Post-ISAF Afghanistan: The Security Challenges for Central Asia After 2014

This paper is a critical engagement with the competing narratives of the great game politics taking place in Central Asia among China, Russia, and United States. It argues that the region has changed over the past twenty years, and this must be taken into account when examining the regional influence of outside countries. At this juncture, the author suggests that Central Asian countries are increasingly looking at the world not in terms of Russia-versus-the-West, but rather based on a 360-degree view, which means that they are looking to a wider range of nations with which to trade and develop relations. Therefore, they are resorting to the understanding that their future lies not in being dominated by one country or alliance, but rather in establishing “multi-vectored foreign and security policies”. However, this does not imply that countries in the region have unilaterally ended external intervention attempts or coercion. It is rather a consequence of the strengthening of independent political will of Central Asian states, along with the diminishing attraction of the region in global oil and gas markets. Within this general framework, the paper attempts to answer the following questions: Will the security problems of Afghanistan seep into Central Asia after the NATO mission ends in the country, or will it adversely affect the ability of the respective regimes to instill a sense of security within their own territorial boundaries? A further question is whether diminished energy interests and the absence of a major security concern will cause United States to view Central Asia as “unimportant?” If the answer to this question is yes, should we assume that Russia and China are now de facto dominating Central Asia?

Authors: Roger Kangas