'Stans' nations meet in Germany to talk about drugs, terrorism
January 19, 2005
GARMISCH, Germany — The five “Stans” — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — aren’t new as neighbors but they are new at working together.
The young democracies, established after the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, are strategically located: to their south are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran; to their east, China, and to their north, Russia. Including Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Stans area is about three-fourths the size of the continental United States with a population of 230 million.
Last week, leaders from the five countries met at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies to discuss fighting terrorism and stopping drug trafficking. Also on the agenda were causes of instability in the region and the roles of security forces.
“Each are long-term problems that won’t lend themselves to easy and quick solutions,” said Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, which organized the conference along with the Marshall Center.
“[They] need to look at the whole picture, not the one-country-at-a-time picture,” Barno said.
The Marshall Center was founded in 1993 by the U.S. and German Defense departments and hosts conferences and classes designed to help former Soviet-bloc nations establish their independence.
More than 90 delegates — mostly defense and foreign affairs ministers, diplomats and their deputies — came to the conference. Remarks were translated into English, Russian and Dari and kept off the record so delegates could speak freely.
Representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan also attended.
It was hoped the meetings would help the nations move past historical divisions and think as a region, according to Roger D. Kangas, who holds a doctorate and is professor of Central Asian Studies at the center.
“If there was a lesson of the 1990s, it was that ignoring Afghanistan and its internal problems was a mistake,” said Kangas, referring to the rise of the hard-line Taliban regime and the al-Qaida group that took refuge in the country. “Right now, we have a second chance to get it right.”
“We need to move from discussion to real action. If we’re going to do a counter-terrorism center or counter-narcotics center, where would it be located, how would it be financed, what activities would it perform, who would it engage?”
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of poppy, the plant from which heroin is made. But more than half of Afghanistan’s heroin is transferred through the Stans on its way to dealers and users in the West, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Mergel of the German army and the Marshall Center.
“And transfer countries become consumer countries,” Mergel said.
One suggestion that came out of the conference, he said, was for nations to assign liaison officers to work with each other to address drug trafficking.
The group had met twice before, in March 2003 in Kyrgyzstan and February 2004 in Uzbekistan. This, however, was the first time that Afghanistan and Pakistan were invited.
“The time was simply not right to invite them [before],” Mergel said. “But they are facing the same problems, so they should be part of the solution.
“You want to make progress, so it’s not time to exclude a single country.”