Central Asia has become more visibly significant as the West has engaged in Afghanistan. The logistics routes to support Afghanistan often reached through Central Asia.
But as the big Afghan engagement draws down, it would be a mistake to return to benign neglect of this region. The US and the West have significant interests in the region. And the significant role which Russia and China play here as well are important elements of the evolving Russian and Chinese global presence.
However challenging it is to work with the Central Asians, there interests in independence is clear. And their efforts to shape their role in the world can work to the advantage of the United States and the West and be key elements in shaping a policy to constrain any Russian or Chinese adventurism in the neighborhood and beyond.
And clearly Iran sees a key role in shaping its influence in the region for its global agenda. As Robert Kaplan has argued:
Imagine an Iran athwart the pipeline routes of Central Asia, along with its substate, terrorist empire-of-sorts in the Greater Middle East. Clearly, we are talking here of a twenty-first-century successor to Mackinder’s Heartland Pivot.
Kaplan, Robert D. (2012-09-11). The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (Kindle Locations 4383-4384). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
In this special report, Richard Weitz looks at various aspects of the evolution of policy in the region and how the dynamics of change might play out in the period ahead.