Sources of Threats

by Nathan Hamm on 6/8/2005 · 2 comments

Nomad posts about threats against NGOs in Uzbekistan and wonders whether or not the Uzbek government is manufacturing the intel behind the latest terror threats to reduce the number of foreign eyes and ears in the country.

I believe the US embassy when they say they are picking up threats, but my question is what is the source of said threats? Could it be, and again this is mere speculation, that the source is not the suddenly powerful terrorists who have amazingly infiltrated the Uzbek capitol to hit soft US targets, but instead, something to reduce the number of foreign eyes and ears from some future crackdown? Maybe it’s ridiculous paranoia.

I think it certainly is paranoia.

I do not doubt for a second that the government is putting heat on foreign aid workers and agencies. I’ve heard stories from others about this happening in the last month. I think it’s much more likely that government hostility to foreigners is not at all linked to the threats.

I think it’s worth pointing out that the IMU/IJU had quite easy access to Tashkent last year. It’s not terribly difficult to get from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border into Uzbekistan and points north. The IMU has been doing it for years. 2002 & 2003 were an exception that perhaps fostered a misplaced feeling that the threat had blown over. It hasn’t.

The threat’s not being discounted in this case, but I would caution against wading into this territory. I find it much harder to believe that the Uzbek government could plausibly pull of disinformation than I do that the threats are actually real. Again, there were attacks last year. There were bombings in 1999. There were skirmishes in 2000 and 2001.

There’s a history here to make the threats plausible. I’ve heard enough from people in Tashkent and Washington that convinces me the threat is very real. What the Uzbek government is up to is most likely a matter entirely unconnected to the threats. The hostility’s been there for quite a while, after all.

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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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david_walther June 8, 2005 at 11:54 pm

“amazingly infiltrated the uzbek capital?”

amazing is an awfully strong word! people “infliltrate” this place and this country all the time… for all the police that are out there on the streets, you have to remember that most of them are just crooked traffic cops who have little or no interest in actually stopping real criminals… when a crime happens, they either forward it to the SNB or just beat a confession out of some hapless person. we all saw, i think, in the spring bombings last year how ill prepared they were to deal with an actual threat.

the SNB and the special forces are another story, but it remains that it’s quite easy to get in and out of tashkent.

Nathan June 9, 2005 at 11:10 am

Ya, I had a taxi driver take us on a “secret route” from Tashkent to Chirchik that managed to totally avoid all police checkpoints. Which was good because OVIR & DAN were a little pissed off at me at the time.

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