By Roger N. McDermott
May 31st, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Russia’s Armed Forces are conducting a series of exercises in Central Asia ostensibly designed to reassure regional allies that Moscow will assist in the face of an insurgency or incursion led by the Taliban or the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS). However, these exercises are increasingly demonstrating the Kremlin’s intention to reassert Russia’s security role in Central Asia, while some features of such military exercises are also betraying increasingly sophisticated Russian technology and warfare capabilities, and consequently a widening gap with the country’s allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
By Stephen Blank
May 9th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
China has steadfastly refused to get involved in providing hard, i.e. military, security to Central Asian governments, including Afghanistan. This might now be changing. In a March visit to Kabul, General Fang Fenghui, Chief of Staff of the PLA, announced plans to set up an anti-terror regional alliance with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan reportedly endorsed this proposal. China’s initiative could imply a major new development in Chinese policy and in Central Asia’s overall security, with lasting implications for the region.
By Jacob Zenn
May 3rd, 2016, The CACI Analyst
For more than a decade after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was the “bogeyman” of Central Asian militancy. It was the most well-known militant group in Central Asia and abroad, even though it was in exile in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the protection of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Years of drone strikes and counter-insurgency operations failed to eliminate the IMU. Ironically, however, it was neither the U.S. nor coalition forces that destroyed the IMU. Rather, it was the Taliban who liquidated the IMU in late 2015 as punishment for its “betrayal” of the Taliban (and al-Qaeda) by pledging loyalty to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS). This will change the nature of the militant threat to Central Asia and force a reconsideration of Uzbekistan’s counter-extremism measures.
By Zaur Shiriyev
April 12th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
Saudi Arabia’s attempt to persuade Azerbaijan to join its anti-terror coalition comprised of Islamic countries has created problems for Baku due to fierce opposition to this coalition from Iran and Russia. Azerbaijan’s leadership subsequently attended the international donor conference on Syria’s future, seeking to become part of an international platform that will limit the country’s involvement to humanitarian affairs. However, while Azerbaijan’s interests and capacity to engage in international discussions about Syria are limited, the involvement of Azerbaijani fighters in the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS) may require Baku to join some kind of international anti-terrorism coalition in the future, aimed at supporting intelligence sharing and cooperation with the aim of preventing recruitment of Azerbaijani jihadists.
By Stephen Blank
March 15th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
For years, Moscow has fulminated against the Taliban as a terrorist force that represented a threat not only to Afghanistan’s security but also to Central Asia and even to Russia itself. Yet news surfaced in December that Russia is sharing intelligence with the Taliban and apparently has been in discussions with it since 2013. According to U.S. intelligence sources, these discussions have also been accompanied by weapons transfers. Thus, while Russia is constantly, along with Central Asian leaders, playing up the ISIS threat and selling weapons to the Afghan government, it also shares intelligence and possibly sells weapons to its Taliban adversaries. These contradictions expose some of the problems in Russia’s regional policies in Central Asia and in its approach to terrorism.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.