The American pullout from Afghanistan has the potential to destabilize the entire region.
In his State of the Union speech on February 12, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that by the end of 2014 "our war in Afghanistan will be over." This step, long expected, will decrease security in neighboring Central Asia. Flows northward from Afghanistan of terrorists and narcotics will put at greater risk a region already weakened by corruption, despotism, and ethnic and water tensions. The West should do more to enhance security in Central Asia, comprised of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
U.S. policy is predicated on the expectation that the 350,000-strong Afghan National Army, with assistance from U.S. advisers, will be able to keep the Taliban at bay. It is more likely that after 2014, barring a political agreement, the Taliban will remain in the field with control in most Pashtun areas and perhaps beyond. A bloodied but still standing Taliban would also pose a danger beyond its borders.
In the 1990s, Taliban control in Afghanistan spurred extremists in Central Asia. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and carried out bombings in Uzbekistan and kidnappings in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In 2004 a splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), claimed suicide bombings in Uzbekistan and targeted the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Tashkent. Both groups are now holed up in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, but as NATO leaves Afghanistan they will probably carry the fight back to Central Asian homelands.