Sanctuary in Ferghana

by Nathan Hamm on 1/9/2011 · 2 comments

Oh, hey. Look! Someone’s making a mostly evidence-free claim that “the broad Ferghana Valley, where Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge, is turning into a key sanctuary for Islamic militants.”

More power to The Dallas Morning News for picking up the story, I guess. But, it’s a pinch of really old news — that there’s this thing called the Northern Distribution Network to move supplies into Afghanistan from the north — mixed in with a few choice scare quotes and a handful of recent events to give the impression that militants are, with very little resistance, setting themselves up in the Ferghana Valley. Just skim the story and look at the sources and the quality of the information they’re offering. Stratfor, Ahmed Rashid, some dude claiming to speak for an organization nobody’s ever heard of, one incident in the Ferghana Valley (and some more down in Rasht, which now I guess is close enough to count). Color me unconvinced.

The author of the story is a freelancer who looks to have done a decent amount of work in Pakistan. And the story itself reads as an obnoxious manifestation of the way a large number of military, political, and international affairs practitioners and watchers in Europe and North America with experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan think about Central Asia — just like Afghanistan and Pakistan, but more to the north. Anyone familiar with the way this same crowd pictured Central Asia in the 1990s will surely recognize that it didn’t take passing familiarity with Afghanistan and Pakistan for this same crowd to come to the conclusion that the Ferghana Valley, for example, was a dangerous place of dangerously dangerous dangers waiting to dangerously explode into a dangerous orgy of dangerous danger (DANGER!!!). But now Central Asia is treated as if it is the lawless, tribal region with wholly feckless governments much like Pakistan is often portrayed.

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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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UmairJ January 10, 2011 at 2:15 am

The Waziristan syndrome or Pakistan syndrome. Don’t know which one is more apt.

Michael Hancock January 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Behold, everything that is wrong with Freelance Journalism. You’re in the back-of-beyond surrounded by backwards inbred locals (not my opinion, but I assume it to be theirs) and you really, really want to work your way up the journalistic ladder. Time to Find That STORY! Don’t speak the language? No clue of the history? Not even sure what name that guy just said or why he claimed it was important? Still unclear on the difference between Uzbeks and Aghans, or how that might be a trick question?

No worries! You can write for the Dallas Morning News, or any one of a myriad of news-starved idiot papers – even the New York Times! (Lord knows they’ve printed even worse stories)

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