By Major-General, Doctor of Political Science, Hayk Kotanjian
Guest contributor to EGF
On October 10 2013, within the framework of the Kyrgyz Republic’s chairmanship in the CSTO, an academic-practical conference “Afghanistan 2014: Prospects of the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, challenges and threats to security in Central Asia in the context of the withdrawal of main contingents of the International security assistance force" took place in Bishkek. Experts from 27 countries, as well as from the CSTO, NATO, the UN, the OSCE, the EU, the SCO, the ICRC and other international organizations attended the conference.
The recent session of the CSTO’s Collective Security Council in Sochi highlighted the need for close attention to the fact that the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan would introduce a new pattern of challenges and threats into the security dynamics of Central Asia and the CSTO responsibility area in general. We believe that it is expedient to perceive these challenges from the position of the modern "smart power" approach proposed by Harvard University Distinguished Professor Joseph Nye – targeting at the transformation of these new challenges into new opportunities to improve the efficiency of our Organization in the political and legal, politico-diplomatic, military-political, military-economic, and military and information fields. It is about the goal of systemic enrichment of the CSTO's political and military component - in the future - both with the capabilities to conduct symmetric warfare and deter with politico-diplomatic and military means aggression against its members, as well as asymmetric warfare including elements of suppression of international terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, etc.
Sharing the common view of the primacy of the political component in the activities of the CSTO, I consider it my duty to share my view on the perspectives of a possible military involvement of our Organization or its members in an armed conflict in the territory of Afghanistan. In this regard, I am able to correlate my one-and-half-year experience of field researcher gained in Afghanistan with the knowledge acquired over the last years during my academic trainings on counter-terrorism and international security issues at the US National Defense University (NDU), JFK School of Government of Harvard University, as well as in the last year's National Security Program in Israel. I have the honor to note that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan came into sharp focus at the recent Conference-meeting of the US NDU strategists-alumni in Washington with the participation of my distinguished colleague from Russia and I from the CSTO member states.
The direct involvement of the CSTO, as well as its individual members in the intra-Afghan conflict after the withdrawal of coalition forces in late 2014 could have dire consequences for the Organization. As an example, we can specify the failure of Great Britain in Afghanistan during the "Great Game" between the Russian and British Empires, the negative effects of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the recent events regarding the coalition forces in Afghanistan, where the objectives actually led to further aggravation of the situation not only in Afghanistan but also in its neighboring countries where large contingents of the same peoples, nationalities and tribes - followers of the same confessions - reside.
In my opinion, it should be considered as an encouraging fact the first signals of establishing a dialogue among the Russian Federation, the United States and Iran - under the auspices of the UN Security Council - on a number of fundamental regional security issues in the Middle East. It’s symptomatic the signal from Iran on the possibility of recognition of Holocaust. Monitoring the new trends appearing in the international security system, it would be appropriate for the CSTO - through Russia and other member states’ mediation - to continue consultations with both the US and NATO on the perspectives of establishing lasting peace in Central Asia. The Republic of Armenia having long-term experience of participation in the peacekeeping activities of coalition forces in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq and Kosovo, could become a useful party to such a dialogue.
The Republic of Armenia as a state co-founder of the CSTO takes great interest in the development of the Organization’s collective security system, in recent years becoming one of the intellectual platforms for academic-expert level discussions of the strategic directions of the CSTO’s development. Thus, in May 2011, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia in cooperation with the CSTO Secretariat organized a CSTO international conference in Yerevan, covering the discussion of the academic guidelines of elaborating the strategic concept of its development. Meanwhile, certain attention was paid to the assessment of the lessons of NATO when discussing the strategic concept of the Alliance's development at the Lisbon Summit.
In June 2013, Yerevan hosted the Strategic Forum “Political and Security Guidelines for the Formation of the CSTO’S Military Component” with the participation of representatives from the Joint Staff, Analytical Association and Academic-Expert Council of the CSTO organized by the CSTO Secretariat, our Institute for National Strategic Studies. The Yerevan Forum became one of the first steps in understanding the large-scale problems of furthering the military component of the Organization to a qualitatively new level enabling to promptly and effectively respond to the existing and anticipated challenges and threats to national and collective security of the member states, which were identified by the Heads of CSTO member states by the December 19, 2012 resolution. One of the priorities of the Yerevan Forum became the discussion of the political-strategic guidelines for elaboration of the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the Main development directions of the military cooperation of the CSTO member states for the period up to 2020.
It is significant that following the Yerevan forum among important issues at the Sochi summit were the CSTO’s military component development and the improvement of the CSTO Collective Forces’ management. I think that the current Bishkek forum can provide an additional impetus for the creation of the up-to-date integrated CSTO Collective Air Force not limited merely by the scope of the military-transport aircraft but also involving the components of combat aviation, including unmanned aircrafts. These small-sized specialized drones, as well as remote strike weapons' drone-carriers would allow effectively reconnoitering and launching high-precision strikes on paramilitary groups or even on terrorists without involving big contingents of regular ground forces.
The transformation of the challenges into the systemic promotion of the CSTO’s security capacities should become a response to the possible instability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of forces and the 2014 presidential elections with the return to power of the "Taliban" movement. The discussion of the political-strategic priorities for the development of the CSTO’s military component on the results of the Sochi Summit, as well as the decision taken in the same place to provide military-technical assistance to the border troops of Tajikistan to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan border are to play a key role in ensuring the security of the CSTO’s Central Asian member states.
Armenia considers the consolidation of the CSTO military component an important factor in maintaining stability and security also in the South Caucasus. Unfortunately, in our region there is a high probability of destabilization due to the intensifying arms race on the part of Azerbaijan, which is accompanied by its authorities’ aggressive rhetoric containing overt threats of resuming hostilities.
Under these conditions, Armenia is obliged to take adequate steps to keep the balance of power in the region, and in this issue we rely on the bilateral agreements with Russia, as well as on the membership in the CSTO. Armenia’s decision on accession to the Customs Union and entry into the formation process of the Eurasian Union is largely due to these defense-security realities.
At the same time, it should be noted that further enhancement of the CSTO’s efficiency directly depends on the coordination level of political activities both within our Organization and beyond. As the President of the Republic of Armenia Mr. Serzh Sargsyan stated in Sochi: - “It is critical that the CSTO carries on with the course of establishing partnership relations for regional and global cooperation. At the same time, it would be reasonable if interaction in that area is based proportionately to the attitude manifested by these organizations towards the CSTO”. Armenia's position on the necessity to strengthen the coordination of the member states on international and regional security issues was backed up by the Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin, who stated: - "We consider it essential that in shaping positions on various issues the CSTO countries are guided by allied commitments and consider the views of the partners."
In conclusion I would like to thank the hosts and organizers of the Conference, the CSTO Secretariat, highly esteemed Secretary-General Nikolay Bordyuzha for the invitation to participate in this important international conference, and wish all participants success in academic-expert support to effective development and activities of the CSTO under the challenges and threats in terms of the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan.
 ВЫСТУПЛЕНИЕ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА СЕРЖА САРГСЯНА НА СЕССИИ СОВЕТА КОЛЛЕКТИВНОЙ БЕЗОПАСНОСТИ ОДКБ В УЗКОМ СОСТАВЕ. 23 СЕНТЯБРЯ 2013 ГОДА. Официальный сайт Президента Республики Армения: http://www.president.am/
 ВЫСТУПЛЕНИЕ НА ЗАСЕДАНИИ СОВЕТА КОЛЛЕКТИВНОЙ БЕЗОПАСНОСТИ ОДКБ В РАСШИРЕННОМ СОСТАВЕ. 23 СЕНТЯБРЯ 2013 ГОДА, 16:40 СОЧИ. Официальный сайт Президента Российской Федерации: http://www.kremlin.ru/
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