The Afghanistan-Kyrgyzstan Nexus

May 20, 2010 — Two of International Crisis Group’s field-based experts joined us for a discussion on the confluence of instability in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Kabul-based senior analyst Candace Rondeaux and Bishkek-based Central Asia Project Director Paul Quinn-Judge will addressed key regional and national developments in the neighborhood and US security interests, challenges, and responses to them. The conversation drew from two new Crisis Group publications – “Kyrgyzstan: A Hollow Regime Collapses” and “Force in Fragments: Reconstituting the Afghan National Army.”

Paul Quinn-Judge kicked off the discussion by focusing on the current security and political situation in Kyrgyzstan following the removal of the Bakiyev regime in April. In addition to describing the course of events leading up to the regime change and addressing the political challenges facing the interim government, Quinn-Judge focused on the collapse of the country’s energy infrastructure and some of the security issues that could play a destabilizing role on the Kyrgyz government. These include ethnic tensions in the south and the threat of an infiltration of jihadis from other parts of Central and South Asia.

Candace Rondeaux followed with an analysis of the security situation in Afghanistan and the constraints that confront the ISAF given the limitations of the Afghan government and power of the Taliban propaganda campaign. Rondeaux addressed the current military operations in Marja and Helmand Province and discussed how the impact of the move into Kandahar Province will likely determine the trajectory of the war over the next few years. Further, Rondeaux called attention to the unrealistic expectations of the international community in regards to the size and effectiveness of the Afghan National Army and the timeline for a withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan.

The question and answer session touched on a number of issues related to political institutions or lack thereof in both Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. The role of Russian influence in the Kyrgyz regime change was discussed, as was the lack of international support and advice for the interim government, which lacks the administrative capacity and a coherent and sophisticated security structure. The legitimacy and efficacy of the Afghan government was also discussed.

The role of perceptions and the expectations of Afghan citizens were highlighted as being key to the success of the U.S. and Coalition forces as they implement a counterinsurgency strategy. The lack of trust in the central government extends to every part of society and makes many of the problems facing Afghanistan extremely difficult to solve. Opium production, an inherent part of the conversation about the Taliban, is also a visible sign of the corruption that exists on almost every level of Afghan society. Lastly, the gap between the illusion of the military successes in Helmand and the reality of the security situation will become even more important in the lead up to the military offensive into Kandahar.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are OFF-THE-RECORD. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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