Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings normally run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays. This Regional Briefing focuses on Central Asia and "the -stans," including Afghanistan. TOP TOPIC * Political analysts in Turkey are pessimistic about the country's relationship with the USA, some going so far as to pronounce the long-standing US-Turkish alliance dead. The souring of relations has prompted a vigorous debate in Turkey on the country’s strategic priorities. Other Topics Today Include: al-Qaeda's new Afghan offensive; Afghanistan/Pakistan ties strained; The new Afghan Army; "aid" workers; Preserving Afghanistan's cultural heritage; Azeris in Iran push for change; Russian-led rapid reaction force in Kyrgyzstan; Chechnya - a lesson for China?; 'Oil curse' for Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan?; Central Asia's water crisis; The Agonist cheats death in Tibet.
* Taliban forces based in Pakistan are intensifying attacks on US and Afghan government forces. According to the top US general in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters and affiliated Islamic militants have divided eastern Afghanistan into three zones for launching attacks. Meanwhile, al Qaeda is organizing openly in the Pakistani city of Quetta. * Which may help explain why a 500-strong mob attacked and ransacked the Pakistani embassy in Kabul on July 9, and destroyed almost everything they could get hold of. The embassy has since been reopened, but Pakistani-Afghan ties are very strained. Analysis from CACI, and Eurasianet.org looks at the situation. * Some good news: Sun Microsystems has joined in an effort with New York University to preserve what's left of the limited but rich written cultural heritage of Afghanistan. * Meanwhile, what to do with the Afghan National Army? Put it into battle. Could that weaken it? Yes. But then, so would not putting them into battle. * Wish we could throw some of these "aid workers" into battle. At least then they'd actually be doing something to help the Afghanis. * Russia is revamping an air base near Kyrgyzstan's capital to provide air support for an rapid reaction force that will operate under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty (CST), comprising more than 5,000 troops from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. The Kant base marks Moscow’s most significant move to project strategic power beyond Russia’s borders since the Soviet collapse in 1991. The country joins Georgia in having both U.S. and Russian bases on its soil. * On July 3, the most influential leader of the Azeri population of Iran and head of the Movement of National Revival of Southern Azerbaijan (MNRSA) Mahmudali Chehregani arrived in Baku. He is a supporter of reforms in Iran with the use of strong American backing. * Both China and Russia have separatist movements in territories that are majority Muslim, China's Xinjiang (Sinkiang) and Russia’s Chechnya. The character of the Uyghur resistance in Xinjiang has become more violent since 1997, and CACI believes the rise of militant radicalism in Chechnya offers the Chinese government an important lesson. * Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan may see poverty worsen as their oil exports grow, a panel of experts warned on June 26 during a discussion in New York. The panel called on international financiers, energy conglomerates, and large aid-giving countries to overhaul the way they work. * Water is a precious commodity in Central Asia, yet the systems in place waste large amounts of it. Eurasianet.org covers some proposed engineering projects, Western aid approaches, and other developments along this front. Don't be fooled by the topic - water disputes trump even oil as an issue with the potential for producing regional conflict. * Sean-Paul Kelly, a.k.a. Team Agonist's leader, cheated death yesterday in Tibet. A fitting bookend to the 30-hour long trip, by bus, to Lhasa from China. Nepal is next on his Silk Road Journeys, and it sounds like Chinese policy is about to get a very strong critic as a result of his trip. As it should.