Post-Soviet Central Asian National Interests in Afghanistan

NOTE: This was a contribution I made to the 2010 Project on Afghanistan in its Regional and Multilateral Dimensions, convened at The Century Foundation and spearheaded by former ambassador Thomas Pickering and former UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi. The project has, sadly, been buried on their website, but you can see a brief link to my contribution here.


Afghanistan’s neighbors will play a significant role in shaping its fate. Of the six states that share its border, the two that garner the most attention are Iran and Pakistan. Though not a direct neighbor, India also carries considerable influence in the country, and China’s influence is growing as well. 1 But the five post-Soviet states to Afghanistan’s north—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—also will have a hand in determining Afghanistan’s future. Yet, there is little understanding of exactly what their role might be.

All five post-Soviet Central Asian states have stakes in the outcome of the war in Afghanistan. However, those stakes are not necessarily of primary interest to their governments. With the possible exception of Kyrgyzstan (whose recent revolution may have altered its interests), the primary goal of these states is regime survival. Therefore, it is possible to examine what they consider to be at stake through the lens of their own domestic concerns.

Seen through the eyes of these states, the war in Afghanistan poses two primary security challenges: narcotics trafficking and, to a lesser extent, Islamist extremist groups. However, these countries also have other goals, such as rent extraction from the United States and NATO countries seeking access to bases and transportation infrastructure, and broader economic goals relating to energy exports. These concerns factor into how each country perceives the war.

It should be noted as well that these countries do not view the war in Afghanistan in the same terms as do the United States, Russia, Europe, or the Security Council collectively. In some cases, the interests of these Central Asian neighbors run counter to those of the more global players seeking to determine Afghanistan’s future.

Defining Interests

It is perhaps easiest to define the interests of the three states that border Afghanistan—Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan—in terms of security. Since they directly face the country at war, it would be expected that they would have the most at stake. This may not necessarily be true, however. Kazakhstan, for example, now has an enormous political and economic stake in the success of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a series of agreements between the United States and countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Russia to transport supplies via rail and truck into Afghanistan. Still, for the three countries that border Afghanistan, direct physical challenges abound. Uzbekistan has most famously struggled with domestic terrorism metastasizing into a transnational security challenge in the form of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and Tajikistan has faced numerous security challenges along its riparian border with Afghanistan, both from militant groups and narcotics smugglers. Turkmenistan, too, has faced a number of challenges from narcotics smuggling, though less visibly.

The two non-border countries also have encountered problems emanating from Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan has faced serious challenges from Islamist resistance movements, including the IMU. Even Kazakhstan has struggled, though to a far lesser extent than the other four countries, with militant recruitment.2

Uzbekistan in particular seems to be the focus of transnational terrorism in Central Asia3 Its most famous militant group, the IMU, began in the Ferghana Valley (a densely populated region split between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), but now resides mostly in northwest Pakistan. It is the foundation for most other Islamist networks in the region, including the breakaway group Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is implicated in several terrorist incidents throughout Central Asia and Europe. The IMU has been a driving force behind civil unrest in post-Soviet Central Asia for the past decade,4 and was a major participant the war in Afghanistan on the side of Taliban, and most recently in the civil unrest in Pakistan. The IMU still claims responsibility for insurgent attacks across northern Afghanistan,5 and suspected IMU militants regularly are arrested in northern Tajikistan.6 The IJU seems to focus most of its energies on Pakistan, though its members have been identified and arrested as far away as Germany.7

Kyrgyzstan, too, has a problem with Islamist extremism, though it is unclear whether that problem is constant or growing.8 While the government of Kyrgyzstan clearly considers Islamism to represent a grave danger—the government in 2006 claimed to have killed several IMU militants near Osh (the group of claimed dead militants included a highly popular Imam with few provable ties to extremism)9—it is not clear how immediate that danger is. Either way, Islamist militants with ties to Afghanistan are more likely to reside in the country’s mountainous west, an area including the Ferghana Valley.

But beyond their problem with militants, Kyrgyzstan also has a contentious issue in the form of the U.S. air base at Manas. For years, the U.S. military presence just outside of Bishkek has been controversial, whether in terms of how much rent the United States pays,10 or the many scandals revolving around fuel prices for American aircraft, 11 or even the boorish (and in one case violent) behavior of Americans stationed at the base. 12 The controversy has been intense enough within Kyrgyzstan that during the recent political upheaval there was massive speculation over whether the new interim government would cancel the U.S. lease on the airbase. The new interim president, Rotun Otunbayeva, how- ever, decided to honor the previous regime’s security deals, including allowing U.S. access to Manas.13 It is likely she made this decision in light of how much money the United States pays for the base, which is upward of $200 million per year, with additional “bilateral assistance” factored in.14 For a country with a gross domestic product (GDP) of only about $5 billion, U.S. rents for the base represent a substantial portion of the country’s economic activity. It is likely that the Kyrgyz government will consider maintaining the U.S. presence at the base a priority in the future, regardless of its titular head of state.

Tajikistan also faces a security challenge from the war in Afghanistan, though this challenge often is overstated.15 The most immediate issue they face is an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in Afghanistan.16 Refugee issues are a chronic problem along the Afghan-Tajik border. In late 1992, approximately 60,000 Tajiks fled the civil war and sought shelter in northern Afghanistan;17 as that flow of people has reversed itself, Tajikistan has struggled with the governance, economic, and security challenges posed by a refugee population it cannot fully support. In addition, Western analysts are fond of identifying Tajikistan as the next flashpoint for Islamist terrorism, though this seems more exaggeration than anything else.18 It is most likely that some relatively minor security incidents, some of which involve militants from the Afghanistan war, will place stress on the regime of Tajik president Emomali Rahmon, and thus pose a threat to regime survival (prompting a government backlash).

Turkmenistan merits a discussion of its interests, though there is very little information available about them. Officially, the Turkmen government is neutral in all disputes, though they do not hide their concerns very well. Turkmenistan undoubtedly has issues with opium smuggling from Afghanistan, and rumors abound that smugglers are closely aligned with the Taliban.19 One somewhat publicized incident serves as a good demonstration of the difficulty of discerning how these events will unfold in the future. In September 2008, an armed group widely speculated to be either Islamists or drug smugglers, or both, got into a massive firefight with Turkmen police in the capital city of Ashgabat.20 There were, however, numerous indications that the fighting may have been related to gas rationing in the capital.21 Because Turkmenistan’s government so tightly regulates information, the real story behind that and similar incidents is difficult to determine.

China also must be considered in this mix. It has invested heavily in Central Asia, and in some cases has applied pressure on Central Asian states to serve its interests (in one notable incident, Kyrgyz police arrested a pair of ethnic Uighurs after they accused China of “state terrorism” at a rally protesting the crackdown on riots in Xinjiang).22 Elsewhere in the region, China has used its influence to leverage the Pakistani government to take action against extremists who had targeted Chinese nationals.23 Chinese energy companies also have financed pipelines to export Central Asian energy reserves using routes that avoid Russia, which normally controls the region’s energy exports. The Turkmen-China Gas Pipeline, which went online in December 2009, was the first pipeline constructed in Central Asia in more than a decade, and the largest effort to export energy without using Russian routes.24

Natural Resources

The Central Asian states possess significant natural resources that they have only begun to exploit in the past twenty years, most notably their considerable energy resources. As such, relations in the region can often revolve around the development of a stable infrastructure for developing and exporting these resources, with the more traditional security concerns often taking a back seat.

Turkmenistan sits atop one of the world’s richest deposits of natural gas, and at least since the mid-1990s, Western energy companies have been trying to export it without using Russian pipelines (which are unreliable for political reasons).25 Countless energy executives, and just as many conspiracy theorists, who are convinced the conflict in Afghanistan ultimately is concerned with securing export rights to Turkmen gas, dream of completing the various pipe- lines needed to export Turkmen gas south or east. While the biggest development in Turkmen gas—the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline—has very little to do with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan’s other enormous energy project, called TAPI, does. Traveling from Turkmenistan, south through Afghanistan, then east to Pakistan and onward to India (hence its initials), TAPI has fired the imagination of everyone from the defunct U.S. oil company Unocal to the Asia Development Bank.26 There is little indication TAPI will be completed while there is active fighting in southern Afghanistan; nevertheless, it is important to Turkmenistan’s long-term interests in the area as filtered through its quest for energy exports.

Energy concerns also dominate high-level discussions between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. In 2009, Uzbekistan began supplying electricity to Kabul around the clock as part of a $250 million project to use Central Asian hydropower plants to send power southward.27 Before the agreement,

Kabul only had about three hours per day of electricity.28 Uzbekistan’s ascension as a nexus of energy distribution, however, has come at a cost. Additionally, considering Uzbekistan’s penchant of terminating international agreements it finds inconvenient,29 it is unlikely that any state, including Afghanistan, feels particularly comfortable being reliant on Uzbek energy.

Tajikistan suffers from severe chronic power shortages,30 and the Uzbek government has prevented several ameliorating measures from being pursued, such as purchasing energy from Turkmenistan (power lines must cross Uzbek territory).31 Tajikistan’s best bet for alleviating those shortages is the completion of the troubled Roghun hydroelectric dam.32 Begun in 1976, construction of the dam has languished, as first the Soviet Union and then Tajikistan continually ran out of money for finishing construction. In 2009, Iran became its latest investor, though there remain doubts about how much good it will do.33 (Iran is one of Tajikistan’s largest investors.) 34 A year later, analysts still were expressing open skepticism of the dam’s prospects for completion and for power generation.35 Uzbekistan, too, has decried the construction of the dam, claiming it will hurt the environment and negatively affect cotton harvests along the Amu Darya River.36

Despite such challenges, Tajikistan has hatched plans to transmit power across Afghanistan. These take differing forms: one proposal is to build trans- mission lines from Roghun to Iran through Mazar-i-Sharif, and another plans to go through Kunduz, to Kabul, to Jalalabad. Given Tajikistan’s continuing struggles with its internal electricity supply and management, it is unclear how it could support such a massive energy exportation project, though a recent Asian Development Bank grant could point toward additional international investment.37

Beyond energy resources, however, the region faces challenges regarding both the legal and illegal harvesting and export of other natural resources. In Afghanistan, while opium is the most expensive and most visible of these resources, and China’s purchase of the Aynak copper mine in Logar has received much attention, many illegal groups harvest and export natural resources of all kinds. The most devastating, from an environmental perspective, is timber. A 2003 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) survey found that nearly 50 percent of forest cover in northeastern Afghanistan had been destroyed, and woodlands and orchards were devastated across the entire country.38 While timber is directly exported to Pakistan (and, to a lesser extent, Iran), the carpenters who use Afghan timber export their goods northward to Central Asia. Because Afghanistan’s government owns all the natural resources in the country, any resource harvesting outside government sanction is, technically, illegal.39 Yet, the government has no real means of leasing access, harvesting quotas, or even cadastres of land to local communities for exploitation, so demand in Central Asia (in part) drives illegal resource harvesting.

Access to water also poses a serious challenge to regional resource exploitation. Tajikistan sits atop large water reserves, nearly 40 percent of the total supply in the region, and believes that water is the key to its economic future.40 Tajikistan also faces grinding disputes with each of its neighbors over water rights: plans to expand Tajik hydropower plants have faced increasingly vigorous opposition from Uzbekistan, which is worried about Tajikistan stunting the supply of water to its vast cotton fields.41 Complicating the Uzbek-Tajik water dispute is Afghanistan: despite a 1946 treaty between the governments of King Zahir Shah and the Soviet Union (both governments have since fallen) allowing Afghanistan to draw 9 million cubic meters of water per year from the Pyanj River, which borders Tajikistan and Afghanistan and is a tributary of the Amu Darya, it only uses about 2 million cubic meters of water each year.42 It is unclear how severely Afghanistan’s drawing of its full allocation of water from the river would affect either country, but given the growing stress on Central Asian water supplies and access,43 it is probable that the effect would be extreme, prompting harsh responses from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Transactional Crime

There is one issue that unites all the post-Soviet Central Asian states, at least in a way: crime. Criminal networks abound in the region, and many have ties to Afghanistan in one way or another. These ties also extend far beyond Central Asia as well, affecting the populations of Iran, China, Russia, and Europe. While the most common form of transnational crime in the region is narcotics smuggling, there are also issues stemming from human trafficking, and other forms of illegal resource smuggling.

Narcotics smuggling has become so intense, and its effect on the region so adverse, that Russia has begun publicly accusing the United States of deliberately trying to harm their interests by not doing enough to stem trafficking.44 Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s narcotics control service, recently demanded NATO resume fighting the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan by physically destroying the fields where it is grown—a strategy NATO recently abandoned as ineffective and possibly counterproductive. “The production of opium poppies in Afghanistan has grown 40 times since the start of the NATO campaign in 2001,” he said in a speech in March to the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.45 Russia has reason to feel strongly about the issue—recent figures suggest about eighty Russians die each day from drug-related complications, an annual death toll of 30,000.46

Drawing on numbers released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicating 10,000 people die each year in NATO countries from drug overdoses,47 Ivanov frames the drug threat from Afghanistan as a strategic one, going so far as to advocate the construction of another Russian military base inside Kyrgyzstan to spearhead the effort.48 It is unclear how much the Kyrgyz government would appreciate a new Russian base on its soil, given that country’s recent turmoil. It is also unclear what role Russia wants to play in the war in Afghanistan: they have eschewed sending troops directly because of their experience fighting there in the 1980s, yet see nothing wrong with sending weapons to the Afghan army,49 and lecturing NATO on its policies. But Russia is going ahead with efforts to curtail the flow of drugs through its borders, and in March announced plans to increase their cooperation on counternarcotics efforts.50

Uzbekistan has become both victim and beneficiary of the drug trade—the country has seized ever-greater amounts of opium,51 even while rumors persist that the government itself profits handsomely through informal involvement in the trade.52 Uzbekistan, however, should not be singled out for having a blurry line between smuggling drugs and government agents. Indeed, the majority of opium exported northward from Afghanistan travels through Tajikistan, in such volumes that government involvement is almost a certainty.53 Indeed, contemporaneous reporting indicates that smugglers were fairly open about how the much-publicized new bridge construction across the Amu Darya River would make smuggling drugs much easier than ever before;54 moreover, Tajikistan’s laws are very specifically structured to allow children to smuggle drugs with relative impunity.55 The corruption that inevitably accompanies massive opium smuggling poses a serious threat to the Tajik government’s very survival.56

Heroin is not Afghanistan’s only illegal harvest, and its epic fields of marijuana plants57 are not only consumed inside the country: most of its hashish production is for export, not domestic consumption (though the impact of domestic drug consumption is certainly growing more severe over time, not less).58 Cannabis cultivation is a regional issue as well: farmers in the Kyrgyz countryside are renowned for growing the crop as well. During Kyrgyzstan’s political upheaval in 2005, many farmers publicly resorted to growing marijuana as a coping strategy to deal with severely reduced tourism revenues.59 Kazakhstan, too, has faced a growing problem from marijuana traffickers running “rings” around local police forces.60 No one knows how much of the marijuana trafficked through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is grown domestically, or how much of it is grown in Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan is often rumored to be a major narcotics trafficking route, but reliable information on its extent is extremely difficult to come by.61

Afghanistan is a major hub for human traffickers (there is tremendous interplay between Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan, though a growing number are coming from or to Central Asia).62 According to the U.S. State Department, Afghanistan is a major destination for women abducted from Tajikistan and forced into commercial sexual exploitation.63 Additionally, Kyrgyzstan has gained much attention in recent years for illicit human trafficking,64 but because of the difficulty of researching the issue it is unknown how much human trafficking activities in Kyrgyzstan contribute to the situation in Afghanistan.

In a general sense, however, it is likely that the conflict in Afghanistan drives regional criminal networks. Each year, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan confiscate increasing amounts of opium being smuggled across the border, even as the UNODC acknowledges that these amounts represent a tiny proportion of the overall opium trade in the region.65 Tajikistan, in particular, confiscates an enormous amount of opium, in part because of the relative disorganization of the drug smugglers, and in part because Tajikistan’s government seems more intent on stopping the trade.66

The institutional weakness of Central Asian states, even of relatively strong states such as Kazakhstan, makes organized crime easy and profitable.

An enormous amount of opium from Afghanistan is transported through some of Kazakhstan’s biggest cities, and the few drug seizures (at least, in relation to, for example, Tajikistan) keep the trade out of the spotlight.67 “There are numerous combinations in which drugs and arms are exchanged between religious militant groups with their counterparts in the Central Asian region and Afghanistan,” explains Johns Hopkins researcher Erica Marat in her landmark 2006 survey of organized criminal groups in Central Asia.68 Because law enforcement in these countries cannot cope with the volume and sophistication of these criminal and terrorist groups, they operate with relative impunity.

Ethnicity Matters?

Many analysts have speculated that ethnic sympathies drive Central Asian regimes' policies toward Afghanistan. Martha Brill Olcott of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for example, has explicitly argued, “Tajikistan’s security calculations are shaped by the fact that Tajiks are the second largest ethnic community in Afghanistan."69 Because opposition groups from each country have sought refuge in one another’s countries over the past few decades of civil war, so the argument goes, they have therefore retained or developed some sort of ethnic solidarity.

While it may be true that various Tajik militias in Tajikistan and Afghanistan have developed relationships over the past twenty years, there remains little evidence that ethnic solidarity drives the Tajik government’s security calculations.70 For historical reasons, President Rahmon is nervous about encouraging separatism (Tajikistan’s bloody civil war in the 1990s involved some separatist movements). In addition, the noted Afghan scholar Thomas Barfield has argued that viewing ethnic affinity in Afghanistan the same way one would examine ethnic nationalism in a region such as the Balkans is a mistake, because identity simply does not operate the same way in Central Asia as it does in Europe.71

The high profile of Uzbek militants in global jihad, the Afghan conflict, and security incidents across Central Asia might suggest an ethnic connection to certain security issues. However, as with Tajikistan, there is very little evidence that the Uzbek government considers ethnicity a factor in determining its security posture toward Central Asia. The IMU got its start rebelling against Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov’s rule in the late 1990s, and later developed contacts with Tajik militants and ethnically Uzbek Kyrgyz citizens in the Ferghana Valley. In the early 2000s, IMU militants, including its senior leadership, were fighting alongside the Taliban in northern Afghanistan (they later fled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan when the United States invaded).72

Since the U.S. invasion, Uzbek militants have been linked to bomb plots in Germany, terror attacks in Tashkent, and even (possibly) a bloody intra-insurgency conflict in Waziristan. However, the Uzbek government itself seems to filter its decisions through two main lenses: drugs and regime survival. The specific ethnicity of the IMU seems to matter much less than the fact that it is directing its activities against the Uzbek state.

None of this means ethnicity does not matter in each country’s view of Afghanistan, merely that such concerns probably do not drive decision-making. For example, there is some evidence for ties of some sort between the Uzbek government and Abdulrashid Dostum, the leader of the Afghan Uzbek Junbish militia. During the late 1990s, Junbish received some funding and weapons during Dostum’s fight against the Taliban, and, now there is some evidence that Tashkent provides a corridor for Dostum’s drug smuggling.73 Similarly, the Tajik government had close ties to Shura-e-Nazar, a council of mujahideen founded by Ahmed Shah Massoud, in the 1990s, during the Northern Alliance’s struggle against the Taliban. It is likely the Tajik government remains wary of a Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan. Neither of these countries has any objective reason to conduct business with either group, besides ethnicity.

Preferred Outcomes

Delving into a government’s sense of preferred outcomes is always a difficult task. However, it is possible to speculate, based on the brief discussion of national interests discussed above, what likely and even counterintuitive preferred outcomes the Central Asian states might have in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan, for example, generates an enormous amount of money through security assistance in its quest to defeat Islamist militants. There is much doubt, however, over the exact nature of the “Islamist threat,” since the specific groups the Uzbek government has named, and their alleged involvement in acts of terror, is difficult to determine conclusively.74 Uzbekistan also, and much less visibly, uses the fight against Islamists as a cover to brutalize political opponents.75 Furthermore, the contentious issue of U.S. and Uzbek cooperation in the War on Terror affects Uzbekistan’s outlook. After a drastic downturn in U.S. security assistance funding in 2005 (that year, U.S. criticisms of Uzbekistan’s human rights record increased steadily until, after the Andijon massacre,76 the Uzbeks cut off U.S. access to the K2 airbase that had been used to support the war in Afghanistan77), the U.S. and Uzbek governments are cautiously renewing their security arrangements and expanding Uzbekistan’s role in supplying the war in Afghanistan.78 It is likely that Uzbekistan would want that relationship to continue to deepen, along with an increase in American payments, though obviously on its own terms and without the Americans ask- ing for too much reform of its human rights record. A continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan makes that involvement much more likely, and it keeps the United States distracted from ever applying serious pressure on Tashkent to reform.

Tajikistan has a simpler relationship to the war. With the security situation in Afghanistan’s north deteriorating, an influx of refugees is stressing local communities.79 Additionally, given the volume of narcotics smuggling along the Afghan-Tajik border, the government also would prefer to see the war end so that it can devote resources currently used to interdict drugs toward other issues, such as maintaining public order. For example, in the summer of 2009 there were rumors about a massive firefight in Tajikistan’s restive Rasht Valley between former separatists and the government (the rumors also accused those separatists of “joining” al Qaeda).80 While there was undoubtedly some fighting in the area,81 and it was probably widespread in the sense of taking place over a fairly large geographic area, by all accounts the fighting was over fairly quickly and only a few people died on either side.82 This is not the only time militants in the Tajik countryside have clashed violently with Tajik authorities. The Tajik government would prefer that the war in Afghanistan calm down, in particular in the north, so that the pressures for fighting are not as intense.

Kyrgyzstan faces a growing threat from Islamist militants, mostly Uzbek, and primarily in the Ferghana Valley.83 Uzbek militant support networks in the region, however, are fairly nascent, and they lack much in the way of capability. “Although the covert presence of IMU/IJU members and supporters within inhabited areas of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan is a concern,” a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies report argued, “the danger posed by these individuals should not be overblown” because local intelligence services do a fairly good job of keeping tabs on their activity.84 In addition, Kyrgyz forces have been able to identify and degrade IMU activities along the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border.85

It would seem Kyrgyzstan has an abiding interest in a stable Afghanistan, as it would reduce, one supposes, the presence and reach of the IMU. It is also possible that the war keeps the IMU’s attention focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has regional implications (that is, if the war in Afghanistan is a version of the “fly paper strategy,” in which the United States fights Islamist militants elsewhere so that the local governments do not have to worry as much). There is little indication that any Islamist militants played much of a role in the recent political unrest in Kyrgyzstan, but it is also unclear how urgently the new interim government views the situation.

Just as important, though, is Kyrgyzstan’s income from the U.S. military installation at Manas. The United States pays Kyrgyzstan nearly $200 million per year, a substantial portion of the country’s economic activity. If the war were to end tomorrow, there would be little reason for such an enormous, and lucrative, U.S. presence at Manas. While the United States would not leave, at least immediately, its activity—and thus payments—would probably decrease. The importance of Manas to the Kyrgyz government becomes clear when one considers that, despite years of scandal over the contracted price of fuel (and now U.S. congressional hearings),86 the new government has decided to maintain the previous government’s arrangement for U.S. access.87

The Northern Distribution Network

The Northern Distribution Network (NDN) will have some role to play in post-Soviet Central Asia’s relationship with Afghanistan, even if it is unclear what form that relationship will take. The NDN is the outcome of a series of agreements between the United States and countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Russia to transport supplies via rail and truck into Afghanistan. The result of years of careful bilateral negotiations between the United States and each country along its path,88 the NDN is meant to serve two functions— most important, it provides an alternative to shipping supplies to the war in Afghanistan through Pakistan (where supply convoys routinely come under attack),89 but U.S. officials have also considered it a way to “open the lines of communication” in Central Asia.90 In other words, while the NDN is focused on supplying the war, officials are also eyeing how to use it to foster new trade regimes and foment political liberalization—a prospect that led the Center for Strategic and International Studies to label it “a modern Silk Road."91

Unfortunately, these sorts of discussions rarely expand the discussion beyond a narrow conception of immediate U.S. interests, which seem to be, 18 Post-Soviet Central Asian National Interests in Afghanistan first, how to win the war in Afghanistan, and then how to enact grand social and political feats of engineering to benefit American business interests.92 While neither goal is necessarily ignoble, such a discussion neglects the con- sequences each country will have to face as the NDN becomes more of a force in regional politics. In one way, the NDN is an American attempt to reassert its influence in the area, which had been steadily waning since peaking around 2002 or so. Moreover, such discussions seem almost as preoccupied with forcing an American transit and trade agreement on Russia and the countries it used to control within the Soviet Union, as if the cold war never ended.

While the U.S. policy community may not have a firm handle on what the consequences of an American economic hegemony might mean for Central Asia (assuming such an outcome is even possible, given the constant efforts at currying influence by China and Iran),93 the region as a whole probably does. It remains difficult for citizens of Central Asian states to travel freely across borders, even while Westerners seem to have relatively little trouble.94 The first hints of what it could mean for Afghanistan will be apparent soon, as a recently completed railway running from Mazar-i-Sharif to Termez, across the Amu Darya River in Uzbekistan, comes online and begins carrying cargo.95 China, too, is slated to complete its own railway as a part of the multibillion-dollar contract it secured to develop the Aynak copper mine in Logar Province.96 Iran is also building its own rail link to Herat.97 While none of these rail lines ventures more than a few dozen miles into Afghanistan (the China line, if it is ever built, will essentially link Kabul to the Chinese rail network), and there are no serious plans to connect them inside Afghanistan, they will foster greatly expanded contact between Afghanistan and the outside world, especially in Uzbekistan. (There are rumors of a forthcoming rail link with Turkmenistan, but there are few concrete data about it.)98

Kazakhstan is using the NDN to “raise its Afghanistan profile."99 In addition to merely providing transit rights, as is the case with most other Central Asian countries, the government of Kazakhstan struck a deal with the United States wherein it supplied supporting materials for the troops surging into Afghanistan over the past eighteen months. Unlike Uzbekistan, which is try- ing to limit its concessions while maximizing rent extraction from the United States (much like Kyrgyzstan with Manas), Kazakhstan seems to have a larger goal in mind, by becoming more active in the war effort in Afghanistan. Perhaps not coincidentally, an increase in Kazakh goods traveling overland to NATO troops makes Uzbekistan even more important as a transit site; such a calculation could be behind Uzbekistan’s fairly low-key reaction to the NDN. Ultimately, the NDN will most likely play a positive role in the region. While the effects probably will not be felt for years, at the very least, Uzbekistan will have a harder time shutting down its borders with its neighbors during political unrest—which might be good for Uzbekistan, if not for the rail net- work itself.

Disruptive Regional Threats

The project using Central Asian hydropower plants to send power southward from Uzbekistan to Kabul has done much to foster good relations in the region. Additional transnational projects could serve a stabilizing and integrating function in the region, though the disputes between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan could pose a threat. There are more immediate problems to consider as well, however.

Because of severe flooding along the Amu Darya River, which forms part of the boundary between northwest Afghanistan and southeast Turkmenistan, farmers are being victimized when the waters wash away their land. Several have crossed the shifting river, which officially demarcates the border, in search of grazing lands they once had. They have wound up dead. 100 It is unlikely that the Afghan government will make much issue of the killings, as it enjoys mellow relations with Ashgabat (and both stand to make an enormous amount of money should TAPI come online).

What is unclear, though, is whether the locals in Afghanistan reach out to the insurgency for help in fighting the predatory Turkmen across the river— something Afghans have done in other areas of the country. Antonio Giustozzi argued forcefully in 2007101 that the Taliban’s most common method of recruitment is to contact the losing party of a local conflict and offer them weapons and support in return for providing a safe refuge for Taliban militants. If they ally themselves with beleaguered Afghan herdsmen and retaliate against the overzealous Turkmen border guards shooting at them, it is possible that such a conflict could escalate into a more serious incident.

The ultimate role and disposition of the IMU and IJU warrants consideration as well. There is something of a cottage industry in the West, proclaiming that Uzbek Islamists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan pose a vital, immediate, and mortal danger to several governments. In 2002, for example, journalist and author Ahmed Rashid issued a dire warning: the IMU would sweep across all of Central Asia, Karimov would invade Kyrgyzstan to kill an IMU leader, and Tajikistan would collapse under the weight of its own Afghan-based rebels, boiling north to wreak havoc.102 However, Central Asia clearly did not experience the specter of rampant, regime-shattering Islamist terrorism. As geographer Nick Megoran noted, in reviewing some of the public research into the dangers posed by Central Asian Islamist extremism, “the most glaring contrast . . . is the enormous disparity between the magnitude of predictions made and warnings given and the paucity of supporting evidence presented."103

In fact, while no one would argue Islamism is not a problem in Central Asia (just last year, Pakistan-linked IMU militants got into a firefight with Kyrgyz policmen in Jalalabad),104 more often than not its presence and threat seem exaggerated. In a recent analytic essay,105 for example, Reuters correspondent Marina Golovina argued so many contradictory points about Central Asia—the region is vast but only defined by its neighbors, the governments are strong but the region is fragile, people are flocking to Islamists but the Islamists have no real presence there—that it was difficult to figure out what the point was meant to be.

A potentially more disrupting presence is the growing influence of transnational Islamic solidarity movements such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or HuT.106 HuT is an “ideological vanguard” that, while explicitly and vehemently nonviolent, nevertheless preaches a fairly radical religious ideology firmly on the side of Islamist extremism.107 Though it does not have its origins anywhere near Central Asia (the group was originally formed in 1953 in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani), HuT has found a lot of traction in preaching peaceful resistance to autocratic rule in Central Asian—including in Afghanistan.108 Central Asian governments are fond of accusing HuT members of sedition and terrorism, even when the charges themselves are baseless and kind of nonsensical.109 In his conclusion to Islam after Communism, Adeeb Khalid says:

Central Asia has many potential sources of instability, and Islamic militancy ranks low on the list. The most immediate potential source of instability in the near future is the successions that loom at the top, as the first generation of leadership succumbs to mortality. Of greater long term concern should be the dismal state of the region’s economy, the ecological nightmare unfolding there, and the endemic corruption.110

Indeed, the biggest threat and challenge to Central Asian institutions and social structure seems to be from state repression, rather than any Islamist menace (and in fact, it is precisely the factors Khalid mentions that are most likely pushing people into the arms of groups like HuT). However, as state institutions fail, and especially as political processes in Afghanistan fail, groups like HuT offer Islamic, and ostensibly nonviolent, alternatives to either the Western-recognized government or the violent Islamists. If membership in these groups grows large enough, it is possible they could undermine any sort of regional political and diplomatic solutions the international community is trying to accomplish.

A unified Central Asian response to Afghanistan would be a tremendous force for good in the region, but that is unlikely to happen. Uzbekistan in particular seems incapable of coexisting with its neighbors without occasionally nasty fights (though Tajikistan also has a large number of border disputes, most of which relate to water usage).111 In addition to the disputes over water rights mentioned above, tensions between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have risen sharply as well. While in a broad sense these raised tensions are due to the growth in Islamist groups in the Ferghana Valley (including HuT), the most recent set of actions—with as many as a battalion’s-worth of Uzbek troops right up along the border with Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region112—do not have any obvious Islamist connection.

The Uzbek-Kyrgyz border has been a contentious area for years. After a series of terrorist bombings in Tashkent in 1999, which the Uzbek government blamed on the IMU (which later that year sought refuge in Kyrgyzstan before eventually fleeing to northern Afghanistan),113 Uzbekistan unilaterally built a series of barbed wire fences along disputed sections of the border, destroying several other border crossings in the process. The result, as Megoran argued, is that communities in the border region were traumatized, and relations between the two countries hit an all-time low.114

Border problems were again highlighted during the 2005 massacre at Andijon, Uzbekistan, a town near the Uzbek-majority town of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.115 There, Uzbek government troops fired into a crowd of protesting civilians, killing hundreds of people (the actual number is disputed). In the days after the massacre, thousands fled toward Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek government sealed off its border towns to stave off the exodus, and the Kyrgyz government turned away thousands even as other fleeing civilians dodged Uzbek machine gun fire along the border.116 The Uzbek government claimed both actions—slaughtering people at Andijon, and closing the border with Osh—were appropriate responses to the rise of Islamist terror groups in their midst. They claimed the Andijon incident was fueled by the actions of a radical group called Akromiya—even though a subsequent investigation by Washington University doctoral student Sarah Kendzior found little evidence to support the existence of such a group117 There are similar incidents in more recent years as well, resulting in numerous border closings and vicious argument between the two governments.118

What these issues share is the capacity to derail any role Central Asia could play in Afghanistan. Despite some promising signs coming from the NDN, Central Asia seems much more concerned with its own affairs, especially when it comes to the survival of each regime. Even Kazakhstan, which is barely mentioned here because it simply does not have the same immediate issues with border disputes or security challenges as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Kyrgyzstan, cares much more about its ultimate disposition vis-à-vis the United States rather than Afghanistan.

What to Expect

Central Asia clearly will play a role of some sort in Afghanistan’s future. But any regional process will not be led by Central Asia. Since the other players involved—the United States, Iran, Pakistan, China, and Russia—all carry greater weight at the negotiating table, the Central Asian states will have to be included in some way in any future talks. Afghanistan’s issues with trans- national criminal groups pose a critical challenge to every state in Central Asia. It is unclear how well the border states of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and to a greater extent Kyrgyzstan, can maintain their tentative internal security arrangements with an active, and unchallenged, criminal network operating in Afghanistan. In Kyrgystan in particular, rumors abounded that the recent riots were largely the work of criminals and smugglers trying to carve out space for themselves.119 Tajikistan’s experience with criminals and insurgents in the Rasht Valley also point to how critical the issue of Afghanistan’s stability is for the government. The Central Asian states should be consulted on any plan to combat transnational crime and counternarcotics operations.

Especially as trade ties increase along the NDN—if it ever begins to carry non-NATO materials—the region as a whole might begin to take a more active role in Afghanistan’s affairs. The challenges they face from Afghanistan’s chronic insecurity are severe—sanctuary for violent rebels, and a constant source of refugees fleeing north (especially as the refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan have been forcibly depopulated), and a thriving and destabilizing drugs trade.

The challenges that the Central Asian states face in Afghanistan, however, are not as immediate as those posed to either Iran or Pakistan. While Afghanistan (and Pakistan’s tribal areas) house Central Asian militants, they have executed terrorist attacks outside that area only sporadically; there have been no major attacks in Tashkent, for example, since 2004.120 Similarly, there are not the same social ties into the region—while millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran during the 1980s and 1990s, only a few tens of thousands fled north to Tajikistan, and only for a short time.

But if the challenges facing Central Asia are not immediate, the opportunities are. In particular the NDN, beyond any American designs for leveraging its influence regionally, presents a tremendous opportunity for the development of international trade. Additionally, the nascent steps taken in electricity sharing between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan hold out hope that those relations could be used to ameliorate some of the troubling power and water conflicts with Tajikistan. Additionally, if the countries of Central Asia are integrated more tightly into regional deliberations about Afghanistan’s future, their governments will become more active partners in the process.

In the medium term, however, it is most likely that the Central Asian states will remain wrapped up in their own affairs without careful and constant prod- ding by the international community to play a more assertive role. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan—the three states with the most at stake, given their experiences with Islamist militants now based in Afghanistan—have signifi- cant internal political, social, and economic challenges and cannot be expected to play major roles (despite Uzbekistan’s proposed expansion of the “6 plus 2” group to a “6 plus 3” group,121 which was a suggestion that never went anywhere). The best bet for any sort of proactive involvement is probably Kazakhstan, which enjoys sufficient political stability to have grander regional and international ambitions. The best bet for ensuring regional buy-in to any settlement is to bring in these states as participants in the regional negotiations, giving them a clear stake in regional security arrangements and incentives to further regional trade.


  1. Ben Farmer, “China Pumping Millions into Afghanistan,” The Telegraph, November 22, 2009, ↩︎

  2. Daniel Kimmage, “Analysis: Kazakh Breakthrough on Uzbek Terror Case,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 15, 2004, ↩︎

  3. Deirde Tynan, “Uzbekistan: If a Taliban Outpost Falls in Pakistan, Is the Ripple Felt in the Ferghana Valley?”, May 25, 2009, ↩︎

  4. Farangis Najibullah, “Four Suspected IMU Members Killed In Tajikistan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 19, 2009, ↩︎

  5. Bill Roggio, “Afghan Forces and Taliban Clash in Kunduz,” Long War Journal, September 3, 2009, ↩︎

  6. See, for example, Davro Vali, “IMU Movements May Press Tajikistan to Forefront of Security Concerns,”, April 17, 2002,, and Farangis Najibullah, “Four Suspected IMU Members Killed In Tajikistan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 19, 2009, ↩︎

  7. Matthias Gebauer, “Islamic Jihad Union Threatens Attacks Outside Germany,” Spiegel Online International, September 12, 2007,,1518,505265,00.html. ↩︎

  8. See, in particular, Thomas M. Sanderson, Daniel Kimmage, and David A. Gordon, “From the Ferghana Valley to South Waziristan: The Evolving Threat of Central Asian Jihadists,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2010, Washington, D.C., 10–12, ↩︎

  9. Deirdre Tynan, “Human Rights Groups Wary of Rise in Kyrgyz-Uzbek Security Cooperation,”, September 4, 2006, ↩︎

  10. For some background on why the government of Kyrgyzstan increased the usage fees the U.S. must pay in 2005 and 2006, see Nargiz Asadova, “President of Kyrgyzstan Explains the New Terms of the Rent of the US Military Base,” Ferghana. ru, February 15, 2006,, and for back- ground on the price hike in 2009, see Erica Marat, “Bakiyev Wins New Geopolitical Game Over Base,” CACI Analyst, July 2, 2009, ↩︎

  11. Andrew E. Kramer, “Fuel Sales to U.S. at Issue in Kyrgyzstan,” The New York Times, April 12, 2010, A6, ↩︎

  12. Olga Dzyubenko, “U.S. Airman Must Answer for Shooting—Kyrgyz Leader,” Reuters, December 7, 2006, ↩︎

  13. “Kyrgyz Leader Says U.S. Base Will Stay,” MSNBC, April 13, 2010, ↩︎

  14. Alexander Cooley, “Manas Hysteria,” Foreign Policy, April 12, 2010, ↩︎

  15. Christian Bleuer, “Tajikistan: On the Road to Exaggeration?” Turan and Iran, March 1, 2009, ↩︎

  16. Robin Forestier-Walker, “Influx of Refugees Worries Tajiks,” Al Jazeera English, February 26, 2010, ↩︎

  17. Rupert Coleville, “Rebuilding Socialism*,*” *Refugees* 98 (December 1, 1994), ↩︎

  18. At least one analyst, Christian Bleuer, a PhD candidate who is writing his dissertation on Tajikistan, has noted that relativelysmall incidents such as a police shootout with a few criminals often gets expressed in U.S. press as hundreds of IMU-backed militants attacking the government. Since he has lived in the villages where these incidents took place, his first-hand accounts are probably accurate, and the danger posed is at least not as dire as officials say it is. See Christian Bleuer, “Long War Journal Recycles Tajikistan’s Finest Rumors,” Ghosts of Alexander, November 24, 2009, ↩︎

  19. Gretchen Peters, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2009), 160. ↩︎

  20. Farangis Najibullah, “Gunfight in Turkmen Capital Remains Shrouded in Secrecy,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 16, 2008, ↩︎

  21. U.S. Embassy Ashgabat, “Warden Message: Two Criminals at Large in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan,” Consular Affairs Bulletins, September 12, 2008, ↩︎

  22. Olga Dzyubenko, “Krygyzstan Uighur Leaders Detained after Protest,” Reuters, August 10, 2009, ↩︎

  23. Myra MacDonald, “China, Pakistan and India,” Reuters, December 12, 2008, ↩︎

  24. Bruce Pannier, “New Turkmen-China Pipeline Breaks Russia’s Hold Over Central Asian Gas,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 14, 2009, ↩︎

  25. See especially Steve Levine, The Oil and the Glory (Random House: New York, 2007), 290–311. ↩︎

  26. Shawn McCarthy, “Pipeline Opens New Front in Afghan War,” Globe and Mail, June 19, 2008, ↩︎

  27. Bruce Pannier, “New Power Line Lights Up Afghan Capital,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 29, 2009, ↩︎

  28. Jason Straziuso, “Kabul Gets 3 Hours of Electricity a Day,” Associated Press, January 27, 2008, ↩︎

  29. Consider, as an example, the Uzbek government’s decision to terminate the U.S. lease on the Karshi-Khanabad air base just south of Tashkent in the face of mounting U.S. criticisms over its human rights record in 2005. ↩︎

  30. Farangis Najibullah, “Tajikistan: Energy Shortages, Extreme Cold Create Crisis Situation,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 13, 2008, ↩︎

  31. Ilan Greenburg, “Central Asia’s Cold War Over Heat,”, March 26, 2009, ↩︎

  32. David Trilling, “Tajikistan: Rogun Dam a Hot Topic as Tajiks Make It through Another Winter of Shortages,” Eurasianet, March 12, 2009, ↩︎

  33. John C. K. Daly, “Iran Enters Tajik Energy Market as U.S. and Russia Idle,” UPI, February 12, 2009, ↩︎

  34. Kambiz Arman, “Investing in Tunnel, Iran Nurtures Ambitions in Tajikistan,” Eurasianet, July 31, 2003, ↩︎

  35. Erica Marat, “Will Tajikistan Successfully Construct Rogun?” Eurasia Daily Monitor 7, no. 17 (January 26, 2010), ↩︎

  36. Farangis Najibullah, “Uzbekistan Worried about Tajik Power Plant’s Effect on ‘Frail’ Environment,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 3, 2010, ↩︎

  37. “ADB $122 Million Grant to Bolster Tajikistan’s Energy Security, Trade,” Asian Development Bank, August 16, 2010, ↩︎

  38. Afghanistan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Switzerland: United Nations Environment Programme, 2003), 11, ↩︎

  39. Mohammed Hossein Emadi, “Pro-poor Development Policy and Natural Resource Management in Post-Conflict Afghanistan: Changes and Challenge,” in Poverty Reduction and Forests: Tenure, Market, and Policy Reforms: Proceedings of an International Conference, 3–7 September 2007, Bangkok, ed. Bob Fisher, Cor Veer, and Sango Mahanty (Bangkok, Thailand: Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific, 2007), ↩︎

  40. David L. Stern, “Tajikistan Hopes Water Will Power Its Ambitions,” New York Times, August 31, 2008, A5, ↩︎

  41. Farhod Sharipov and Jahongir Boboev, “Tajikistan’s Water Woes,” Bloomberg Businessweek, January 3, 2008, ↩︎

  42. Asian Development Bank, “Pyanj River Basin Project,” 2008, ↩︎

  43. Martin Vennard, “Melting Kyrgyz Glaciers Post a Threat,” BBC World News, October 28, 2009, ↩︎

  44. Fred Weir, “Moscow Furious, Says US Not Pushing Drug War in Afghanistan,” Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2010, ↩︎

  45. Stephan Nicola, “Russia Wants Better NATO Anti-drug War,” UPI, March 30, 2010, ↩︎

  46. “Some 80 People Die from Drug Abuse in Russia Every Day—Minister,” RIA Novosti, June 16, 2010, ↩︎

  47. “UN Anti-crime Chief Calls for Scaled-up Resistance against Afghan Drugs Trafficking,” UN News Centre, October 21, 2009, ↩︎

  48. “Russian Military Base in Kyrgyzstan Could Curb Afghan Drug Flow—Official,” RIA Novosti, June 21, 2010, ↩︎

  49. M. K. Bhadrakumar, “Russia Joins the War in Afghanistan,” Asia Times Online, June 25, 2008, ↩︎

  50. “China, Russia Vow to Fight Drug Trafficking,” Xinhua, March 13, 2010, ↩︎

  51. “UZBEKISTAN: Tashkent Facing Drug Onslaught as Regional Heroin Production Booms,” IRIN, September 24, 2004, ↩︎

  52. Tamara Makarenko describes this as a “crime-terror nexus,” and says that Afghanistan under the Taliban in the 1990s developed a “symbiotic relationship” with the governments of all the Central Asian states, though she focuses a great deal on Uzbekistan. See Tamara Makarenko, “Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade,” Harvard Asia Quarterly 6, no. 3 (Summer 2002), ↩︎

  53. Tamara Makarenko, “Traffickers Turn from Balkan Conduit to ‘Northern Route,'” Jane’s Intelligence Review 13, no. 8 (August 2001). ↩︎

  54. Anonymous, “Drug Smugglers Eye New Bridge,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, November 17, 2005, ↩︎

  55. Iskander Aliev and Mirzojalol Shohjamolov, “Tajik Law Opens Window For Young Afghan Drug Smugglers,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 4, 2010, ↩︎

  56. Maria Golovnina, “Remote Tajik Outpost on Frontline of Drugs War,” Reuters, June 12, 2008, ↩︎

  57. Canadian soldiers in Kandahar province have reported being stumped at how to react to and deal with “almost impenetrable forests of 10-foot-tall marijuana plants.” In addition to the obvious law enforcement questions, the plants post security challenges as they mask anyone hiding underneath from airborne sensors, including infrared sensors. See “Taliban Takes High Cover,” Reuters, October 12, 2006, ↩︎

  58. “AFGHANISTAN: Drug Addiction—A Growing Burden,” IRIN, April 21, 2010, ↩︎

  59. Anonymous, “Kyrgyz Cannabis Boom as Tourist Trade Slumps,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, November 20, 2005, ↩︎

  60. Anonymous, “Kazakhstan’s ‘Cannabis Klondike,'” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, November 20, 2005, ↩︎

  61. Joshua Foust, “The Battle of Ashgabat: Reporters Jump on False ‘Islamic Militants’ Angle,” Columbia Journalism Review, September 19, 2008, ↩︎

  62. “Trafficking in Persons in Afghanistan: Field Survey Report,” International Organization for Migration, June 2008, ↩︎

  63. Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, June 2009), 59–60, ↩︎

  64. Aigul Rasulova, “Kyrgyzstan Struggles to Stop Slave Trade,”, June 28, 2004, ↩︎

  65. Niklas Swanstrom, “Central Asia as a Transit Region for Drugs,” Asia Times Online, August 28, 2003, EH28Ag01.html. ↩︎

  66. Erica Marat, “The State-Crime Nexus in Central Asia: State Weakness, Organized Crime, and Corruption in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” Central Asia- Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University, October 2006, ↩︎

  67. Jacob Townsend, “The Logistics of Opiate Trafficking in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan,” China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 4, no. 1 (2006), ↩︎

  68. Marat, “The State-Crime Nexus in Central Asia.” ↩︎

  69. Martha Brill Olcott, “Central Asian Republics,” in Is A Regional Strategy Viable in Afghanistan? ed. Ashley J. Tellis and Aroop Mukharji (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2010), 53, ↩︎

  70. Christian Bleuer, “Why No Ethnic Separatist Movements in Afghanistan?” Ghosts of Alexander, March 7, 2007, ↩︎

  71. Thomas Barfield, “Afghanistan Is Not the Balkans: Ethnicity and Its Political Consequences from a Central Asian Perspective,” Central Asian Studies Review 4, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 2–8, ↩︎

  72. See, for example, Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (New York: Penguin, 2009). ↩︎

  73. Craig Murray, “Britain Is Protecting the Biggest Heroin Crop of All Time,” Daily Mail Online, July 21, 2007, ↩︎

  74. Joshua Foust, “Are Terror Groups Faked? Does the IJU Even Exist?”, June 20, 2009, ↩︎

  75. Joshua Foust, “Human Rights in Central Asia,” World Politics Review, December 22, 2008, ↩︎

  76. Human Rights Watch, “‘Bullets Were Falling Like Rain’: The Andijan Massacre, May 13, 2005,” June, 2005, ↩︎

  77. “U.S. Asked to Leave Uzbek Airbase,” BBC World News, July 30, 2005, ↩︎

  78. Joshua Kucera, “Afghanistan: US Expanding Traffic on Central Asian Supply Network,”, December 16, 2009, ↩︎

  79. Robin Forestier-Walker, “Influx of Refugees Worries Tajiks,” Al Jazeera English, February 26, 2010, ↩︎

  80. Bill Roggio, “Tajik Rebels Join al Qaeda,” Long War Journal, November 23, 2009, ↩︎

  81. Irina Melnikova, “Chasing Phantoms in the Tajik Mountains,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, July 23, 2009, ↩︎

  82. Anonymous, “Taming Tajikistan’s Eastern Valleys,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, July 31, 2009, ↩︎

  83. Thomas M. Sanderson, Daniel Kimmage, and David A. Gordon, “From the Ferghana Valley to South Waziristan: The Evolving Threat of Central Asian Jihadists,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2010, Washington, D.C., 10–12, ↩︎

  84. Ibid., 11. ↩︎

  85. “Kyrgyzstan: Hunt for IMU Militants Ongoing in Batken Province,” Eurasianet. org, October 21, 2009, ↩︎

  86. Deirdre Tynan, “Manas Fuel Contracting: Is the Pentagon Responding to Congressional Pressure?”, May 25, 2010, ↩︎

  87. Joshua Foust, “What to Make of Manas’ Fuel Woes? Wading Through the Politics of Fuel Contracts in Kyrgyzstan,” Budget Insight: A Stimson Center Blog on National Security Spending, August 3, 2010, ↩︎

  88. For a brief discussion of how the NDN in Uzbekistan was shaping up in 2008, see Joshua Foust, “Termez, Where the ‘T’ Is for ‘Transit,'”, April 8, 2008, ↩︎

  89. The attacks have become so bad that the Khyber Pass, arguably the most important single transit point for supplies for NATO, was shut down temporarily in December 2008 while Pakistan forces tried to address the security situation. See Bill Roggio, “Pakistan Shuts Down NATO Supply Line through the Khyber Pass,” Long War Journal, December 30, 2008, ↩︎

  90. Senior Department of Defense official, interview with author, Washington, D.C., November 11, 2009. ↩︎

  91. Andrew C. Kuchins, Thomas M. Sanderson, and David A. Gordon, with S. Frederick Starr, “The Northern Distribution Network and the Modern Silk Road,” The Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 17, 2009, ↩︎

  92. A more detailed discussion of this can be found in Joshua Foust, “Spilling Over in Central Asia,” Current Intelligence, March 28, 2010, ↩︎

  93. Joshua Foust, “Iran and China Rise; Shall Russia and the U.S. Fade Away?” Registan. net, August 15, 2007, ↩︎

  94. “Central Asia: Freedom of Movement: A Case Study in Lack of Cooperation,”, August 9, 2002, ↩︎

  95. “New Afghan Railroad to Boost Trade and Supply Troops,” Reuters, May 25, 2010, ↩︎

  96. Ron Synovitz, “Afghanistan: China’s Winning Bid For Copper Rights Includes Power Plant, Railroad,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 24, 2007, ↩︎

  97. Murray Hughes, “Opening Up Afghan Route to Iran,” Railway Gazette, January 29, 2008, ↩︎

  98. “Afghan Rebuild Underway,” Railway Gazette, July 12, 2007, ↩︎

  99. Roger McDermott, “Kazakhstan Raising Its Afghanistan Profile,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 3, 2009,[tt_news]=34448. ↩︎

  100. Zarif Nazar and Charles Recknagel, “As an Afghan River Border Shifts, Murder Follows,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 23, 2010, ↩︎

  101. Antonio Giustozzi, Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). ↩︎

  102. Ahmed Rashid, “They’re Only Sleeping,” New Yorker, January 14, 2002, ↩︎

  103. Nick Megoran, “Calming the Ferghana Valley Experts,” Central Asia Monitor 5 (2000), ↩︎

  104. “Kyrgyzstan: Militants Were Suicide Bombers, Officials Allege,”, June 23, 2009, ↩︎

  105. Marina Golovnina, “ANALYSIS—Radical Islam Casts Shadow over Central Asia,” Reuters, February 2, 2010, ↩︎

  106. The Hizb ut-Tahrir website is ↩︎

  107. Zeyno Baran, “Fighting the War of Ideas,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005, ↩︎

  108. “Hizb ut-Tahrir Afghanistan, on the Upcoming Elections and Continuing Clampdown on Hizb Members and Supporters,” Hizb ut-Tahrir Afghanistan, July 28, 2009, ↩︎

  109. “Eleven Hizb Ut-Tahrir Suspects Charged In Tajikistan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 2, 2009, ↩︎

  110. Adeeb Khalid, Islam After Communism (University of California Press: Berkeley, 2007), 198. ↩︎

  111. For an example of Tajiks crossing into Kyrgyzstan—the Batken region, near Osh in the Ferghana Valley—see Anonymous, “Tajik-Kyrgyz Water Clash a Sign of Things to Come,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, April 4, 2008, For an example of how water stresses and climate change are probably going to make conflict along Tajikistan’s bor- ders more probable, see John Vidal, “Tajikistan Facing Water Shortages and Climate Extremes, Report Warns,” The Guardian, February 17, 2010, ↩︎

  112. “Uzbekistan Sends Troops to the Kyrgyz Border,” Jetigen Online, May 31, 2010, ↩︎

  113. Nick Megoran, “Bad Fences, Bad Neighbors,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 15, 2000, ↩︎

  114. Nick Megoran, “The Critical Geopolitics of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan Ferghana Valley Boundary Dispute, 1999–2000,” Political Geography 23(2004): 732. ↩︎

  115. Daniel Kimmage, “Uzbekistan: Bloody Friday in the Ferghana Valley,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 14, 2005, ↩︎

  116. Erica Marat, “Kyrgyzstan Extends Reluctant Welcome to Uzbek Refugees,” Eurasia Daily Monitor 2, no. 98 (May 19, 2005),[tt_news]=30423. ↩︎

  117. Sara Kendzior, “Inventing Akromiya: The Role of Uzbek Propagandists in the Andijon Massacre,” Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 14, no. 4 (Fall 2006): 545–62, ↩︎

  118. “Uzbek-Kyrgyz Border Closed after Shooting Erupts,” Russia Today, May 26, 2009, ↩︎

  119. “War in the South of Kyrgyzstan: Present for Bakiev or Osh, STOP!” Ferghana. ru, June 16, 2010, ↩︎

  120. Hooman Peimani, “Uzbekistan’s Reaction to Tashkent Bombings Generate Doubts on Efficacy,” Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst, April 21, 2004, ↩︎

  121. Islam Karimov, “Address by President Islam Karimov at the NATO Summit,” Press Service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, March 4, 2008, ↩︎