15.05.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

While Withdrawing Troops, Washington Craves for a New Base in Central Asia


Fearing the possibility of triggering an armed response of the Taliban (organization banned in Russia) by delaying the withdrawal of the US-led military coalition from Afghanistan, Washington is trying to stay ahead of the schedule. As a matters of fact, senior NATO officials have revealed that the planned withdrawal is due to be completed by July 4 and not by September 11, as it had been previously announced.

But since a handful of questions associated with the future redeployment of these troops haven’t been resolved, Washington tacitly hints to its European allies that they should voice a request to postpone the withdrawal of American troops, under the pretext of other NATO members having a better opportunity to prepare for leaving the country that they still occupy.

However, the real situation on the ground looks different from what the US tries to present to the rest of the world through its massive propaganda capabilities.

The primary reason for the delay is the fact that senior military officials in Washington have categorically refused to surrender a foothold at the heart of Asia and that is why they are trying to obtain the consent of one of the regional powers to host American troops by all means available to them. After all, Washington did enjoy the capacity of exercising control within this region for a while, thus retaining a base for its future large-scale deployments against the countries that are described by the Western media as main opponents of the United States – Russia and China. At the same time, American military presence in Central Asia would allow the Pentagon to keep an eye on Pakistan, India, and Iran.

It is for this reason that US embassies across the region together with various Western emissaries have noticeably intensified their efforts to persuade local elites that there’s no way that they can lose the “American shield” that supposedly protects the post-Soviet space from terrorist threats and drug trafficking. At the same time, Washington demonstrates that it is willing to meet local capitals halfway, while promising various “bonuses” as a token of gratitude. In particular, it promises that it will hand over some of the military equipment and weapons transferred from Afghanistan in exchange for a military base, along with the development of economic and military ties with the United States, and various other “benefits”.

However, in this regard, one can’t help but ask the question: Will the future American bases in Central Asia, if they are to be created, become a stronghold against terrorism and drug trafficking coming from Afghanistan?

That would be an unlikely development, as two decades of American military occupation of Afghanistan clearly demonstrate. For the most part, the US military was preoccupied with ensuring the safety of its own servicemen, paying large sums of money to various Afghan extremist groups so that they lose appetite for attacking US military bases or interfering in the drug trafficking that has been skyrocketing under the auspices of US intelligence agencies for the last 20 years. It was the reluctance to even try to achieve its stated goals that doomed the US campaign in Afghanistan completely.

As for the alleged fight against terrorism that Washington likes to brag about, it was reduced to the attempts undertaken by the White House to legitimize the Taliban, which is not just banned in Russia, but has also been outlawed in a number of other countries. However, these days the Taliban is hardly the only terrorist organization that operates in Afghanistan. It is enough to recall how Washington removed the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (banned in Russia) from its list of terrorist organizations. This formation operates in the north-eastern provinces of Afghanistan, those that are the closest to China. According to the French publication Atlantico, the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan receives funding from both American and Turkish intelligence agencies, and the US Embassy in Ankara is said to be the place that affiliates of this terrorist formation visit.

As a result, we see that behind the curtain of high notions that Washington likes to discuss so much lies a cunning plot that nobody wants to put to rest. Just like the world-famous test tubes that Colin Powell wielded at the UN that served as a pretext for Washington’s armed aggression against Iraq, so the infamous US-led “fight against terrorism” has also become a tool of US military aggression.

It is enough to mention that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda (banned in Russia), wasn’t hiding in Afghanistan. He found refuge in Pakistan where, by the way, he was killed on May 2, 2011. And it is unlikely that his location was unknown to American intelligence agencies. And if it was so, they don’t even worth their salt! It’s just that twenty years ago Washington needed a foothold in Central Asia badly, and there was no way for it to unleash an armed intervention against a nuclear-armed Pakistan, or one of the countries of the post-Soviet space that were “hiding under the Russia umbrella”. It turned out that Afghanistan was the only “convenient target” for the US to attack, which would result in its painful downfall.

As for the current situation, Washington continues its attempts to take advantage of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan as a future location of its troops after their withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, the ministry of defense of Uzbekistan has already stated that the military doctrine of the country prohibits foreign troops from being deployed on its soil.

Therefore, the attention of the United States would quickly shift to Tajikistan. However, after the visit that Tajikistan’s president Emomali Rahmon paid to Moscow on May 9, where he negotiated both special preferences and funds for his country, it would be unrealistic to count on the redeployment of American troops to Tajikistan.

Therefore, Kyrgyzstan is now under the complete focus of Washington, on the back of its obvious dissatisfaction with the position Moscow took on the recent border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Realizing this, Russian officials invited Kyrgyzstan’s president Sadyr Japarov to visit Moscow to mend shattered ties, while nullifying the damaged inflicted upon the relations of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. But Washington, nevertheless, is set to continue its attempts of persuading Kyrgyz elites, taking advantage of, among other things, the expertise of the recently appointed assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs – the former US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Donald Lu, who knows the situation in Central Asia in great detail.

Thus, the battle for Central Asia is only getting more intense as the United States draws new players in the heated competition between the countries of the region. Thus, a number of anti-Iranian remarks were recently made by Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani. At the opening of a dam in Nimruz province, he announced that Iran wouldn’t be able to use the water of cross-border rivers free of charge no more, although the corresponding agreement between the countries remains in force. China, with which Iran is strengthening its strategic cooperation, has also become an indirect victim of such remarks.

Under these circumstances, Russia and the Central Asian countries have recently begun discussing a road map that will allow the borders between the latter and Afghanistan to remain impenetrable for radical elements. It’s clear that the armed forces of Russia and Kazakhstan will have to work in close coordination with Tashkent, Ashgabat and Dushanbe to be able respond to the challenges that the Taliban and its affiliates may present to the regional stability in the future.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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