Central Asia’s Sources of Insecurity: From Within or Outside?

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by Joshua Foust on 8/10/2012 · 1 comment

The following is a translation of Mirzo Salimpour, “Манбаъҳои ноамнии Осиёи Марказӣ: Аз дохил ё аз хориҷ? [Central Asia’s Sources of Insecurity: From Within or Outside?]” Radio Ozodi, 08 August 2012.

Translation by eTajikistan; follow on Twitter @eTajikistan.

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EurasiaNet in a story titled: “Central Asia: A Look at Sources of Violence and Instability” writes that in most of the wars and violence occurring in this region, the main instigator has not been Afghanistan. In general, regional analysts as well are in agreement with this belief, but say that after 2014, the Afghanistan factor in Central Asia will play a bigger role on security issues of Central Asia, unfortunately especially a negative one on Tajikistan.

In Search of Foreign Enemy

A common assumption is that the main threat to the security of Central Asia is from Afghanistan and comes from drug trafficking and extremism; but in reality the main security challenges emanate more from within this region itself than from outside. This is how a summarized piece by EurasiaNet, which claims that the great power players in Central Asia have so far been dwelling on the Afghanistan factor and furthermore in general deal with this threat through military assistance and securing of the region’s borders or, as in the example of Russia, with efforts to extend the presence of the 201st [military] base composed of 6,000 of its soldiers in Tajikistan.

According to Cornelius Graubner, the author of the EurasiaNet piece, [this approach] only deals with the appearance of the issue, and does not address the root of the problem. He says that in the major violence of the past 20 years in Central Asia – the riots of 1990 in Uzgen and Osh, the 1992-1997 civil war of Tajikistan, the 2005 rebellion [“исён”] of Andijon, the two revolutions of 2005 and 2010 in Kyrgyzstan, ethnic clashes of two years’ past in Osh, instabilities in Rasht and Badakhshan and the riots of end-last year in Western Kazakhstan – the main factor, in general, has not been Afghanistan, but that all such [violence] more so originates from within these countries.

Dosim Satbaev, a Kazakh analyst, says that through putting all the blame of the problems of the region on Afghanistan, local rulers want to hide the mistakes and shortcomings of their own policies: “Many of the threats lie hidden in Central Asia, itself, especially in those states which are entangled with the large box of social and economic problems. Social injustice, rise in extremism, migration, environmental problems, corruption, authoritarian rule – all of these are our internal problems and have no relations to Afghanistan. The search for an external enemy is a habit of the local elite, through which they want to distract society from internal problems as much as possible.”

Yet Again an Excuse to Pursue the Opposition

According to Lilit Gevorgyan, [Political] Analyst with Jane’s in London, however, the level of Afghanistan’s threat vis-à-vis the countries of Central Asia differs, and if for Tajikistan, which shares around 1,400 km of border with Afghanistan, the factor across the Amu [River] be highly tangible, for Kyrgyzstan, which is farther away, [the Afghanistan] factor, to the contrary, does not have much effect. [Gevorgyan] says that in general it is Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan which feel threatened by Afghanistan, rather than the other two countries in the region – Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Ms Gevorgyan adds: [translation] “Yes, at the same time, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, especially in Kyrgyzstan, internal factors play an important role, especially with regards to security and political stability. Kyrgyzstan has toppled its governments twice via revolution and in its transformation, I think, the role of internal factors are far more as compared to external ones. But the influence of the Afghanistan factor on the agitation of events in Tajikistan, especially after the exit of the allied forces in 2014, in all possibility will be much more. This factor may become an excuse to pursue the political opposition on the part of the authorities in Dushanbe, which in turn can bring forth a more extreme reaction from the other side.”

Attempting to link Ayombekov’s foot prints to Al-Qodia

EurasiaNet in the story titled: “Central Asia: A Look at Sources of Violence and Instability” has called the factor on other side of the Amu [River], even in the recent crisis of Khorog, as insignificant and says that the government’s attempt to link these events to the wars in Afghanistan, to the Taliban and to Al-Qaida or to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was not so much convincing. But according to Lilit Gevorgyan, one must not forget that Tajik warlords have a long history of relations with the wars in Afghanistan.

Rahmatulloh Abdulloev, head of the Institute for War and Peace Research in Dushanbe, is also of the opinion that Tajikistan will remain the most vulnerable country in the region in relation to Afghanistan-related threats: “An important factor which exists in the region and its effects are felt daily is the situation in Afghanistan and its effects on the states of our region. Surely there also exist internal factors, which also have their impact, but I think that more than other [states], Tajikistan is much more vulnerable to external factors, especially on the part of Afghanistan. In the recent clashes, as well, the role of Afghanistan could be seen. Active groups in Khorog had relations with armed groups on the other side of the border, among other things, with the issue of drug trafficking or trafficking of weapons.”

On the one hand, experts consider the issue of aging of most of the current leaders of Central Asia and the inevitable transfer of power in at least the cases of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and on the other hand the possibility of appearance of ethnic clashes similar to the bloodshed of two years’ past between [ethnic] Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh and Jalalabad, as among other sources of instability in this problematic region. According to Lilit Gevorgyan, the threat of Islamic militants in Central Asia is still not as large as imagined, but if these groups by following the “Arab Spring” instead of constructing an Islamic caliphate go after slogans which are closer to the people such as fighting corrupt regimes, they may be able to attain a more serious influence.

In any case, according to analysts, a major threat to the ruling authoritarian regimes in Central Asia is social and economic problems, which if to coincide with the transfer of power in this or that country, can spread and bring about unknown consequences. Even without the participation of the Afghanistan factor.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. 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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{ 1 comment }

Bakhrom August 13, 2012 at 1:52 am

good article Joshua, I was wondering about factor of IMU or other radical structures….since they cannot do their activities openly, what kinds of means they will use, in your opinion? Can Internet be an option?

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