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Will U.S. stay in Central Asia after withdrawal from Afghanistan?

08 November 2012 [17:31] - TODAY.AZ
Barack Obama has been re-elected as the U.S president. After a difficult election campaign, the U.S public moves to a new period, that is to wait for the fulfilment of promises. The promises of candidates for president often become the main force on the way to victory in the elections. Obama's promises this time were associated not only with the U.S internal problems, but foreign policy. One of the most important in this area is to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's problem, along with other factors greatly increases the importance of Central Asia for Washington. The continued anti-terrorist operations of the coalition forces in Afghanistan demanded the transportation of large volumes of military equipment to the territory of this country and now, Obama must decide its further fate as part of his promises.

One of the major issues today is whether the U.S will remain in Central Asia after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and the U.S new old president's attention swing to cooperation with the five countries of the region.

Obviously the White House will be interested in maintaining its influence in the region and there are a number of reasons. One of the main U.S. competitors in the region is Russia. It is disadvantageous for Washington to voluntarily get out of here by providing Moscow with the sole right to control the Central Asian countries and place its weapons here, as one can see in the case of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Both countries today have significant Russian military contingent. Moscow has already agreed to Dushanbe and Bishkek to extend its presence there.

Moreover, the White House is unlikely to want to completely withdraw from Afghanistan and then from Central Asia, given its proximity to another global giant, China, which like Russia, is also interested in Central Asian integration. However, as opposed to Moscow, Beijing is more committed to use economic measures to expand its sphere of influence.

Moreover, one of the largest drug trafficking routes passes through Central Asia. It would be very strange for the U.S to leave the issue of combating drug trafficking without control.

It will be extremely unprofitable for Obama from a financial point of view to return military equipment and arms from Afghanistan to the U.S. It will be more convenient to partially sell them on spot or on the way, or 'preserve' for one of the countries in the region for the future. The position of the Central Asian countries may be determinant in this issue.

Perhaps, Obama will have difficulty finding regional allies. Turkmenistan is unlikely to agree to conduct any negotiations with the U.S. on transiting and placing military equipment on its territory. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan mutually cooperate with Russia, which at present can give much more to these two countries without a lot of problems than the U.S can offer. Neither Dushanbe, nor Bishkek will support Washington in favour of Moscow, which will stand against these events.

Kazakhstan can at least provide the U.S with a transit corridor along with existing capabilities to transport non-military cargo to and from Afghanistan. Astana has always had warm relations with Moscow, having integration associations with it. Moreover it does not need anything that the U.S could offer in exchange for a favour from Kazakhstan in this issue.

Perhaps the U.S. president will manage to agree with Uzbekistan, which is now suffering the worst period of its cooperation with Russia, but it is difficult to assume the topic of agreement.

Observers have to wait for the U.S newly elected president to recover from the hard election race and return to resolving important foreign policy issues.

Viktoriya Zhavoronkova /Trend/

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