Could a Third Way save Afghanistan?

As Afghanistan marks its 101st Anniversary as an independent state, both the international community and the Afghan people themselves are concerned about the country’s future pathway.

Since the fall of the monarchy the political system in Afghanistan has suffered a few major crises. The establishment of the Jihadi regimes and anti-patriotic coup along with global colonialism have resulted into the country’s destruction and led to the rise of Taliban. Moreover, President Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai has led the country to a corrupt state unable to deal with the terrorist groups and Taliban.

Invaded by various foreign-backed powers and different political ideas (left and right) Afghanistan has lost its national identity and failed to build its own economic and political system. Torn with corruption, bloodshed and terrorism over the decades, the country today, as some analysts believe, could be saved by a Third Way. The Third Way is a philosophy used to describe the voice of masses, the silent majority of people all the world, including Afghanistan.

The Afghan society needs a reform. The Third Way and adoption of it by a society can lead Afghanistan to a modern state, different from which the country has experienced over the pat 40 years. The Third Way is based on the idea of establishing a secure and sustainable state where the rights of the citizens are respected regardless the influence of any political parties or social groups and ethnic, racial and religious beliefs. Ensuring security and social justice in Afghanistan can be reached through following the several principles.

A balance of Power. Afghanistan has enough of security and defense to maintain and consolidate the national power. Supported by a strong and professional political leadership with pro-national interests Afghanistan will be able to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  

A balance of domestic politics. The political and economic strategy of Afghanistan should be focused on creating sustainable living environment for its citizen and development of the economic and labor system that will allow Afghan citizens to use the country’s national resources and increase their living standards. In this scenario the Afghan people will stop looking for any possible ways to leave the country.

Balancing of economic growth and regional development will allow Afghan people to supply with jobs and comfortable life not only in major cities but also in the country’s provinces.

Finally, to achieve a Third Way the political system of the country should be based on national and democratic principles. The national principle means the country should use its own capacities and resources, while the democratic principle means that there is no other political regime acceptable in the country, but democracy.

By listening to the needs of the society and recovering its national values Afghanistan in the long-term perspective could become a safe and sovereign state with a sustainable economic growth.

USAID increases its presence in Central Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic to foster its influence

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is increasing investments and support of the economy and social sphere in Uzbekistan through various economic, trade, healthcare and social projects. Only for the year of 2019 USAID invested over $10 million in Uzbekistan’s private sector for establishment of new orchards, installation of water saving technologies marketing, and branding to meet international standards. According to the Agency, USAID investment strategy in Uzbekistan involves large-scale and ambitious projects for the next 3-4 years that aim to increase the living standard in the country.

As part of its global campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic, the USAID in partnership with the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health has identified priority areas to provide support for the needs of Uzbekistan’s citizens, health professionals, and the government.  

However, nurturing relations with the US may have a negative side effect for Uzbekistan. By tightening economic and political relations with Tashkent, the United States might take advantage of the Uzbekistan’s geopolitical location and its border with Afghanistan and start lobbying its interests in Kabul heating up complicated relations between the two countries.

Moreover, fostering the Washington’s idea to create a transparent economy in the country and the accountability of the Uzbek state to civil society may cause potential leaks of tax and financial information to the US tax authorities. Considering that the American side relies on the principle of the supremacy of the national law over the international law, this might trigger a threat to the economic security of Uzbekistan and create a ground for pressure on the Uzbekistan authorities by the United States.

Like in the case with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, a small country in the Central, could become a perfect potential target for the US so-called democratization policy. Positive social and economic changes integrated by the United States in Uzbekistan are building up a solid ground for lobbying Washington political ambitions in the country. History has already proved the United States could be unreliable business partners. The US-China trade relations scenario is a great example of it: when contradictions arose, the US changed their policy from building partnership into the policy of trade wars.

US new media campaign in Tajikistan poses risk for president Rahmon

The United States are to start a new media campaign in Tajikistan that aims to prevent corruption and other violations by Tajik authorities.  Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the foundation «Eurasia of the Central Asia- Tajikistan» launched a series of training programs for local journalists earlier this years. The program allows professional journalists to learn about latest search engine technologies and media promotion tools to report leaked information about Tajik authorities as well as to learn about possible ways of legal protection against government sanctions and bans.

While the Tajik State Committee for National Security tightens the grip over the national media, a large part of the US media programs is being provided abroad in neighbor countries. For instance, in February 2017 a number of local journalists in collaboration with non-profit organization «InterNews Network» were sent to Armenia to take an internship in the local news agency «Hetq.am». As the program suggests, once the interns return back, they are supposed to perform media investigations on corruption and other misdemeanors pursued by high authorities in Tajikistan. In addition to that, the 3 local shooting teams will be selected to take up the training in the United States where they would master their skills in making documentary movies on human rights protection, as a part of the American project «Media Co-Op».

Meanwhile, among the project trainers are international experts who were involved in training of activists and protesters in color revolutions in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Given the fact that the project graduates are to be provided by financial and legal support from the United States they are likely to pursue investigations that would undermine credibility of the Tajik authorities and the President Emomali Rahmon. Which by no means rises a debate about future Tajik-US relations and real intentions of Washington policy in Tajikistan

Media campaigns and journalist trainings funded by the US are common in Tajikistan and around the Central Asia. Earlier last year the radio station «Ozodi» located in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe signed a sponsorship agreement with a number of foundations and financial institutions funded by American philanthropist and investor George Soros. As a result, the station openly criticized Dushanbe’s support for Moscow-Beijing economic cooperation, discouraged rapprochement of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in terms of water consumption, economic and cross-border cooperation and tried to prevent anti-terrorist cooperation between Dushanbe, Moscow and Beijing.

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Unveils US Stronger Ties with Tajikistan

President Donald Trump walks out of Air Force One upon his arrival at Hagerstown Regional Airport in Hagerstown, Md., Aug. 18, 2017, en route to nearby Camp David, for a meeting with his national security team to discuss strategy for South Asia, including India, Pakistan and the way forward in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The United States continue expanding their presence in the Central Asia as part of the program «The Great Central Asia». As President Trump announced his new policy on Afghanistan earlier this week, the US Administration have started looking towards Tajikistan, the key region on the Central Asia which has a longer border with Afghanistan.

Boosted earlier in 2016 by the Secretary of State John Kerry, the cooperation between the United States and the Central Asia in trade, economic development, the anti-terrorism fight is likely to be particularly focused on making stronger ties with Tajikistan as the US Embassy in Dushanbe have lobbied the military and technical aid agreement between the United States and Tajikistan. The $100 billion agreement for a period of 5 years, from 2018 to 2023, has already been approved by Tajikistan authorities, according to the head of the Tajik Border Security Forces col. Avzalov.

As part of the agreement, the US Embassy in Tajikistan with support of «AT Communication US» will implement a new operation control system designed by «HARRIS» to the Tajik Border Security Forces. The system is designed according to the C4ICR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) standard which is used by NATO. The system will also let the United States track Tajik military actions online by integration with the communication channels of the Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The stronger ties the bigger funding. The United States have decreased their military and technical financing around the world from $1 billion to $800 million since the start of 2017, while Tajikistan continues to receive larger funding than any other country in the region.

However, by integrating the NATO control system to its Military Tajikistan will no longer be able to be a part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization which uses the Russian operation and control technologies while further strengthening of the US-Tajikistan relations may cause tension for Tajikistan authorities both with the Central Asian countries and Moscow. Finally, the initiative courageously taken by the Tajik Border Security Forces may have negative results considering the authoritative and self-dependent course of the President Emomali Rahmon.

Central Asia Faces New Future: between Turkey, Iran, China and Russia

Central Asian leaders are known for their absolute power and life-long immunity from prosecution. The tradition that was started by the late Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov who held the title Turkmenbashi (The Leader of All Turkmen) until his death in 2006, later followed by his successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 77 and finally the Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, 64, has been well enjoyed by its followers for over 20 years by now.

However, the leaders are getting old and the region just might be on the threshold of the new era. The recent death of the Uzbek President Islam Karimov has marked the beginning of inevitable changes and has made the issue a public debate. The Central Asia is of great interest of its strong neighbors: Turkey, Iran, Russia and, finally, China. Each of the country is eagerly waiting to gain its own geopolitical goals and ambitions there. It’s only a matter of time now. In the long-term scenario, as seen by political analysts, China will most likely strengthen its political and economic development, while Turkey will likely become more stable economically. Finally, Iran might recover its power due to its nuclear program agreement.

The key factor might be played by migrant workers. Though China is the huge labor pool that offers low-cost migrant workers it still cannot compete with Russia when it comes to the Central Asia: most of the people’s income in this region is coming from Russia as there are more jobs to Central Asian migrant workers than in any other country. Nevertheless, the competition between Turkey and Iran will most likely continue to grow. Considering the fact that some Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are highly vulnerable due to terrorism threats and geographic proximity with Afghanistan, Turkey, if it keeps its stable economic growth, has all chances to confront terrorism by taking the leading control in the region in the long run.

Meanwhile, the current Central Asian leaders keeping in mind all the dangers coming to them struggle to extend their authoritarian leadership as longer as possible by empowering their children and by filling all the important government positions with their family members. One of the brightest examples of such practice may be found in Tajikistan. Earlier last year Emomali Rahmon’s daughter, Ozoda Rahmon has been appointed as his chief of staff while her husband, Jamoliddin Nuraliev, the First Deputy Chairman of the National Bank of Tajikistan is one of the strongest candidates for the President elections in 2020 along with the President’s son, Rustam Rahmon. But due to the recent scandal that put Jamoliddin Nuraliev in the spotlight as he has been regularly seen in public together with Takhmina Bagirova in Austria (where Bagirova lives) and other countries during the holiday season, Nuraliev might soon be off the game leaving Rustam Rahmon the only real candidate for the President.  But whether the current leaders’ successors be able to be as powerful as their fathers or their presidency will mark the end of the authoritarian power in the region the Central Asia’s new wave of development is inevitable. As the pro-Moscow leaders will go, the region this will most likely be the platform of disputes between Iran, Turkey and China.