PRESS RELEASE: Caspian Policy Center Releases Report and Holds Discussion on Afghanistan’s Reintegration into Central Asia
New report explores the causes of Afghanistan’s anomalous separation from Central Asia and generates a discussion on the current efforts to reintegrate the country with its northern neighbors.
Washington, D.C. — The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) today hosted a panel discussion with scholars, diplomats, and foreign policy experts from Washington and the Greater Caspian Region to discuss the current efforts to reintegrate Afghanistan with its northern neighbors as part of the broader Central Asian community of nations. The webinar was held in conjunction with the release of a new report, “Afghanistan as a Part of Central Asia: The Case for Reintegration,” which looks at the causes of Afghanistan’s anomalous separation from Central Asia and its reintegration, challenges along the way, and how they can be overcome.
“The security of Afghanistan and its pertinence to Central Asia cannot be settled by its simple political exclusion from Central Asia as is the case today,” said Efgan Nifti, Chief Executive Officer of the Caspian Policy Center. “Afghanistan’s economy and population cannot be ignored indefinitely. To ensure the security and prosperity of not just Afghanistan, but of the post-Soviet Central Asian states, it is time to reintegrate Afghanistan into the greater Central Asia community of nations.”
Governments in the region have already undertaken efforts to fully integrate Afghanistan with Central Asia. That said, Central Asia is among the least integrated regions in the world, and discussions on economic integration and cooperation often fail to appropriately include Afghanistan. The webinar, moderated by Major General U.S. Army (Ret.) Michael Repass, Senior Fellow at CPC, facilitated fruitful discourse among the webinar participants on the importance of including Afghanistan in regional integration dialogues.
The panelists, Ambassador (Ret.) Richard Hoagland, Security and Politics Program Chair at CPC; H.E. Roya Rahmani, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States; H.E. Erzhan Kazykhanov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States; H.E. Javlon Vakhabov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United States; Ambassador (Ret.) Ali Ahmad Jalali, Distinguished Professor of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University;and Luke Coffey, Director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation discussed the steps needed to appropriately include Afghanistan in economic integration and partnerships in Central Asia.
H.E. Roya Rahmani highlighted regional intelligence sharing, security cooperation, and economic connectivity projects as being crucial to achieving regional integration and peace in Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, today’s Central Asia is among the least integrated regions in the world—integration is key to our growth, economic development, and security. Our futures are all tied together, and we need policies and relations reflective of that,” said Ambassador Rahmani. “There is no better time than now to pursue integration as Afghanistan stands at the brink of an unprecedented opportunity for peace.”
The speakers noted the importance of developing a regional bloc to fend off greater powers, similar to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the Nordic Council, and also indicated the importance of incorporating Afghanistan into regional frameworks and discussions, such as the C5+1 framework and similar structures.
“For the past 20 years, Kazakhstan has been actively involved in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan through its tireless efforts across a whole spectrum of areas, including assistance to the national security forces, infrastructure development, food security, education, empowerment of women, and many more,” said Ambassador Kazykhanov. “It is our principal position that Afghanistan should be viewed not as a threat but as an important and high potential partner.”
Panelists noted that the peace process in Afghanistan and regional integration are intertwined and cannot be achieved without the other. H.E. Javlon Vakhabov noted that with the significant Uzbek population in Afghanistan (and Afghanistan’s recognition of Uzbek as an official language), Afghanistan has essentially restated that it is a natural part of Central Asia.
“We are confident that Afghanistan is an integral part of Central Asia,” said Ambassador Vakhabov. “Uzbekistan is collaborating closely with Afghanistan to foster national development and people-to-people ties by working with Afghanistan’s most valuable asset – its people.”
The former Soviet countries in Central Asia are increasingly pursuing regional integration. As Afghanistan moves forward with the peace process, its reintegration with the rest of Central Asia becomes more likely. The United States can support this process by dedicating part of the C5+1 forum to Afghanistan and having Afghanistan take a seat at the table. The process of reintegration will be difficult, but it is beneficial for all parties involved.
Additional key findings from the report include:
- Reintegrating Afghanistan into Central Asia cannot be accomplished by simple political declarations; it will be a gradual process accomplished over time as both aid and trade bring the countries closer together.
- As Central Asia continues to explore forming a regional bloc of nations on the model of the ASEAN or the Nordic Council, it should consider involving Afghanistan in these long-term efforts.
- As Russia and China vie for influence in the region, the five former Soviet countries cannot afford to leave Afghanistan out of their efforts to form a regional bloc that would strengthen their economic and political clout and eventually improve the lives of all their citizens.
This report is part of the Security and Politics Program series of the Caspian Policy Center. To sign up for updates or to learn more about the CPC’s work on this series, visit https://www.caspianpolicy.org/category/spp/.
Watch the full webinar recording
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