Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Special Reports

Between Co-operation and Insulation: Afghanistan’s Relations with the Central Asian Republics

Christian Bleuer S Reza Kazemi 2 min

The latest AAN report, “Between Co-operation and Insulation: Afghanistan’s Relations with the Central Asian Republics”, by Christian Bleuer and Said Reza Kazemi, looks at the state of Afghanistan’s relationships to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia to the north.

Photo: PajhwokPhoto: Pajhwok

The authors look at the multi- and bilateral cooperation on various levels and from both angles, the Afghan and the respective Central Asian ones, as well as at the role the US and Russia play for security, economy and counter-narcotics efforts in the region. They also assess the connections regarding local government authorities, commanders, traders, insurgents and Islamists.

The research in this report focuses especially on local and regional security trends involving Afghanistan and the Central Asia republics. In this regard, both state and non-state level interactions are analysed. The authors emphasise the difficulty of predicting future security scenarios. Nevertheless, they argue that security risks allegedly coming from Afghanistan are often highly exaggerated in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, especially regarding narcotics trafficking and radical Islamist groups.

The paper also looks into the economic ties between the Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan; the report details how, starting from a very low level, economic ties between Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia have expanded considerably since 2001. But economic integration in the region will continue to suffer due to the fact that all countries involved remain to be marginal economic hinterlands mainly connected in different directions (Afghanistan to Pakistan and Iran; Central Asia to Russia and China), combined with serious security and infrastructure problems.

The outcome of the presidential election in Afghanistan will be an important factor determining the future relations of Afghanistan with its neighbouring and other countries. It needs to be watched to what extent it heralds shifts in Afghanistan’s domestic and foreign policies and how the on-going international security and economic drawdown impact current trends in Afghan-Central Asian interactions.


Christian Bleuer is an independent researcher and consultant based in Central Asia since 2011. He is a recent (2012) PhD graduate of The Australian National University’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (The Middle East and Central Asia). In 2007 he received his MA from Indiana University’s Central Eurasian Studies Department. His current research focuses on politics, the economy and patterns of conflict and competition throughout Central Asia.

Said Reza Kazemi is a PhD candidate (2014-16) at the University of Heidelberg’s Cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”. He did his MA in politics and security in Central Asia at the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe (OSCE) Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He has recently worked as a researcher in the Afghanistan Analysts Network (2012-13) and as a visiting researcher in the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) (2014).

The full report can be downloaded here.

The executive summary can be found here.

A dispatch discussing the main findings of the report can be found here.


Central Asia


Christian Bleuer

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