Just to show there isn’t a monolithic thing called Registan, I thought I would voice my opinion. I think of Afghanistan as being separated from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan by a 700-foot tall magical wall of ice. This ice wall represents the historical trajectory of the 19th and 20th centuries that took two locales connected in history towards to very different horizons. Of course they remain geographically connected, but the infrastructures and realities there are, for all of me, quite difficult to compare.
There is probably too much said of the ethnic differences on either side of the Hindu Kush, but it’s worth repeating that in some sense, Uzbek-i-stan and Tajik-i-stan and Turkmen-i-stan, places where people self-identify as Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Turkmen, all must include northern Afghanistan. And yet, I’m nervous about the prospect of the “friendship bridge” at Termez being put into use. On a superficial level, it will be one more way for the US to mimic the faults of the USSR. In another much more real way, it will cause many of the same problems.
And here I mean that Karimov is more or less promising to keep his populace in line as he aids and abets a foreign power that is striving to dominate his southern neighbor. This southern neighbor is bound by ties of ethnicity and religion and history, and the everyday Uzbeks of Uzbekistan may look down their noses at the Uzbeks of Afghanistan, but they’re certainly more likely to let a son marry one of them than let one marry a Russian or American. What I mean is – we are making this same mistake that cost the USSR so much. The Uzbek citizens on the ground in Uzbekistan have no reason to help the US handle southern and eastern Afghanistan, and if problems in northern Afghanistan develop as a result of this partnership, they will likely be involved in actively working against us.
This is me shooting from the hip in response to Joshua’s very logical and well-written piece, and I doubt the Atlantic is gonna be knocking on my door after this. But I would just have it be known that I am not convinced by Nathan and Joshua’s arguments, though I respect them a lot. In short, I think this will be helping Afghanistan at the expense of Uzbekistan, and not really helping that much. I don’t doubt that Karimov is glad to see this happen. Do we really need another reason to question it after acknowledging that?