The New Great Game Round Up- November 24, 2013

Military Aid for Central Asia, Let the Destabilization of China Begin, China-Russia Promote War on Terror & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Negotiations between Washington and Kabul about the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 dragged on for quite some time with immunity for the Americans being the most contentious issue. This week, the corrupt Karzai government gave in and agreed that U.S. forces will be under the jurisdiction of the United States and not subject to Afghan courts. As seen in Iraq, denial of immunity is the only way to get the Americans to leave. Since this obstacle has been removed, Afghanistan will be occupied for several years to come:

US troops could stay in Afghanistan until 2024 - security pact The US and Afghanistan have reportedly agreed on the draft of a mutual security pact indicating that US troops could remain in the country until 2024, according to Afghanistan. However, the US insists that some final details still need to be clarified.

Let the Destabilization of China Begin

Afghanistan's grand council (Loya Jirga) approved the bilateral security agreement but President Karzai hesitates to sign the deal. Karzai had previously suggested that the security pact should be signed by his successor after the Afghan presidential election in April 2014. However, Washington does not want to wait until next year and pressures the Afghan President to make a decision before the end of this year. Although the future of American forces in Afghanistan is still not entirely resolved, the prospect of continued U.S. presence in the region and plans to retain nine military bases are more than enough to raise concerns in Russia [emphasis mine]:

Russia Concerned at US Plans for Bases in AfghanistanA senior Russian diplomat has voiced concerns over US plans to retain nine military bases in Afghanistan after their planned withdrawal from the country. Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told RIA Novosti in an interview Wednesday that the bases would “exert a serious influence on the whole vast Asian region and become a powerful foothold for any large-scale military operation.” 

Moscow has always been suspicious of Washington's plans in Afghanistan after 2014 and was not deceived by stories about the much-publicized "withdrawal" of NATO troops. After all, the United States would never consider to abandon the strategically important country and to leave the field to the Kremlin without a struggle. Many people in Central Asia were not convinced either:

United States manipulate Kazakhstan to influence Central Asia

Independent Kazakhstan commentator Andrei Scherbakov said to, that we should not dramatize the situation, as the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan - is largely a myth, NATO bases and troops stay in there. The excesses of obsolete weapons will be successfully evacuated through Pakistani corridors, the same way them got into Afghanistan.

Scherbakov also explained why the Americans are interested in having a foothold in the region and what this means for China: 

He noted that terrorist activity in China last days - is just a signal that the project on Central Asia destabilization as the "backyard" of China has already begun, but it is also a test mode. In the coming years, we can expect increased influence of radical Islamists as a "soft power”, the expert said.

Washington's soft power is as notorious as are its jihadi mercenaries. China is experiencing this now at first-hand thanks to terrorist groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). According to Clifford A. Kiracofe, former staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the involvement of Uyghur terrorists in the Tiananmen Square attack proves that Beijing must not underestimate the terror threat:

Square incident shows signs of links to wider Islamist terror networksFor example, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are well known. Both are closely linked to Al Qaeda and its affiliates. These organizations have made their agenda clear through public announcements. They say they are conducting a jihad to separate Xinjiang from China in order to form an Islamic state called "East Turkistan." 

If ETIM & Co. succeed in establishing "East Turkestan", the United States will contribute the appropriate government. East Turkestan's self-elected Prime Minister in exile, Anwar Yusuf Turani, has been waiting for this opportunity since 2004.

Clifford also emphasized the direct connections of Uyghur terrorist groups to Central Asian organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Both ETIM and IMU play a central role in Washington's East Turkestan project and the IMU is reportedly looking to step up its activities: 

Islamic terrorists looking for financing to step up activities - Uzbek security officer

"Substantial preparations are being made both by the IMU and other terrorist organizations, which are looking for new sources of finances in an attempt to strengthen their material-technical basis," the reports cited Nozim Atakulov of the Uzbek National Security Service as saying. "One of their methods is assistance in recruiting militants for Syria. They receive quite large dividends for this," Atakulov said. "They recruit people to their ranks from our region, Chechnya, and right from the Pakistan-Afghan region where they are based," he said.

China, Russia Promote War on Terror

Destabilizing Xinjiang, supplying fighters for the proxy war in Syria and recruiting new members from Chechnya?! Coincidentally, these terrorists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan conduct their jihad always in accordance with U.S. foreign policy.  

China and Russia are increasingly fed up with this policy and prefer stability in the Eurasian Balkans and beyond. Therefore Beijing and Moscow want to strengthen their ties with important players in the region. Pakistan already showed its willingness to fight anti-Chinese terrorist activities and is one the same page with China and Russia regarding Afghanistan: 

Pakistan, China, Russia hold trilateral dialogue on Afghanistan   Senior Pakistani, Chinese and Russian officials Wednesday reaffirmed support for an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and underlined the importance of intensified efforts in that direction. In the regional context, the three parties agreed to strengthen the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Afghanistan. Russian and Pakistani delegations expressed their support to China's hosting of the Ministerial meeting of Istanbul Process in Tianjin in 2014.

Furthermore, Beijing advocates for closer cooperation with another SCO observer state, Pakistan's eternal rival India. When the foreign ministers of China and Russia travelled recently to New Delhi to meet with their Indian counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the case for a "trilateral cooperation from a strategic and comprehensive point of view":

China calls for strategic, comprehensive China-Russia-India cooperation He suggested that the three countries should focus their cooperation on three aspects: firstly, increasing strategic trust among them and regarding each other as true strategic partner rather than rival. Secondly, coordinating in major international affairs to safeguard their own interests and promoting democratization of international relations as well as the construction of a multipolar world. Thirdly, deepening and strengthening pragmatic cooperation and playing a major role in building the Silk Route Economic Corridor and Asia-European Continental Bridge.

During the meeting, terrorism was high on the agenda as well. The three foreign ministers highlighted the importance of fighting terrorism, which they identified as the main threat to Afghanistan's security, and condemned in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack at Tiananmen Square. This incident really struck a nerve in China and reinforced the Chinese government's decision to build a full-fledged police state:

Chinese cities investing in 'skynet' surveillance networks

Various cities across China are building "skynet" networks that can achieve full coverage of a fixed area with real-time monitoring and recorded video surveillance, reports Duowei News, an outlet run by overseas Chinese. A recent slate of terror attacks, including a high-profile jeep crash in Tiananmen Square in Beijing late last month, has again highlighted the country's plans to increase public surveillance under the banner of "maintaining social order and combating illegal activity."

Chinese fear a new KGB as Beijing sets up powerful national security body Beijing announced at the end of the Communist Party Central Committee’s four-day third plenum that ended on Tuesday that “A national security committee will be established to perfect the national security system and national security strategy and safeguard national security.” Without offering details, the communiqué caused worry among citizens who said “national security” might be used as an excuse for leaders to persecute dissidents in order to preserve their rule.

It is questionable if a Chinese KGB or Cheka really solves China's terror problem. But before more radical measures could be discussed or implemented, China was already rocked by another attack, this time as usual in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or East Turkestan: 

China says Xinjiang police station attacked by axe, knife-wielding mob, 11 dead Eleven people were killed and two injured in China's troubled far-west region of Xinjiang when a group of people armed with axes and knifes attacked a police station on Saturday, state media reported on Sunday. "Nine mobs holding knives and axes attacked a police station at Bachu county, killing two auxiliary policemen and injuring another two policemen," according to a report on, which cited a web report from the Xinjiang government.

When guns and explosives are not readily available, knives and axes are the weapons of choice for the "liberation of East Turkestan". So assaults on police stations by knife-wielding mobs are not an unusual occurrence in Xinjiang. The latest violent raid prompted calls for a strengthening of the police force and police infrastructure in local areas across the autonomous region. Moreover, Uyghurs are supposed to take more responsibility in Xinjiang's war on terror:

Stronger police force needed in Xinjiang to fight terrorism In Xinjiang, security forces should carry out more preparatory drills to fight terrorists and encourage the general public to participate. Such a move is likely to increase people's sense of security and serve to protect the region's economy. The ratio of the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang's police force, including special police forces, should be increased. This will not only mobilize all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to fight terrorism but also help to break the rumor that violence originates from ethnic conflicts.

Because Beijing knows that it is easier to contain the terror threat with the help of local partners, the Chinese government wants to prioritize the matter within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Recent joint Chinese-Indian anti-terror drills are probably just the beginning and China will encourage more countries to join the fight against ETIM & Co. at the next SCO summit:  

SCO summit to focus on battling terrorism and Asia-Europe transport corridor Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said on Wednesday that all SCO member states will discuss strengthening cooperation on combating the "three evil forces" - terrorism, separatism and extremism - particularly related to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.

Military Aid for Central Asia

In order to ensure stability near Chinese borders, Beijing offers its support in enhancing the military capabilities of several states in the region. Since Kyrgyzstan borders China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the Kyrgyz military needs all assistance it can get, the Chinese government is prepared to help out:

Armed forces of Kyrgyzstan receive military assistance from China According to him, heads of the ministry do their best to draw extra-budgetary funds to the armed forces. The results of their work for 2012 showed that the republic has received military and technical aid at $3,360 million from the foreign countries. In 2013 the sum of agreements only with China amounted to $ 17.5 million. The first tranche in form of motor vehicles has been already received.

Although Turkmenistan does not share a border with China, the Turkmen regime can likewise count on Beijing's support. The Central Asian republic is China's largest natural gas supplier and its stability is therefore an important matter for the Chinese leadership. So the two countries advance their strategic partnership by strengthening cooperation between Turkmen and Chinese armed forces:

China, Turkmenistan to enhance defense cooperation

In his meeting with Turkmen Defense Minister Begenc Gundogdiyev, Vice Chairman of China's Central Military Commission Fan Changlong said it conforms with the core interests of both peoples to further advance the strategic partnership. He said China will continue to maintain high-level exchanges, and increase cooperation on personnel training in order to take bilateral military ties to a new level.

Tajikistan on the other hand will get assistance from Russia. In return for Dushanbe's decision to extend Russia's military presence on Tajik territory until 2042, the Kremlin promised military aid to the tune of 150 million - 200 million dollars. Aside from that, Russia's military base in Tajikistan is being upgraded, and Russia as well as the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will assist in securing the Tajik-Afghan border:

Russia-Led Bloc to Help Tajikistan Boost Afghan Border Defenses A Russia-led regional military alliance of former Soviet states will help Tajikistan strengthen its border with Afghanistan by the end of this year, the organization’s head said Tuesday. CSTO members, Russia in particular, will provide Tajikistan with armaments and military hardware for free by the end of this year, Bordyuzha said. A targeted interstate program for creating relevant infrastructure on Tajik-Afghan border will be drafted soon, he said.

Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon is aware of the upcoming challenges for his country and lost no time after his controversial re-election to reshuffle the government in oder to consolidate his position. Among others, Rahmon replaced Tajikistan's long-serving Defense Minister, Sherali Khairulloyev:

Tajik Army Chief Sacked Ahead of US Afghan Pullout The defense minister of Tajikistan, who has been in his job for 18 years, was dismissed Wednesday, months ahead of an expected rise in tensions in neighboring Afghanistan. Sherali Khairulloyev, 65, did not make the new government of recently re-elected President Emomali Rakhmon, the presidential press service said.

The post was given to Sherali Mirzo, 46, who has served as head of Tajikistan’s border guard service.

Khairulloyev is famous for being a prodigious drinker and his military operations were not crowned with success lately. Rahmon also dismissed the governor of the volatile Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, Kodir Kosim. As previously discussed, Gorno-Badakhshan might face more terrorist activities in the near future [emphasis mine]:

Russia and China will help prevent creation of ‘Great Badakhshan’, says Tajik expert

In a report released at a news conference in Dushanbe, deputy director of the Center for Strategic Studies, Sayfullo Safarov, revealed on July 12 that some countries are hatching plan to merge Afghan Badakhshan and Tajik Gorno Badakhshan and create a new state under the name of “Great Badakhshan.”

One prime suspect to participate in the destabilization of the Tajik province is the spiritual leader of the Pamiri people, Aga Khan, and so the Paris-based current Imam of Nizari Ismailism has already "fully" denied any involvement in plans to form "Great Badakhshan". We will see if there is any truth to this statement.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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