Stabilizing the Stans

WASHINGTON, DC – Recent violence in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, following civil strife in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, has intensified international concern about Central Asia’s security as the region becomes increasingly important for delivering NATO supplies to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Central Asian countries allow NATO members and partners to transport supplies through their territory to support military forces in Afghanistan – an essential complement to the flow of supplies to the ISAF through Pakistan, which is vulnerable to tensions with the United States.

These countries have been logical partners for NATO in Afghanistan. They share Western concerns about a revival of the Afghan Taliban and their potential support for extremist Islamist movements in other Central Asian countries. Indeed, all five of the post-Soviet Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – have been targeted by Muslim extremist organizations linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Moreover, Central Asian leaders are eager to maintain NATO’s presence in Eurasia as a way to balance China and Russia. Although the region’s leaders generally enjoy good relations with both countries, they fear that Russian military and Chinese economic dominance could lead to the rise a Sino-Russian condominium at their expense.