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The Wall Street Journal: Central Asia is afraid to catch the plague Afghan

Yaroslav Trofimov

«The strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan begins to threaten the fragile post-Soviet republics of Central Asia,» writes The Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper, officials in these countries feared a repetition of the events of the 1990s.

In September the Taliban in a short time controlled the city of Kunduz, which lies near the border with the Central Asian republics. Along the Northern borders of Afghanistan, there is still a cluster of Central Asian jihadists, says the publication. Itself the Taliban didn’t commit the attacks on the former Soviet republics, but Central Asian Islamists used it as a «reliable rear base» (the article mentions clashes with Islamists that occurred in 1999 in Batken region in southern Kyrgyzstan).

Writes correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, «the external threat is compounded by the fact that in many of these States citizens, disappointed one of the worst in the world’s autocratic and corrupt, sluggish economy, increasingly impressed with radical Islam». He recalled that the number of Muslims is increasing in the whole Central Asian region: «In Kyrgyzstan, where by the time it gained independence in 1991, there were only a few mosques, now there are 3 thousands, and every month new ones are being built. Since 2011, thousands of natives of Central Asia are flocking to Syria and Iraq to join «Islamic state» and other jihadist groups».

«The situation in Afghanistan will only get worse. It is a great threat and would have immediate consequences for Central Asia», — said Kadyr Malikov, Director of a Kyrgyz analytical center «Religion, law and politics». According to Alexander Knyazev, an expert on security issues from Kazakhstan, «if Mature internal confrontation, in any of these countries it 90% will have Islamist overtones».

Of the five Central Asian republics are most vulnerable, according to Trofimova, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with Tajikistan already today, is faced with «sporadic violence». In September, for example, there was a rebellion headed by the Deputy Minister of defence of Tajikistan Abduhalim Nazarzoda. After its suppression the President of the country Emomali Rahmon «was banned in the region the only legal political Islamist movement, «the Islamic revival Party of Tajikistan.»

The party leader Muhiddin Kabiri, who was forced to hide in Europe, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal expressed the view that banning his party will strengthen the jihadists: «Youth in Central Asia have ceased to believe in the legitimate, democratic mechanisms, the ability to use them to change the situation… has been for some time the ongoing radicalization, and the proscription of our party attaches to this acceleration process. Many members of our party, especially the young, who earlier listened to our Council to work within the democratic system, can no longer see alternatives. Probably some of them will join radical groups».

As in the 1990s, when the riots start in any of the five Central Asian republics, they are likely to infect others, «particularly [if it happens] in the Fergana valley with its high population density,» says the author.

He continues: «To the delight of Central Asian governments, internal divisions weakened the largest radical groups targeting the region, «the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan.»… Some of the leaders of the IMU announced its loyalty to Islamic state, and the rest remained in Alliance with the Taliban.

Major General, first Deputy head of the security Council of Kyrgyzstan, Kubanychbek Oruzbaev believes that the Islamist militants today are not so dangerous as in the 1990s, as the army of the Central Asian States have become much stronger and, in addition, in the region there are several Russian bases: «there may be some incidents, but together with our partners in the CSTO, we are able to give a fitting response to any threat. If any conflict, our citizens all stand up to defend the homeland,» he said.

Tokon Mamytov, Professor of Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, former first Deputy Chairman of the national security Service of Kyrgyzstan and member of the Batken events, considers the point of view Oruzbaeva too optimistic. He warned that «battle-hardened Central Asian militants are eager to return home» (the wording of the newspaper). «And when you consider what our army, they will be able to capture the Ferghana valley during the week,» said Mamytov.

The Wall Street Journal: Central Asia is afraid to catch the plague Afghan 19.12.2015

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