Continued Troubles in the North Caucasus

by Joshua Foust on 8/16/2010 · 6 comments

Two car bombs exploded today in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan. But what’s interesting here isn’t the tragedy of the bombs—that’s something that almost goes without saying, and is difficult to assess from the U.S.—but rather how Russia is responding to the various endemic insurgencies in the Caucasus. From the article:

The Kremlin has pledged to wage “a ruthless fight” against militant groups but also acknowledged a need to tackle unemployment, organized crime, clan rivalry and corruption as causes of the ongoing violence in the region.

One additional angle to this renewed COIN focus of theirs: tribal militias. Over at wish-it-was-my-day-job Current Intelligence, I have a short post about this:

Who knew counterterrorism was as simple as identifying people by their appearance? This kind of lazy stereotyping is one of many reasons why “arming the tribes,” of which the Daghestani attempt is merely the latest example around the world, is so fraught with danger. It is true that local proxies are normally part of a counterinsurgent’s arsenal—some people have made careers out of saying so—but that doesn’t mean they are always a good idea….

Counterinsurgency is risky war, perhaps one of the riskiest methods of warfare. Worse than the risk, there are no right answers—even doctrinally, concepts need to be emphasized or discarded in a chaotic, and sometimes contradictory way, to achieve success.

So in that sense, it’s interesting to see how the trend in arming tribes—not developing intelligence networks, or economically or governmentally undermining the insurgency, but arming new groups—seems to have taken hold in Daghestan. It’s possible this policy will result in a temporary, even short-term stabilization in the province (though at what human or material cost no one can really say).

I think Russia’s evolving COIN doctrine is a fascinating thing to watch. I wonder if other countries viewed the U.S. military’s evolving relationship to COIN with the same fascination? Given the obvious pitfalls in such warfare, I suspect it was less fascination than dread. Still, I’ll try to keep an eye on what Russia does going forward.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Shannon August 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I would love to hear Registan’s thoughts on Doku Umarov and his recent videos.

Garry August 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Shannon, these wannabe’s don’t have that kinda intelligence for North Caucasus. I would suggest to go for Chechnya online research and more. Chechen resistance is a huge topic itself.You do that,you’ll have the key for crisis in NC

Shannon August 16, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Can you suggest any English-language links? I am familiar with RFE/RL, KavkazCenter, Eurasianet and the mainstream (English-language) Russian outlets. I’m not really aware of many blogs on the topic.

Would still like to hear Registan’s POV too…

The Sanity Inspector August 16, 2010 at 11:26 pm

One of the drawbacks of the end of the Cold War: the Soviet Union is gone, but now the Middle East is twice as large, and off the leash.

Pa-chi-mu August 17, 2010 at 4:35 am

Акыл Жумабаев (Младший брат Эркина Джумабаевича Алымбекова, зама Текебаева), будучи Председателем Кыргызавтобанка, украл деньги из кассы, все свалил на кассирш, девочек кассирш посадил в тюрьму. Деньги потратили на выборную кампанию Эркина Алымбекова в 2000 г. Ай-да паразиты, ай-да сукины дети. Это же не мелочь тырить по карманам в маршрутке. Какова компашка Текебаева, а?
Сразу видно масштабных деятелей. И эти люди пишут у нас Конституцию.

MM August 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

Russia is still fighting the last war and is mired in the 20th century. Ethnic Russians are demographically stagnant and aside from oil and a few other extractive products Russian industry is dead man walking.

Like your Silk Road bit, the interesting player is China. They are connecting to Africa and South America for resources and agriculture and business. The Dong Feng 21 missile from the 90s had been upgraded to a hypersonic antiship missle in the “D” rev and will push off US Aircraft Carriers. That further opens the sea lanes to their “Blue Water” navy. Which is not war ships but merchant marine. (Sorry COIN is nonsense. The US not being able to project power and air superiority to support COIN and manage the logistic tail at will is the real thing.)

While Russia and America are bogged down in a “Land war In Asia” remembering past glories when history was theirs, China in particular and Asia in general, are getting on with “The China Century.” Not a criticism or a fear thing, just when you take your eye off the ball, and get lazy and entitled, you get run over. Move over England, we need a chair at the “Old Empires Club.”

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