A speech delivered by Sirodjidin Aslov in Goethe Institute in Brussels at the event titled “Security Challenges in Central Asia and Repercussions of the ISAF Withdrawal from Afghanistan”
Ladies and gentlemen,
The international community is presently face with a mass of global challenges, including continued and mounting socio-political conflicts, which have become a new milestone in the world development. Most of these conflict collisions represent a new element in international relations, taking place during a change of epochs within the ongoing world order.
These processes are taking place during one of the most essential trends in the global development of the XXI century – globalization. In this context, current socio-political confrontations define the nature of the relationship among subjects of social interactions, which are determined by the diversity of interests.
Developments taking place on the world scene, time and again, affirm that the international community is not always able to quickly and efficiently address certain challenges that erupt into conflict. We witness the indecision of some international institutions to influence situations, which pose serious threats to the security of a number of countries. These conflicts, first and foremost, are often seen as elements of a political battle and are counter-productive.
We are witnessing an intensification of contradictions, including the growth of the collision among representatives of different civilizations. All this is taking place against the backdrop of a crisis of certain civilizations.
Central Asia is an essential part of the global community. To ensure this region’s security, sub-regional, regional and global factors should be undertaken into account given the rapidly developing global processes also taking place. Moreover, it is undeniable that every system of regional security should serve as an active component of the international security system. The need for an integrated system of security is determined by complex threats and challenges, which are shown as specific to both regional and global levels.
One of the major challenges today is that the region has entered into the whirlpool of the scope of activities of international terrorist organizations. At the same time, international terrorist organizations regard the region primarily as an immediate area to commit all kinds of subversive activities.
One of the main sources of instability that pushes the international community to elaborate its collective approach to tackling current conflict is Afghanistan.
Afghanistan still remains a country where the military-political situation is uncertain. Processes aimed at creating a constructive international dialogue have recently begun. The existing domestic political balance is observed merely in the major administrative cities, which are in turn subject to the subversive activity of terrorist groups.
In general, the factor of the Afghan threat, is known to be especially crucial due to the possibility of the withdrawal of coalition troops by the end of 2014. However this does not necessarily lead to a negative development regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the region at large.
A decade of transition is about to come to an end in Afghanistan. In connection with this, the continued implementation of the commitments made by the international community is a key factor in the preservation and augmentation of successful development of social, political and economic terms, achieved in this country over the last few years.
The situation in Afghanistan until recently was critical, and that was primarily due to uncertainty in the outcome of the presidential elections. However, the subsequent re-distribution of power between the two candidates has brought some clarity to the agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, which legally justifies the presence of a limited number of American troops in the country after the formal withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That agreement was recently signed at the Presidential palace in Kabul.
The document suggests that the 10 (ten) thousand American military personnel and two thousand NATO troops will continue helping the Afghan security forces in countering terrorist activities, and will be engaged in training local military personnel. Kabul expects that the number of NATO military forces from Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Turkey will increase by up to 4 or 5 thousand.
In this regard, we can say that the military contingent that remains in Afghanistan will assume responsibility for the maintenance of peace. We at the same time have not also underestimated the official Afghan armed forces, the size of which has been increased to several hundred thousand.
There is another threat that has a significant impact on the adoption of measures aimed at ensuring overall stability and security – that is the menace of drug trafficking. The number of drug-addicts in almost all countries in the region has increased over recent years, and that is directly related to the unresolved problem of drug trafficking from Afghanistan. It should be noted, that currently, drugs are weapons of selective action, which are able to destroy entire countries.
To date, it has benefited international drug syndicates to increase the areas of territories and activity with a view to expand their market and gain profits from the drug trade, which is one of the main sources of their funding. It is a catalyst in the development of conflict-situations in Central Asia, and is in fact at the root of international terrorism and extremism.
The globalization of terrorism and international organized crime necessitates close interaction among all countries, particularly at a political level. Efficient measures should be undertaken to fight against extremism and counter terrorism, aimed at identifying extremist ideologies and implementing policies to prevent and suppress the use of terrorism as a way of achieving goals. The main principle in the fight against extremism and tackling terrorism is the correct application of and compliance with international norms and laws, respect for the human rights and freedoms and fairness in relations with other political forces.
Security in Afghanistan and the region as a whole cannot be achieved without an eradication of terrorism and radicalism. This regional problem needs a comprehensive regional solution. Countries in the region need to limit physical movement of terrorists in the territories of their countries and destroy their source of funding. There should be no differences in the definition of terrorism between the countries. Tajikistan is actively involved in confidence-building measures in the fight against terrorism within the framework of the Istanbul Process.
To be fair, I must say that some progress has been achieved in Afghanistan over the last 13 (thirteen) years in the areas of security, politics and economics. In this regard, I would like to outline certain forward-looking dynamics of the situation in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 period.
1. Due to a wide range of internal and external factors, the sharp deterioration of the situation throughout the country is probably not foreseen before the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2015.
2. Threats of concentration and breakthrough of organized and subversive groups of international terrorists into Central Asia are minimal.
3. Political power in Afghanistan is relatively stable and capable. It is legitimate, and it provides for a relative balance of influential political, national, ethnic and regional forces. It enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of non-governmental organizations and the majority of the population of the country.
4. At the juncture of the preservation of these peculiarities and given current policy and its real support from the international community, political power after 2014 will, in general, control the overall situation in the country.
The main objective of the Government of our country at this stage is to improve security management at the border between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Certain actions and a huge amount of work have already been carried out in this direction. Despite this, many issues need to be resolved and be brought to their logical conclusion. First of all, this applies to equipping Tajik border guards with modern technology and facilities. Effective and reliable protection of the border in the tough mountainous terrain is possible only with the use of state-of-the-art technologies and equipment. Tajikistan has already been finalizing negotiations with international organizations on this topic.
In terms of improving border security management, Tajikistan cooperates with the Border-Guard Authority of Afghanistan, which helps to prevent the crossing of national borders by terrorist groups and the movement of drugs.
For the time being, the OSCE Border Management Staff College has been established in and is functioning in Tajikistan. This is based on a proposal made by Tajikistan and with the support of the OSCE, to train border services personnel of Afghanistan. So far, this college has trained a large number of Afghan National Border Guards.
It is clear that the strengthening of the border with Afghanistan not only affects the peace and stability of Tajikistan, but that it would also serve the interests of the region as a whole. Destructive forces are intent to disturb the peace in Central Asia. Therefore, the Tajik – Afghan border serves as a shield at the forefront and as an important against those destructive forces. Tajikistan is committed within the guidelines of its foreign policy to work out necessary measures to joint efforts and stand side by side with the international community to confront terrorist groups and fight against trafficking in narcotics.
Tajikistan uses preventive measures in order to prevent a deterioration of the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border.
In light of the withdrawal of the international coalition forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, we believe it is necessary to place a special emphasis on the strengthening the capability of and staffing of the Afghan national armed forces and law enforcement agencies, improving border security management, as well as focus on the expansion of cooperation with neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.
The strengthening of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of Afghanistan, which will take over responsibility for security in the country after 2014, will remain an essential issue during the years to come.
Tajikistan participates in developing the human potential of the military and law enforcement agencies of Afghanistan. The soldiers, officers and law enforcement services personnel of Afghanistan annually undergo training courses at the specialized educational institutions and the relevant ministries and agencies of Tajikistan under various short, medium and long-term programs. Thus, more than 300 employees of various Afghan security and law enforcement personnel have been trained in Tajikistan since 2011.
We do believe it is important in the initial stages to not reduce this official support to Afghanistan while at the same time recognizing the need for the transferring of responsibility for security and maintenance of political life to the public authorities of Afghanistan.
It is impossible to bring lasting peace and order in this country without resolving the economic problems. Tajikistan considers the solution of problems to the ailing economy of this neighboring country, and always expresses this position. In this connection, Tajikistan, based on the linguistic community and affinities proposes to use Tajik experts in the rehabilitation of the economic potential of Afghanistan.
Human resources development in Afghanistan and training specialist civilians are also included within the framework of priority cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. At present, more than 500 Afghan national students are enrolled in undergraduate education courses, masters of arts and doctoral studies in the universities of Tajikistan. At the same time, the Government of Tajikistan has decided to provide scholarships to approximately 1 000 (one thousand) citizens of Afghanistan by 2025.
Tajikistan has initiated the establishment of a multi-educational vocational center in the Republic of Tajikistan to meet the needs of the national economy of Afghanistan and calls on the international community to assist in its implementation. It should be noted, that this center will be able to simultaneously train and prepare between 1.000 and 6.000 experts a year, depending on the duration of studies. If implemented, this project will reduce the time of providing training to personnel, taking into account the cultural, religious and national affinities and geographical proximity of Tajikistan to Afghanistan.
Regional cooperation is an important element in strengthening stability both in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole. The development of regional economic cooperation has also been included as a top priority by the Republic of Tajikistan. In this context, the Republic of Tajikistan welcomes the involvement of Afghanistan in the regional integration process. The Istanbul Process, a process known as the “Heart of Asia” would be an important platform for regional cooperation.
Being at the crossroads of Eurasia, Afghanistan could gain an access to certain fast-growing global markets, as well as to serve as a transit point for the expansion of trade between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
In this regard, it is necessary to emphasize the establishment of a comprehensive transport and energy infrastructure in Afghanistan, which could unite the regions around Afghanistan through a network of railways and roads, oil and gas pipelines as well as power transmission lines.
Development and socio-economic growth is inconceivable without energy supply. Tajikistan, possessing unique water and energy resources, expresses its readiness to provide Afghanistan with discounted, renewable and environmentally friendly electricity. There are number of power transmission lines set up between the two neighboring countries. The recent addition of power lines with a transmission capacity of 220 KV from Sangtuda-1 hydro-electric power station of Tajikistan to the Afghan city of PuliKhumri was commissioned late in October 2011. This enables an increase in energy supply by up to 2.5 billion kilowatt per year to a number of cities in the northern provinces of Afghanistan as well as Kabul.
During more than 20 years of independence in Tajikistan, we have built and commissioned five road bridges across the Panj River, which separates Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The construction of the sixth bridge is currently ongoing, and we intend to build another two bridges after feasibility studies are finalized. It should be noted, that these bridges facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and other goods and supplies to the remote regions of Afghanistan. They contribute to an annual increase of bilateral trade between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, as well as expanding transit capacity.
Furthermore, with the aim of promoting economic and trade growth, two free economic zones - “Panj” and “Ishkoshim” have been established in the southern and the eastern part of Tajikistan near the bridges. Additionally three Border Trade Points are operating at the Tajik-Afghan border. The Government has decided to increase the number of these points to six, in order to further facilitate cross-border trade.
It has to be mentioned, that Tajikistan has clearly expressed its vision of the social and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan at the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA V) in Dushanbe held on the 26th – 27th of March 2012, where 17 projects in transport, communications, energy, investment, education, human resources development, investment, border management and other areas have been elaborated on and proposed. These could be the basis for the recovery and future sustainable development of Afghanistan.
The implementation of such a complex program could facilitate the Afghan people’s access to essentials goods, such as water and electricity. These could promote private engagement and entrepreneurship, help support the country’s public budget due to the transit of energy resources, strengthen inter-regional relations, significantly reduce the cost of transportation of energy resources and goods, and improve trade between stake-holders and parties concerned. All of this could ultimately lead to sustainable economic and social development and enduring peace and security not only in Afghanistan, but also in the regions beyond.