A Great Game with New Rules
Central Asia is no longer the contested territory in a great geopolitical game fought among great powers. Few borders are seriously contested, unlike the situation in the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. Despite regional problems involving the exploitation of water resources, inter-ethnic distrust, economic reform, and the development of democracy, the risk of open warfare erupting between the states of the region is small. However, a geopolitical as well as ideological game is still being played with regard to Afghanistan, the most dangerous powder keg in the region. The civil war in Afghanistan has served as a catalyst, creating new boundaries and dividing her neighbours according to how they have responded to the political, religious, social, and military turmoil there. The rise to power of extremist Islamic groups in Afghanistan was in recent years the major security threat to the region, inspiring for example some parts of Tajikistan, showing a potential to involve all Afghanistan’s neighbours including nuclear weapons-armed Pakistan. The extremist groups suffered a setback when a coalition led by the United States in late 2001 destroyed the Afghan Taliban government. Yet, extremist Islamic thought remains widespread and Afghanistan remains dangerously unstable, despite the presence of a new Afghan government set up by the victors…

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