations with the Taliban:

Fourth, we’re pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We’ve made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban — from foot soldiers to leaders — have indicated an interest in reconciliation. The path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies.

This part of his speech is a total joke. “We’ve made it clear,” he says, that the Taliban have to “break with al-Qaeda” and “renounce violence.” Oh really? Does he really believe that the Haqqani Network is going to agree to this? And what happens if the Taliban refuse to break with al-Qaeda? Will Obama then reverse his plans and move troops back into Afghanistan?

Suicide bomber strikes in Kabul Afghanistan after Obama’s speech

At least two explosions were heard in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Wednesday shortly after President Barack Obama gave his speech outlining U.S. and Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan. One of those explosions was a suicide car bomb that struck the area near the American embassy and several foreign military bases. AFP

Tensions grow with Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan in Fergana Valley

Long-time readers may recall that in 2009 I asked readers to make a mental note of the Fergana Valley (or Ferghana Valley) in central Asia, because it is one of the most strategically important regions of the world, though almost totally unknown to Americans. The Fergana Valley sits at the intersection of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and at that time I was writing about the rise of the al-Qaeda linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and about the importance of the Fergana Valley to the U.S. for Afghan war logistics. (See “Islamist Uzbeks lead terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan”)

Then, in 2010, there was extremely bloody violence in the Fergana Valley on the Kyrgyzstan side of the border. The cities of Osh and Jalalabad were devastated, causing hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and hundreds of thousands of refugees. Almost all of these were Uzbek victims of Kyrgyz violence, including violency by the Kyrgyz army. Some people blame Josef Stalin for the carnage because, in the 1920s and 1930s, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were established as Soviet republics, and divided by arbitrary borders in the Fergana Valley. These arbitrary boundaries, which ignored ethnic realities, created the ethnic tensions and rivalries that are the basis of the current violence and atrocities that began occurring after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Now tensions are growing again in the region, especially in Osh, where highly nationalistic Kyrgyz government officials are openly target Uzbeks. Uzbeks are subject to illegal detentions, torture and abuse by security forces and have been forced out of public life. Most Uzbek-language media have been closed, and prominent nationalists often refer to them as a diaspora, emphasising their separate and subordinate status. International organisations report continuing persecution of Uzbeks by a rapaciously corrupt police and prosecutorial system. International Crisis Group

Russia and China prepare for Fergana valley instability

Russia and China are holding joint military exercises in central Asia under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). All the central Asian states will be participating except Uzbekistan, who have opted out because of conflicts over water resources with Tajikistan. The military exercises, called “Peace Mission 2012,” are occurring because of concerns in Russia and China that the Fergana Valley region will become increasingly unstable as the United States and Nato withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. Jamestown