(G.N.S) Dt. 23
The Russian military operation in Syria has been decisive in achieving victory against the ISIS and securing peace against the terror network. By the end of Oct 2017 the Syrian territory controlled by ISIS had shrunk to 5%, compared to over 70% before the start of the operation by the Russian Air Force. Since 2015, about 1,000 cities and towns in Syria with an aggregate area of over 500,000 sq km have been liberated, and 1.1 million people have returned to their homes, according to persons familiar with the process.
The operation by Russia has enabled preserving the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and created conditions for restoring peace. Russian anti-terror operations has also been hailed by SCO which inducted India as a member last year. It may be recalled that the operation, begun on September 30, 2015. Since then Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called on his foreign partners to join the fight against terror. The Russian Armed Forces played a key role in saving Syria, according to Putin. Syrian President Assad has hailed role of Russia in defeating ISIS in his country. “Syrian people will never forget the courage of Russians who helped us to drive away terrorists and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” Assad said at a meeting with commanders of the Russian army last year.
The scope of the peace process in Syria was to a large extent set by the joint statement adopted by the Russian and US leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam. “The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character,” the document reads.
A crucial stage in the Syrian political settlement will be the Congress of the National Dialogue of Syria, the idea of which was proposed by Moscow and supported by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Erdogan at the trilateral summit in Sochi on November 22, 2017.
Yet the USA may have some different plans for Syria. The Washington Post recently quoted its sources as saying that the US administration did not intend to withdraw troops from Syria after defeating ISIS, but planned to establish a new government in the north of the country. According to Washington Post, American officials hope to use their permanent military presence in the north of Syria to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in order to get concessions from Assad at the talks in Geneva held under the auspices of the UN.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government has stated that priority in restoration work will be given to Russia and Iran — the countries that actively supported Syria in its fight for territorial integrity and independence against terrorist groups. At the same time, it is obvious that many countries including India want to participate in the restoration, since there is a lot of work to be done.
While ISIS has been defeated in Syria, the terrorists are beginning to return to their original countries – to Central Asia and the Xinjian Uygur Autonomus Area of China — via Afghanistan, according to Police Colonel General Andrey Novikov, head of the CIS Antiterrorist Center. He believes that ISIS is introducing a new extremism model in Central Asia. Central Asian countries are now faced with the threat of their own citizens returning from Syria and Iraq and forming radical groups. Uzbekistan under the new President will however may be in a better position to fight ISIS. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president of Uzbekistan, has already managed to reduce tensions in the Uzbek-Kyrgyz relations, by choosing a policy towards building smooth relations with neighbors.
In less than a year, the border conflict was descalated, and Bishkek and Tashkent were able to reach an agreement on 85% of their border, and establish round-the-clock border checkpoints. He also improved ties with Tajikistan, expanded ties with Afghanistan and desires to make India a key partner. The ISIS fighters are apprehensive to return to Uzbekistan because of strong rule of law. Tajikistan is also taking steps to control ISIS.
In 2016, ISIS allocated over $50 million for disruptive activities in Central Asia. There are websites used to recruit and brainwash “candidates.” Its growing “investment” in Central Asia is the reason for its popularity in Afghanistan, where it successfully competes with the Taliban. Role of SCO with its strong anti-terror charter will be critical in fighting ISIS in Central Asia and Eurasia.