After Afghanistan, Biden Needs to Re-Engage Central Asia

After Afghanistan, Biden Needs to Re-Engage Central Asia

(National Interest) – In the aftermath of the ill-prepared and poorly executed exit from Afghanistan, the West must maintain a regional strategy that does not concede Central Asia’s critical trade routes and dynamic markets to foreign powers.

President Joe Biden’s Tuesday speech was supposed to restore confidence amongst allies who have witnessed America’s rapid retreat from the global stage. Biden spoke of a new “relentless diplomacy,” arguing that the United States—now “free” from Afghanistan—can finally prioritize the existential global threats of climate change, Covid-19, and terrorism. As if it was so easy.

But it is actions, not words, that carry weight in foreign affairs. A dedicated U.S. policy to rebuild its credibility and counterterrorism deterrence is needed. For those strategic goals, the United States needs to boost cooperation with our long-time partners in Central Asia to engender faith among friends and caution among adversaries.

However, after criticizing the previous U.S. administration for shirking its global responsibilities, Biden illogically justified the debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and empowerment of the Taliban. In an August address, he stated that “our true strategic competitors—China and Russia—would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as Russia and China believe that by engaging Afghanistan in a bid to dominate Eurasia, they are better positioned to oppose U.S. primacy in global affairs, including Europe.

After Afghanistan, Biden Needs to Re-Engage Central Asia

The European Union and the United States alike are seeking to mitigate this by setting the stage for the revival of the nineteenth-century “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires over Afghanistan. The competition over Central Asia’s geoeconomic and geostrategic potential is just beginning.

Countries do not have friends, only interests, Lord Palmerston observed. Historically, China and Russia opposed the Taliban. Today their strategy is to engage the Taliban to develop economic corridors in Afghanistan such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which are aimed at denying Western states access to Central and South Asia’s coveted transportation routes and markets. To this end, Beijing has offered the Taliban investments in energy and infrastructure projects, who in turn have never attacked Chinese infrastructure projects.

Read Full Article: National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

La débâcle en Afghanistan menace l’Asie centrale

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

(Le Globe France) – La Russie et la Chine ancrent leur partenariat stratégique en s’opposant conjointement à la primauté des États-Unis dans les affaires mondiales. Leur conviction mutuelle est que l’Asie centrale appartient à leurs sphères d’influence respectives. Le Pakistan, l’Iran et l’Inde ont leurs propres conceptions concurrentes en Afghanistan.

Mais ce sont les nations d’Asie centrale – Kazakhstan, Turkménistan, Ouzbékistan, Tadjikistan et Kirghizistan – qui pourraient détenir la clé de l’avenir de l’Afghanistan. En raison de leur proximité géographique, culturelle et économique, ces pays peuvent également s’attendre à être au centre du nouveau Grand Jeu entre la Chine, la Russie et l’Occident. Les États-Unis et l’Europe devraient élaborer une stratégie d’engagement moderne et flexible avec l’Asie centrale pour tenir les extrémistes à distance et garantir que leurs rivaux ne dominent pas le cœur critique de l’Eurasie.

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

Nursultan Nazarbayev s’exprimant lors de la réunion de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies sur l’extrémisme violent à New York, 2015
Le Kazakhstan doit constituer l’épine dorsale d’une telle stratégie.

Abritant le plus grand territoire, militaire et économique de la région, Nur-Sultan détient la clé pour toutes les puissances rivales cherchant à libérer le potentiel géoéconomique et géostratégique de l’Eurasie. Le premier président Noursoultan Nazarbaïev a lancé une stratégie de libéralisation du marché au début de l’indépendance en 1991. En 2020, le total des investissements étrangers directs du Kazakhstan s’élevait à 161 milliards de dollars, dont 30 milliards en provenance des États-Unis. Le Kazakhstan est classé par la Banque mondiale au 25e rang des 150 pays indexés où il est facile de faire des affaires. Cela est dû au fait que le Kazakhstan développe une économie post-industrielle basée sur les énergies renouvelables, l’agriculture à haute valeur ajoutée et les services, et que sa nouvelle classe managériale développe un secteur financier sophistiqué basé sur le Centre financier international d’Astana.

En raison de son enclavement, le Kazakhstan a mené une politique étrangère « multivectorielle » réussie à égale distance de la Chine, des États-Unis, de la Russie et de l’UE. Cette politique a été formulée par Nazarbayev dès les années 1990. À cette fin, le Kazakhstan cherche à participer à la fois à la BRI de la Chine et à l’Union économique eurasienne (EAEU) dominée par Moscou qui comprend l’Arménie, la Biélorussie, le Kazakhstan et le Kirghizistan.

La Russie, pour sa part, poursuit une politique étrangère d’irrédentisme vis-à-vis de ses anciennes républiques. Moscou maintient des intérêts de sécurité en Asie centrale avec des bases militaires au Kazakhstan, au Kirghizistan et au Tadjikistan. L’initiative impérialiste économique de la Ceinture de la Chine (BRI) se poursuit à un rythme soutenu. Et les USA ? Malgré sa stratégie de défense nationale de 2018, passant de la contre-insurrection à la concurrence des grandes puissances, Washington a perdu sa présence en Afghanistan et limite les investissements régionaux. Une stratégie de « business as usual » cédera d’importantes routes commerciales riches en ressources naturelles aux hégémons de l’Eurasie.

Read Full Article: Le Globe France

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Afghanistan debacle threatens central Asia

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

(Eureporter) – As the dust settles behind America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan, the Taliban now controls the country. The Afghan National Army (ANA) has collapsed. Former president Ashraf Ghani has fled. In a strategic failure, few could have anticipated the speed and ease with which Taliban forces entered Kabul, and fewer still will be able to predict what the future hold for Afghanistan, the region, and the world. For Europe, the U.S., and the great and regional powers: China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India, – the implications of this shift are enormous: Afghanistan has always been a critical piece of the Eurasian geopolitical puzzle, and now enters a new era of the Great Game

Both Russia and China anchor their strategic partnership by jointly opposing the US’s primacy in global affairs. Their mutual belief is that Central Asia belong to their respective spheres of influence. Pakistan, Iran, and India have their own competing designs in Afghanistan.

But it is the nations of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan – that may hold the key to Afghanistan’s future. Due to their geographic, cultural, and economic proximity, these countries can also expect to be the focus of the new Great Game between China, Russia, and the West. The United States and Europe should craft a modern and flexible strategy of engagement with Central Asia to keep extremists at bay and ensure that their rivals do not dominate the critical heartland of Eurasia.

Kazakhstan must form the backbone of any such strategy.

Home to the region’s largest territory, military, and economy, Nur-Sultan holds the key for all rivalling powers seeking to unlock Eurasia’s geoeconomic and geostrategic potential. First President Nursultan Nazarbayev began a market liberalization strategy at the outset of independence in 1991. By 2020, Kazakhstan’s total foreign direct investment stood at $161 billion, with $30 billion coming from the US. Kazakhstan is ranked by the World Bank as 25 out of 150 indexed countries that is easy to do business. This is due to Kazakhstan developing a post-industrial economy based on renewable energy, high value-added agriculture, and services, and its new managerial class is developing a sophisticated financial sector based on Astana International Financial Centre.

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

Due to being landlocked, Kazakhstan has pursued a successful ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy that is equidistant towards China, US, Russia, and the EU. This policy was formulated by Nazarbayev as early as the 1990s. To this end, Kazakhstan seeks to participate in both China’s BRI and the Moscow dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Russia, for its part, continues a foreign policy of irredentism vis-à-vis its former republics. Moscow maintains security interests in Central Asia with military bases in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. China’s economic imperialist Belt Road Initiative (BRI) continues apace. And the US? Despite its 2018 National Defense Strategy shifting emphasis from counterinsurgency to great power competition, Washington has forfeited its presence in Afghanistan and limits regional investment. A ‘business as usual’ strategy will cede important trade routes rich in natural resources to Eurasia’s hegemons.

Read Full Article: Eureporter

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Afghanistan-Debakel bedroht Zentralasien

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

(Der Globus Deutschland) – Sowohl Russland als auch China verankern ihre strategische Partnerschaft, indem sie sich gemeinsam dem Vorrang der USA in globalen Angelegenheiten widersetzen. Ihre gemeinsame Überzeugung ist, dass Zentralasien zu ihrem jeweiligen Einflussbereich gehört. Pakistan, Iran und Indien haben ihre eigenen konkurrierenden Designs in Afghanistan.

Aber es sind die Nationen Zentralasiens – Kasachstan, Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, Tadschikistan und Kirgisistan – die möglicherweise den Schlüssel zur Zukunft Afghanistans in sich tragen. Aufgrund ihrer geografischen, kulturellen und wirtschaftlichen Nähe können diese Länder auch im Mittelpunkt des neuen Großen Spiels zwischen China, Russland und dem Westen stehen. Die Vereinigten Staaten und Europa sollten eine moderne und flexible Strategie für das Engagement in Zentralasien entwickeln, um Extremisten in Schach zu halten und sicherzustellen, dass ihre Rivalen das kritische Kernland Eurasiens nicht dominieren.

Kasachstan muss das Rückgrat einer solchen Strategie bilden.

Barak Seener Strategic Intelligentia

Als Heimat des größten Territoriums, Militärs und der größten Wirtschaft der Region hält Nur-Sultan den Schlüssel für alle rivalisierenden Mächte, die das geoökonomische und geostrategische Potenzial Eurasiens erschließen wollen. Der erste Präsident Nursultan Nasarbajew begann zu Beginn der Unabhängigkeit 1991 eine Marktliberalisierungsstrategie. Bis 2020 beliefen sich die gesamten ausländischen Direktinvestitionen Kasachstans auf 161 Milliarden US-Dollar, 30 Milliarden US-Dollar kamen aus den USA. Kasachstan wird von der Weltbank als 25 von 150 indizierten Ländern eingestuft, die einfach Geschäfte machen. Dies ist darauf zurückzuführen, dass Kasachstan eine postindustrielle Wirtschaft entwickelt, die auf erneuerbaren Energien, hochwertiger Landwirtschaft und Dienstleistungen basiert, und seine neue Führungsklasse einen hoch entwickelten Finanzsektor entwickelt, der auf Astana International Financial Centre.

Da Kasachstan ein Binnenland ist, hat es eine erfolgreiche „Multi-Vektor“-Außenpolitik verfolgt, die gleich weit von China, den USA, Russland und der EU entfernt ist. Diese Politik wurde bereits in den 1990er Jahren von Nasarbajew formuliert. Zu diesem Zweck möchte Kasachstan sowohl an Chinas BRI als auch an der von Moskau dominierten Eurasischen Wirtschaftsunion (EAEU) teilnehmen, die Armenien, Weißrussland, Kasachstan und Kirgisistan umfasst.

Russland seinerseits führt gegenüber seinen ehemaligen Republiken eine Außenpolitik des Irredentismus fort. Moskau behält Sicherheitsinteressen in Zentralasien mit Militärstützpunkten in Kasachstan, Kirgisistan und Tadschikistan. Chinas wirtschaftsimperialistische Belt Road Initiative (BRI) geht weiter. Und die USA? Trotz seiner Nationale Verteidigungsstrategie 2018 Durch die Verlagerung des Schwerpunkts von der Aufstandsbekämpfung auf den Großmachtwettbewerb hat Washington seine Präsenz in Afghanistan eingebüßt und schränkt regionale Investitionen ein. Eine „Business-as-usual“-Strategie wird den Hegemonen Eurasiens wichtige Handelsrouten, die reich an natürlichen Ressourcen sind, abtreten.

Read Full Article: Der Globus Deutschland

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Afganistán: el Gran Juego, otra vez

Barak Seener - Strategic Intelligentia

(La Razón) – Mientras se moldea el polvo tras la precipitada retirada de Estados Unidos del territorio, los talibanes controlan ahora el país.

Mientras se moldea el polvo tras la precipitada retirada de Estados Unidos de Afganistán, los talibanes controlan ahora el país. El Ejército Nacional Afgano (ANA) se ha derrumbado. El ex presidente Ashraf Ghani ha huido. En un fracaso estratégico, pocos podrían haber previsto la rapidez y la facilidad con la que las fuerzas talibanes entraron en Kabul, y menos aún podrán predecir lo que depara el futuro para Afganistán, la región y el mundo. Para Europa, Estados Unidos y las grandes potencias regionales (China, Rusia, Pakistán, Irán, India), las implicaciones de este cambio son enormes. Afganistán siempre ha sido una pieza fundamental del rompecabezas geopolítico euroasiático, y ahora entra en una nueva era del Gran Juego.
Tanto Rusia como China afianzan su asociación estratégica oponiéndose conjuntamente a la primacía de Estados Unidos en los asuntos mundiales. Su creencia mutua es que Asia Central pertenece a sus respectivas esferas de influencia. Pakistán, Irán e India tienen sus propios designios competitivos en Afganistán.

Barak Seener - Strategic IntelligentiaPero son las naciones de Asia Central -Kazajistán, Turkmenistán, Uzbekistán, Tayikistán y Kirguistán- las que pueden tener la clave del futuro de Afganistán. Debido a su proximidad geográfica, cultural y económica, estos países también pueden esperar ser el centro del nuevo Gran Juego entre China, Rusia y Occidente. Estados Unidos y Europa deben elaborar una estrategia moderna y flexible de compromiso con Asia Central para mantener a raya a los extremistas y garantizar que sus rivales no dominen el corazón crítico de Eurasia.

Kazajistán, columna vertebral de dicha estrategia. Hogar del mayor territorio, ejército y economía de la región, Nur-Sultan tiene la llave para todas las potencias rivales que buscan liberar el potencial geoeconómico y geoestratégico de Eurasia. El primer presidente, Nursultan Nazarbayev, inició una estrategia de liberalización del mercado al inicio de la independencia en 1991. En 2020, la inversión extranjera directa total de Kazajistán ascendía a 161.000 millones de dólares, de los cuales 30.000 millones procedían de Estados Unidos. El Banco Mundial sitúa a Kazajistán en el puesto 25 de los 150 países del índice de facilidad para hacer negocios. Esto se debe a que Kazajistán está desarrollando una economía postindustrial basada en las energías renovables, la agricultura de alto valor añadido y los servicios, y su nueva clase directiva está desarrollando un sofisticado sector financiero basado en el Centro Financiero Internacional de Astana.

Al no tener salida al mar, Kazajistán ha aplicado con éxito una política exterior “multivectorial” equidistante hacia China, Estados Unidos, Rusia y la UE. Esta política fue formulada por Nazarbayev ya en la década de los noventa. Para ello, Kazajistán pretende participar tanto en la BRI de China como en la Unión Económica Euroasiática (UEE), dominada por Moscú, que incluye a Armenia, Bielorrusia, Kazajistán y Kirguistán.

Read Full Article: La Razón

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

The U.S.’s Strategic Re-Pivot to the Middle Eastern Quagmire

(Newsweek) – The U.S. has not fully woken to the rising Chinese dragon’s aggressive forays into the Middle East. In December 2019, China participated in its first three-way naval exercise with Iran and Russia in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. More recently, in response to Iran’s economic and military alliance with China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted in the beginning of August that “China’s entry into Iran will destabilize the Middle East. It’ll put Israel at risk. It’ll put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates at risk as well.”

But the Trump administration has not formulated a comprehensive regional strategy to keep China at bay, while also maintaining a light footprint in the Middle East and pivoting toward Asia. So for now, the U.S. is doomed to continually be sucked into the quagmire of the Middle East.

The U.S.’s regional allies questioned the Obama administration’s withdrawal from Iraq and pivot away from the Middle East toward Asia. This subsequently led to increased Russian involvement in Syria and the rise of ISIS, which once again drew the U.S. into the region. A U.S. in retreat will increase regional instability, as an assertive Russia, a nuclear-aspiring Iran committed to destabilizing the region, a rivaling Saudi nuclear aspirant and mercantilist China seek to extend their spheres of influence across the vacuum of governance spanning the region.

U.S. strategic allies in the region are not convinced by the level of the U.S.’s commitment to their security vis-à-vis Iran. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, has identified that Saudi Arabia fears that the U.S. will seek to renegotiate the JCPOA with Iran, which may contain loopholes and ambiguities that Iran could exploit. Iran could then be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, enhanced its ballistic missile capabilities and increase its support for terrorist proxies across the region. And the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have lauded the UAE’s recent peace agreement with Israel, which they believe will bolster their security in the event of a regional U.S. drawback.

China will seek to increase its maritime presence in the region to protect its energy imports. The Iranian attack on the Saudi petroleum processing facilities in 2019 saw oil prices spike by 20 percent. This affected China’s purchase of 60 percent of its oil that comes from the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being China’s top supplier of oil.

The U.S.'s Strategic Re-Pivot to the Middle Eastern Quagmire Geopolitical Risk Consulting

Dorsey notes that Sun Degang and Wu Sike, scholars with close links to the Chinese regime, asserted that the Middle East was a “key region in big power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era.” China perceives the U.S.’s reticence to commit to the Middle East as an opportunity to destabilize the region. For example, in 2017, China agreed to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy. Although this was guaranteed to heighten tensions with Iran, it was not met with a U.S. response. Similarly, in 2018, China’s comprehensive strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was met with a muted response. All the while, GCC states are increasingly hedging from fully committing to the U.S. underpinning its security architecture and are simultaneously cultivating ties with China, Russia, Iran the U.S. and Israel.

Despite the U.S. providing weapons sales to GCC states, those GCC states will take the opportunity of increased ties with Israel to diversify their weapons supplies away from sole reliance upon the U.S.—especially in light of criticism by U.S. lawmakers on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This will reduce the U.S.’s leverage with them, which is and will continue to be exploited by China and Russia. In 2019, Russia advanced a collective security concept for the Gulf. In July 2020, at the ninth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Chinese and Arab League foreign ministers adopted the Amman Declaration, which seeks to build a joint China-Arab community by deepening ties.

Read Full Article: Newsweek

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Fallout of Halting Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia

(Defense News) – UK asserted that cluster bombs used in Saudi Arabia against Houthi rebels in Yemen were restricted to purely military targets, and that no civilians were targeted. Nonetheless, the outgoing Obama administration is halting a planned weapons sale of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) to Saudi Arabia due to its concerns over civilian casualties while paradoxically continuing to refuel Saudi-led coalition planes.

This is a reversal of the US Congress’s decision in November 2015, to sell smart bombs to Saudi Arabia to limit civilian casualties. Other sales included laser guided munitions such as Guided Bomb Unit (GBU 10) Paveway II, UAVs, JADAM and as well as air to ground precision guided missiles used on the American built Saudi F15 fleet.

For Saudi Arabia, avoiding collateral damage is central to effectively countering the Houthis. Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri, a spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense expressed that Saudi Arabia’s strategy in Yemen is imitating the US-led coalition’s strategy in Mosul and Riqqa of avoiding civilian casualties by relying upon local intelligence while relying upon air power rather than ground troops. This however creates a problem as Yemen’s National Army intelligence that Saudi Arabia relies upon is poor. To avoid civilian casualties Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in need of a greater intelligence network on the ground. This requires Saudi Arabia to reverse its doctrine that relies heavily upon airpower and commit to greater ground troops.

Human Shields

It is not only Saudi Arabia’s usage of air power that has contributed to civilian casualties. Houthi rebels along with units loyal to Saleh have launched rockets and shells from residential areas and constituting human rights violations. On November 10 2016, General Al-Asiri asserted that Houthi militias held up 34 humanitarian aid ships carrying urgent medical assistance for over six months. The UN Security Council’s established Panel of Experts on Yemen reported to the UN Security Council that in the Taiz province, the Houthis had violated international humanitarian law by concealing fighters and equipment in or close to civilians in Al Mukha in the Taiz Governorate “with the deliberate aim of avoiding attack”. Houthi-Saleh forces in Aden and Taiz were documented attacking “medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure, and using snipers positioned atop buildings to target people seeking safety, medical care or food.”

A Human Rights Watch report in January 2016, similarly accused Houthi forces of placing its armed fighters in a school for the blind in Sanaa, saying this placed vulnerable children “at grave risk”. Echoing this, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri revealed that on Nov 9, 2016, Saudi Arabia killed 30 Al Qaeda operatives in the Eastern side of Al Mukalla where numerous Al Qaeda operatives had embedded themselves in the densely populated areas.

For this reason in 2014, when Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah condemned the war in Gaza, he but did not criticize Israel’s military operations against Hamas’s usage of human shields. Israel has accused Iran’s proxy Hamas from storing and firing rockets from schools, hospitals and mosques in order to raise the prospects of collateral damage. Iran’s Al Quds force along with Hezbollah are training Houthi militias to conduct the same tactics in densely populated areas.

Military Assistance

In early 2016, the U.S. military significantly reduced the number of US military personnel coordinating with the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign resulting in increased likelihood of the usage of cluster bombings which would increase civilian casualties. Such measures also provides Iran the initiative to increase its support to the Houthis with impunity.

Both the US and UK can assist Saudi Arabia to dramatically lower civilian casualties in Yemen by increasing its intelligence cooperation with Saudi Arabia combined with offering precision guided munitions and pilot training. Reversing Houthi advances and Iranian involvement in Yemen can only be achieved with increased UK and US involvement leading to a greater humanitarian outcome.

Read Full Article: Defense News

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.