Afghanistan Needs `Berlin Airlift’ to Avoid Famine, RUSI Says


Afghanistan Needs `Berlin Airlift’ to Avoid famine,

By Ed Johnson

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) — Afghanistan needs urgent international aid, akin to the Berlin airlift 60 years ago, to stave off the threat of famine that could see villagers turn against the government, a London-based defence institute said today.

Afghanistan Needs `Berlin Airlift’ to Avoid Famine, RUSI Says

By Ed Johnson

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) — Afghanistan needs urgent international aid, akin to the Berlin airlift 60 years ago, to stave off the threat of famine that could see villagers turn against the government, a London-based defence institute said today.

An estimated 8.4 million Afghans, a quarter of the population, don’t have enough to eat because of drought and rising food prices and will depend on emergency supplies to survive this winter, the Royal United Services Institute said.

Famine poses a greater threat to the country than the spiralling Taliban insurgency and the international community must “mount an intensive air operation to deliver life-saving aid,” RUSI analyst Paul Smyth said in a briefing note.

The U.S-led airlift beginning in 1948 delivered more than 2.3 million metric tons of food, fuel and medicine to West Berlin to circumvent a Soviet blockade. Planes landed every three minutes in the effort that lasted 462 days. While the aid operation to Afghanistan would be smaller, it would be “strategically significant” and help prevent local frustration and anger against the government and NATO-led forces, the institute said.

Food shortages are compounding the problems facing President Hamid Karzai’s government, which is battling Taliban fighters mainly in the south and east of the country.

The United Nations and the government in Kabul appealed in July for $400 million to assist vulnerable Afghans in the nation of almost 33 million people.

`Eating Grass’

“Reports already indicate that Afghans are migrating in search of food, some are eating grass and a tiny number have died of starvation,” RUSI said. “Afghanistan may be on the brink of a calamity which has the potential to undermine much of the progress which has been achieved there.”

Insurgent attacks on aid convoys compound the food shortages, RUSI said. “Help must come from farther afield, swiftly, and to any part of the country,” it said. “An airlift meets these demands.”

The country needs 25,000 metric tons of supplies before winter and another 70,000 tons before February 2009, RUSI said, citing the World Food Programme.

Airlifting such a quantity of aid “should be well within the international community’s military capacity, if it has the will,” RUSI said.

The WFP estimates that 24.9 million people in Afghanistan live below the poverty line. A risk assessment in 2005 found that 6.6 million Afghans don’t meet their minimum food requirements, a problem compounded by drought this year in the south, east and southwest of the nation, according to the UN agency.

The country faces a cereal shortfall of 2 million metric tons and the WFP says it intends to send food assistance to about 1.8 million people each month until next year’s harvest.

The insurgency by supporters of the Taliban regime ousted in 2001 is worsening the humanitarian situation and making the delivery of aid difficult, according to the UN.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at

Pakistani Parliament Adopts New Antiterrorism Framework

A World Food Program warehouse set on fire by alleged Taliban militants in Swat Valley’s Kanju region

October 24, 2008
By Abubakar Siddique


Moving away from the widely held position that their country has been dragged into a U.S. war, Pakistani lawmakers have adopted a new strategy to deal with the terrorist threat inside the country.

A resolution adopted unanimously by both houses of parliament on October 22 refers to terrorism as a “grown menace,” calls on the state to protect the lives of its citizens, and makes clear that civilian casualties in military operations are to be avoided.

In a thinly veiled reference to recent U.S. missile and drone attacks on suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, the resolution called on the country to “stand united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland,” and demanded that the government deal with such incidents “effectively.”

“I think this [resolution] is the voice of our people who wanted the formulation of such a strategy. That’s why, God willing, this will be implemented. This resolution is practical and it will be followed,” says Sayed Alla-ud-Din, a member of the governing Pakistan People’s Party who represents the Northwest Frontier Province in the National Assembly, the lower house of central parliament.

Alla-ud-Din tells RFE/RL he is optimistic about the implementation of the wide-ranging policy directions outlined in the resolution, as it has the backing of all political parties.

He says the year-old military operation against extremist fighters in his home district, Swat, is misguided and has essentially victimized everyday civilians.

“The military operation in Swat is moving in the wrong direction. Mostly innocent people are being killed in it,” he says. “There have been many incidents in which innocent people were killed. If a few Taliban are killed in such operations many more civilians are also killed. The way they conduct these operations is wrong and they need to come up with robust procedures [to avoid civilian casualties]. People are very worried about the prevailing situation as they endure enormous suffering.”

Will It Be Enough?

Rising militancy has become a worry not only domestically, but for Pakistan’s neighbors and the world at large. In an apparent effort to placate those fears, the resolution passed on October 22 declared that “Pakistan’s territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries, and all foreign fighters, if found, will be expelled from our soil.”

The statement is likely to be welcomed in both India and Afghanistan, Pakistan’s eastern and western neighbors, respectively, who have accused Islamabad of using Islamist militant militias as proxies to further its foreign policy agendas.

On October 22, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the two agreed to work together to combat the extremism and militancy threatening to destabilize regional and global security.

For his part, Spanta tried to convince his hosts that India’s rising profile in Afghanistan should not be viewed as a threat to Pakistan. “Our determination is to take Afghanistan out of the tensions between India and Pakistan,” he said. “India is our friend. With Pakistan we have a lot of commonality. And with [its] current government, we have the best relations. We are very close to each other and we share a lot of values.”

Some Pakistan observers caution that while the parliamentary resolution might give the government a much-needed popular mandate to redirect a failing and deeply unpopular antiterrorism strategy, the militant threat in Pakistan has progressed to a point that the effort may prove to be too little too late.

In a letter to the main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif that was widely quoted in the Pakistani press, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani wrote on October 22 that the country’s “stability and survival” are at stake.

“The magnitude of the trauma our country faces is indeed great, and in many ways unprecedented. The very stability and survival of Pakistan is at stake. Our resources are overstretched and our economy is severely impacted by each bomb blast and each suicide attack. Innocent citizens, women, and children all suffer the deadly fallout of this conflict created by the traffickers of violence, misery, and devastation,” Gilani wrote.


افغانستان هنوزهم آن سالهای خونین را بیاددارد!

 اعلامیه کمیه حقوق بشرFAROE


افغانستان هنوزهم آن سالهای خونین را بیاددارد!

چهاردهم فبروری 1989 روزپر افتخاری درتاریخ معاصر افغانستان است. ارتش سرخ که از جنگ جهانی دوم با سرفرازی بدر آمد ولشکر شکست ناپذیرپنداشته میشد، از زورازمایی با افغانهای سلحشورعاجز آمد . جنرال گرومف آخرین نظامی متعلق به سپاه 40 اتحادشوروی حین خروج از افغانستان حتی جرأت نکرد به عقب خود بنگرد. موصوف امروزبیست سال بعد ازآنروز درمراسم گل گزاری بر پای بنای یادبود نظامیان روسی کشته شده در افغانستان درشهر ماسکو گفت: “با اتکا به تجارب خویش به ایالات متحده مشوره میدهیم از ارسال نیروی بیشتر به افغانستان بپرهیزد. در افغانستان راه حل نظامی وجود ندارد”.  شکست اتحاد شوروی در افغانستان نقطه آغازانقراض امپراطوری شوروی بود.  گذشت بیست سال نتوانسته است خاطرات تلخ سالهای پر از خون وآتش اشغال کشورشان توسط  روسها را ز حافظه مردم افغانستان بزداید. مردم دستهای آلوده به خون وجنایت روسها ورهبران قوای مسلح رژیم دست نشانده روس راخوب بیاددارند وازعواقب نامیمون آن هنوزهم رنج میبرند. بنابرین کرشمه های اخیرکرزی بطرف روسها که در واقع میخواهد حسادت امریکایی ها را تحریک کند، فقط میتواند به تنفر بیشترمردم ازوی منتهی گردد. تلاشهای مذبوحانه طراحان “منشورعفوه” در”پارلمان” افغانستان برای دفع الوقت وماستمالی جنایات آن دوران ودوره جنگهای داخلی سالهای نود، هرگز پیر وز نخواهد شد.  برخی ازذباله های رژیمهای سی سال گذشته برخود اسم بی مسمای ” کارشناس” را گذاشته وحاضرند با استفاده از تربیون برخی تلویزیونهای بی مضمون افغانستان با آمدن بروی صفحه تلویزیون مردم افغانستان را رنج دهند، میکوشند دولت پوشالی ویا دکانهای توزیع اسلحه (تنظیمهای) شان را در پیروزی بزرگ مردم افغانستان علیه تجاوز روس شریک جلوه دهند. حقیقت اینست که افتخار این پیروزی بزرگ فقط وفقط به مردم افغانستان تعلق دارد. دکانداران تنظیمی که ادعای “انحصار” این افتخار را دارند، آله دست آی اس آی، سی آی آی واستخبارات ایران وعربستان سعودی بوده یگانه اثری که این تنظیمها بدستور بیگانگان برجنبش مقاومت ضد روسها گذاشتند اینبود که جنبش را رنگ مذهبی داده متفرق ساختند. بعداز خروج عساکر روس ایشان درهمکاری با دوستمها، محمودبریالی ها، عبدالوکیل ها، تنی ها، علومی ها، محمدرفیع ها، کشتمندها و… پلان صلح ملل متحد را ناکام ساختند وماحصل خون دو میلیون شهیدجنبش ضداشغالگران را با جنگ داخلی سالهای نود به باد فنا دادند.

بعنوان حسن ختام میخواهیم نکاتی را ازکتاب “افغانستان پس از بازگشت سپاهیان شوروی” که توسط جنرال داکترقارییف سر مشاوراعلای نجیب الله در مورد حکومت پوشالی واشغال برشته تحریر درآمده است نقل قول کنیم. میکوشیم عبارات مرتبط بهم را ازصفحات مختلف دریک پاراگراف جمع نموده با ذکرصفحه وسه نقطه ازهم جدا سازیم. قارییف مینویسد: “در واقع چرخش آوریل (اپریل) یک کودتای نظامی بود”(صفحه16)… ” این حرکت از همان آغازکدامین پایگاه اجتماعی جدی نداشت” (صفحه 19)…”ناسازگاری برنامه های انقلابی با روح جامعه، تلاش برای تحمیل این برنامه ها باروشهای ستمگرانه وزور، تنشها ومبارزه آشتی ناپذیرمیان گروهکهای “خلق” و”پرچم”  درمیان حزب وبیدادگری های گروهی دربرابرروحانیون ولایه های گسترده مردم، نیروهای انقلابی را درچشمان توده ها هرچه بیشتربی ارج میگردانید”(صفحه17)… مشاوران شوروی که درارگانهای حزبی ودولتی کارمیکردند، نیزنمیتوانستندجدأ برپیشامدها تأثیر واردکنند. در گام نخست مشوره گیرندگان آنها زیر هیچگونه فشار نمیخواستندویا اینکه ترس داشتند در بین مردم بروند” (صفحه 19)… “در مجموع جنگ در افغانستان به پیمانه بسیاربه پر تنش شدن رویارویی های نیروهای مختلف اجتماعی-سیاسی  درکشوروتشدید بسیاری دیگر ازپدیده های منفی مساعدت کردکه در سر انجام منجربه فروپاشی اتحادشوروی ونابسامانیهای دیگری که ما امروز به آن دست وگریبان هستیم گردید” (صفحات 29 و30)    



Pakistanis flee into Afghanistan


Pakistani refugees from Bajaur in Peshawar camp

Huge numbers have already fled eastwards in recent weeks

The UN says 20,000 people have fled Pakistan’s tribal area of Bajaur for Afghanistan amid fighting between troops and militants in recent months.

The UN’s refugee agency says almost 4,000 families have crossed north-west into Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

The army began a sustained campaign against militants in Bajaur nearly two months ago.

Some 300,000 others have fled east within Pakistan in recent weeks with many of them living in temporary camps.

The military says it has killed more than 2,000 militants in the fighting.

Cross border attacks

The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes that the majority of the refugees who have fled into Afghanistan will return home after the fighting stops in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

Announcing its estimates of the numbers of people who have crossed the border into Afghanistan, the UNHCR in Afghanistan said in the last two weeks alone, more than 600 families had left Pakistan for Kunar.


A spokesman said the organisation would look out for the welfare of the displaced if they were unable to return home before winter sets in.

“It’s very difficult to predict the security situation on the other side of the border but what we hope is that the security gets better and people will be able to go back,” Nadir Farhad told Reuters news agency.

“But if it continues, we will definitely provide them with… assistance… so we can get them through the winter months.”

“They have mainly been provided accommodation by relatives and friends but some 200 families are already living without shelter” he said.

The UNHCR says around 70% of the families are from Pakistan but the rest are Afghans who have been living in Pakistan.

In the past, Afghan refugees have crossed the border the other way, around four million escaping violence and seeking refuge in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, but more than half have since returned to Afghanistan.

Recently the UNHCR asked donors for more than $17m (39.4m) in aid to help about 250,000 people displaced by fighting and floods in north-western Pakistan.

They said money was needed to provide relief items like tents, blankets and plastic sheets.

Dangerous situation

Pakistan’s army is engaged in a fierce campaign against militants in the north-west of the country.

Attempts by the government in Islamabad to negotiate with militants in areas along the border with Afghanistan appear to have failed, correspondents say.

The country has been hit by a spate of recent suicide bombings widely blamed on militants – including a devastating attack this month on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.

The bombing killed more than 50 people, most of them Pakistanis.

Militants use the tribal areas as a base for operations in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.

The Taleban and al-Qaeda are believed to operate in these border areas after being pushed out of Afghanistan.

Their presence in the border regions have prompted a number of US attacks inside Pakistan.

Those attacks have angered Pakistan’s government, and there have been incidents around the border involving Pakistani troops firing warning shots at US helicopters.


Pashtuns Say They Are Caught In Someone Else’s War

September 21, 2008
By Abubakar Siddique

With recent cross-border attacks by U.S. forces inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, the focus of the war on terror is shifting to the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and is likely to intensify.

But the Pashtun intelligentsia — on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border — say they want peace and are asking for a better understanding of the dynamics of their homeland. They say force alone is unlikely to solve their problems, which they say are entirely unrelated to terrorism and the violence that comes with it.

Nader Khan Katawazai, a member of the Afghan parliament in Kabul, says that international efforts against terrorism in Afghanistan are narrowly focused on fighting the insurgents and have failed to address critical political, social, and economic issues responsible for the growth of extremism in the Pashtun regions.

“The lack, or low educational levels in Pashtun regions is a primary factor in sustaining the instability. Pashtun youth can easily be recruited by anyone because of the lack of education,” Katawazai says.

“Similarly, unemployment leads to resentment among youth. These factors have accumulated into such a state that the Afghan government is only limited to district and provincial headquarters, while its opponents control the rest of the territories.”

Front In War On Terror

An estimated 40 million-50 million Pashtuns live in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mostly organized into dozens of tribes, the Pashtuns live in the heart of the South-Central Asian region, which since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, has turned into the central front in the war on terrorism. The group is often associated with extremist Taliban members and Pashtun tribes are accused of sheltering international terrorists.

Since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the region has seen more than 1 million Pashtuns killed and millions more displaced in various rounds of fighting in that country.

But over the past five years, fighting has also devastated large parts of the once peaceful Pashtun border regions in Pakistan. Thousands of government soldiers, militants, and civilians have been killed.

A Pakistani soldier mans a check point in Peshawar

These already impoverished regions now face a near economic collapse as a humanitarian crisis develops. The fighting in Bajuar and Kurram tribal districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has already displaced some 300,000 civilians during the past few weeks — some of them even seeking refuge in Afghanistan.

Local leaders say that millions of Pashtuns in the area are the biggest victims of terrorism.

Afrasiab Khattak, a senior leader of the Pashtun Nationalist Awami National Party in Peshawar, says that on both sides of the border “Pashtuns have paid a very heavy price in the war against terror.”

“Their children, women, old and young men have been killed. Their clerics and political leaders have been killed. And their schools, roads, and homes have been destroyed in this fighting,” Khattak says.

Khattak, who is also the peace envoy of Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) government, survived a bomb attack at a party election rally in February that killed 25 and injured more than 70 people. He says that the presence of terrorist sanctuaries in the Pashtun regions of Pakistan is the result of larger regional and international geostrategic games being played on their soil for the past three decades.

Al-Qaeda’s Home Turf

Pashtuns came to the fore when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. They formed a large part of the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance that had Western and Arab support but was organized along religious lines or “jihad” against the “infidel” Soviet invaders.

However, the jihad in the 1980s also gave birth to Al-Qaeda. Though forged in the Pashtun city of Peshawar, it was mostly a transnational Arab network committed to fighting international Islamist causes. After being pushed out of Sudan in the mid-1990s, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden established his headquarters in the Pashtun regions of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

In late 2001, a U.S.-led military campaign against Al-Qaeda and their Taliban hosts toppled the Taliban regime and forced Al-Qaeda to look for new safe havens across the border in Pakistan’s Pashtun-populated FATA and NWFP regions. Finding and destroying these sanctuaries now appears to be a top U.S. military priority.

The site of a suicide attack in Peshawar, September 2008

Given such a grim assessment of the situation on the ground, some experts believe that the new, aggressive U.S. strategy aimed at Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders inside Pakistan is unlikely to work.

Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, says that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush looked at the terrorism problem only as a military problem while ignoring its political and economic aspects.

He says that it is encouraging that the United States is now looking at Pakistan and Afghanistan as an integrated problem. But he says that more needs to be done.

“The chances of success of such a new military strategy, without an accompanying political, diplomatic, and economic strategy, are zero,” Rubin says. “And in all likelihood it will not succeed in really significantly hampering the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operations, but it might solidify the opposition to the U.S. in the area.”

Impoverished Economy

Malik Aman Kasai, a political commentator in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, says that regional cooperation between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad will mean little unless the impoverished Pashtun economy is transformed and they are given citizenship rights.

Kasai blames Pakistan’s “permanent establishment” made up of its civilian and military bureaucracy for the ongoing suffering of the Pashtuns in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. He says that this ruling elite has deliberately kept the Pashtuns marginalized in Pakistan. And the opportunities provided by the complicated geopolitics in the region, he says, also enabled the elite to influence events in Afghanistan in a negative way.

The ruling elite “are like our mortal enemies. They are not sparing our houses or our mosques. They are not allowing any businesses or factories to flourish in the Pashtun regions. They have turned us into guns for hire and the Taliban,” Kasai says.

Rubin says that a political strategy aimed at separating Taliban and other local armed groups from Al-Qaeda and international terrorism is needed.

“We need to find a way to separate this global threat from the local problems we are having in that area so that we don’t get into a war with the people who live there,” Rubin says.

“Ninety-five percent of those people, if not more, are not a threat to the international community. Except insofar as the international community is doing something in their areas that they object to.”

Back on the ground, the prospect of the conflict intensifying with cross-border attacks from U.S. forces is a harrowing thought to many people.

Residents of the western city of Peshawar face uncertainty and misery because of the ongoing fighting between extremists and Pakistani security forces in parts of the FATA and the NWFP.

Nausheen, a young Pashtun school teacher in Peshawar, says she is already under stress because of the insecurity and high inflation in the city. Like many in the region, she tells RFE/RL that a U.S. military campaign inside Pakistan is the last thing she wants to see.

“Our country can defend itself. We don’t need [the U.S. military] to defend us,” she says.


Eurasian Grouping Plans Regional Army Near Afghanistan

CSTO members in Moscow on September 4

September 19, 2008
By Farangis Najibullah


The Collective Security Treaty Organization, (CSTO), which brings together Russia and a number of other ex-Soviet countries, has announced an ambitious plan to set up an 11,000-strong regional army in Central Asia that will have troops deployed in the vicinity of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The grouping says the move is intended to deal with potential “challenges to the sovereignty” of its member states.

But many observers see it as Moscow’s response to possible further NATO expansion and to Washington’s decision to deploy an antimissile defense system in Central Europe.

CSTO Secretary-General Nikolay Bordyuzha said the organization’s plan to establish a joint army comes mainly in response to the growing insurgency in Afghanistan. But he made it clear that the regional forces, which would reportedly have up to 11,000 in its units and subdivisions, “should be ready to confront any kind of a challenge to the sovereignty” of the member states.

CSTO spokesman Vitaly Strugavets confirmed that Russia and four of the organization’s Central Asian members — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan — have already reached agreement on the issue.

“The creation of joint military forces of [the] Central Asian region is being planned,” Strugavets said. “It would be similar to already existing Russian-Belarusian united forces in the Eastern Europe region, as well as the CSTO’s forces in the Caucasus region — that is, our joint Russian-Armenian forces.”

Southern Angst

Many observers share the belief that the security situation has worsened in Afghanistan, which lies alongside CSTO’s southern borders.

But experts who spoke to RFE/RL indicated that the effort to establish a regional force in Central Asia can be seen as Moscow’s reaction to events on or near its western borders, where there is increasing talk of Georgia and Ukraine entering NATO, and where parts of a U.S. antimissile shield will be based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia has fiercely opposed Washington’s missile-defense plans, which gathered momentum with Poland’s inking of a deal with the U.S. in the midst of the Georgia-Russia crisis. The brief war between Russia and Georgia also spurred new discussions on Tbilisi’s and Kyiv’s efforts to join the NATO military alliance, whose expansion Moscow has also railed against.

Bordyuzha addressed the issue in announcing the establishment of the CSTO force, saying “all CSTO member states are concerned as military installations and serious military structures such as antiaircraft defense systems are being built around them.”

Moscow has turned south and east — to Central Asia and China — to find support for its military intervention in Georgia, which it argues was necessary protect Russian passport holders in Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

However, during a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Dushanbe in August, China and Central Asian member states disappointed Moscow by calling for the crisis to be resolved through negotiations, and failing to recognize South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence.

Cozy Setting

Unlike the Shanghai grouping, however, the CSTO does not include China, improving Moscow’s chances of garnering support. Indeed, at a recent summit the CSTO, while also failing to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, praised Moscow’s response to “Georgian aggression.”

SCTO members Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are all former Soviet states with close ties with Russia.

However, despite getting the approval the grouping Central Asian states for the new security-force initiative, it is going to be mainly Russia’s responsibility to finance it.

It is unlikely that poorer Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan can contribute greatly to the joint forces’ funding and military equipment.

On the contrary, according to Matthew Clements, Eurasia editor of the country-risk department for Jane’s Information Group, Central Asian countries are likely expecting incentives for joining the potential united military force.

“It would be Russian-led and primarily it would be Russian military units and equipment,” Clements said. “But it would also allow Russia to push forward with training and resupplying elements of the armed forces within states. And that is something these countries would welcome, obviously — increased investment to their armed forces.”

History suggests that Russia’s efforts to see the creation of a military force, parts of which would be stationed just kilometers from NATO forces in Afghanistan, might never materialize.

Squeezed In Central Asia?

It is not the first time Secretary-General Bordyuzha has announced the CSTO’s intention to establish a regional army involving Russia and Central Asian republics. He made similar statements in 2005, but the plan was never implemented.

It is unclear to what extent Central Asian countries would be committed to extended military cooperation with Russia. Even if they did closely cooperate with Russia, it is unlikely they would want such efforts to harm relations with the West.

Highlighting their middleman position, in the days after reportedly agreeing to the CSTO joint army proposal Central Asian countries were sending foreign ministers to Paris to take part in the first-ever EU-Central Asian forum on security issues.

Kyrgyzstan hosts both Russian and a U.S. airbase. Tajikistan, which hosts 7,000 Russian soldiers — Russia’s largest military contingent outside its borders — has a limited number of French troops stationed in Dushanbe airport, and the country’s border guards receive significant aids from the United States.

Uzbekistan, which in recent years closed down the U.S. airbase it had allowed on its territory as part of the military campaign in Afghanistan, has recently suggested that NATO will be allowed to use Uzbek military bases to support operations in the South Asian country.

Kazakhstan, the richest country in Central Asia, depends on Western investments to fund the development of its oilfields. While it was the first country to approve the CSTO plan, even Russian media has questioned Astana’s commitment to it, with the Russian daily “Vremya novostei” recently writing that “Kazakhstan is the least economically dependent on Russia and, unlike others in the region, has not faced severe security threats from religious extremists coming from Afghanistan.”

RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service contributed to this report