Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 44

At a regular meeting in Almaty devoted to ecological problems on February 28, the presidents of the five Central Asian countries also considered the regional security implications of the Talibans’ advance into northern Afghanistan. The discussion followed up a February 25 meeting held in Tashkent attended by Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov and the four Central Asian Defense Ministers. (See Monitor, February 28) Uzbek president Islam Karimov, describing the Taliban as a "big aggressive force," warned on February 28 that euphoria from victory could carry the Taliban over Afghanistan’s borders into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Turkmenistan this spring. Karimov urged his colleagues jointly to "plan preventive measures". Tajik president Imomali Rahmonov seconded Karimov’s call, and also raised the alarm over a possible refugee exodus of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks from Afghanistan and an infiltration of guerrillas into Central Asia with the refugees. Kazakstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev appeared keen to downplay the alarmist view, while Turkmen president Saparmurad Niazov almost certainly avoided participating in the discussion — as he always does on political-military issues.

The Presidents reviewed the three scenarios Rodionov had proposed at the Tashkent meeting. One of them, reported after that meeting, envisages creating two joint Russian-Central Asian motorized army divisions to contain the Taliban, and is based on the CIS Collective Security Treaty signed by six countries back in 1992. A second scenario, reported after the Almaty meeting, envisages providing joint support to the ethnic Uzbek forces of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum in northern Afghanistan. In addition, Moscow is considering beefing up the "peacekeeping" 201st motor-rifle division in Tajikistan in response to possible developments in Afghanistan. Moscow and Karimov have yet to react to the Taliban leadership’s assurances that they have no intention to attack Central Asia.

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