IMU Seeking Revenge?

by Nathan Hamm on 6/7/2005

Katy sent me an interesting analytical piece from RIA Novosti wondering whether IMU & Co. seeks revenge against the US by striking at targets in Uzbekistan. They certainly have the motive, and attacks against US targets in Uzbekistan hurts both the US and the Uzbek government (and, one should note, upsets Uzbeks much more than attacking the police does).

According to some Russian experts, Uzbekistan, being a central link in the region, will be the target of attacks on the part of extremist groups. The threats against the U.S. might certainly indicate an attempt to retaliate against the leader of anti-terrorist coalition, which conducts successful operations in the neighboring Afghanistan. However, what is really interesting is whether these threats will force the U.S. and Europe to look at the situation in Uzbekistan from a different perspective?

In answer to that question, I suppose it could, but I have my doubts that it will. If it’s a question of reinterpreting Andijon, I don’t think US and European officials are at all interested in changing their view of the situation. Even if Karimov happened to be 100% correct about every last detail of the unrest on May 13, it’s hard to dismiss that economic issues that have been at the heart of other protests are real and providing opportunities for Islamists. But, it’s awfully hard to take at its word a government who signed a memorandum of understanding promising significant reform that hasn’t just been slow to reform, but has backpedaled over the last year. Add on top of that the numerous structural problems with the Uzbek legal system that make it absolutely impossible to assess how many convictions for religious extremism are actually deserved, and it gets even harder to buy the official Uzbek line.

I don’t think the US or Europe deny for a second that Uzbekistan’s government does face legitimate security threats from terrorist organizations. I would hope that any reasonable person recognizes that the current government is preferable to those who seek to replace it through violence. And I hope that the interest of the IMU in striking US targets in Uzbekistan highlights that, as difficult as it is to work with its government, Uzbekistan’s fate will largely determine the fate of all of Central Asia. And if it could get over itself, maybe Uzbekistan would start behaving as if it recognizes that too. Perhaps if it didn’t put the fear of God into its neighbors, they might be less reticent about the instability its policies radiate.

Not that I think anything Uzbekistan does right now will magically cause threats to go away. And our relationship with Uzbekistan certainly is not why the IMU would seek revenge against us–they have plenty of other reasons. It’s just cake to them to if they can get revenge in Uzbekistan.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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