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Russia is keen on united Afghanistan - 29.8.2007
Alexander Umnov (Photo:

Russia is keen on united AfghanistanBy Alexander Umnov, senior research officer at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russia, which was a republic of the former Soviet Union, has had no a common border with Afghanistan for over 16 years. However, it continues to display its interest in Afghanistan, which is separated by Kazakhstan and the Central Asian states. Firstly, Afghanistan is propped up with the southern border of the former Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan). Secondly, it is linked with them by ethnic and cultural roots. Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Kyrgyz live along both sides of the Afghan-Central Asian border.

Consequently, not only the republics bordering with Afghanistan respond to the developments on the other side of the border. Currently, all these facts are quite important when Afghanistan acts as the bridgehead of the fight against Islamic terrorism and organized drug dealers.

Mountainous ridges divide Afghanistan into north-western and south-eastern. Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmen live in north-western Afghanistan, while Pushtuns in south-eastern regions. The number of non-Pushtuns together with Hazaris exceeds the population of Pashto origin. In fact, many Pushtuns are linked with the Taliban-led international terrorists. In these circumstances, it appears that the split of Afghanistan in to two parts - largely-non-Pashto-populated north-west bordering with the former southern republics of the Soviet Union and largely-Pashto-populated south-east bordering with Pakistan - is in Russias interests. The reason here is that the threat posed by terrorists will be pushed away from the south of former Soviet Union, which has not appropriately equipped border with Russia yet.

This scheme may work in short-term developments but not in long-term. International terrorism has no borders. A split of Afghanistan and turning its south-east into a terrorism sanctuary will hardly meet Russias interests. Only the full integration of the south-east into Afghanistan could avert the threat of split. To this end there is a need to return Pushtuns the uniting-nation role since, as the experience shows, none of the other ethnic group in the country cannot play it.

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