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.
By Avinoam Idan
February 29th, 2016, The CACI Analyst
The importance of Turkey’s downing of a Russian aircraft and the current Russian-Turkish confrontation is not only connected to the crisis in Syria; it could become a trigger for escalation between Russia and NATO. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and NATO’s expansion eastward toward the Russian border, Russia has seen NATO as a major security threat to itself and its geostrategic space. Turkey is an important member of NATO, and 2016 is an election year in Washington. This serves as a window of opportunity for President Putin, who can take advantage of tensions with Turkey to undermine NATO’s standing.
By Eka Janashia
December 9th, the CACI Analyst
On November 23, a group supportive of the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video via social media calling on Georgian Muslims to join the “Islamic caliphate” and admonishing that the time of beheading “infidels” would soon come.
The twelve-minute video containing the “message to the Georgian people” was posted on the Russian-language Furat’s social media accounts and a Georgian-language pro-ISIS website, proclaiming itself to be the “Caliphate’s Georgian Information Channel.” The video, featuring Russian subtitles, shows four Georgian-speaking men, armed with AK-47 rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
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.