On December 17, , a shootout in central Grozny between members of the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS and local security forces claimed the lives of three militants and one police officer. On December 18, a counter-terrorist operation CTO launched in the aftermath resulted in the death of four more insurgents, whereas four remaining members of a militant cell were arrested.
Three police officers were killed and one injured. While the confrontation between militants and police in Grozny was only the fourth conflict-related incident in the republic during , it demonstrates that ISIS still has the capacity to target Chechen security forces.
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Recent evidence shows a gradual increase in Chinese military activity in Central Asia, particularly with Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, although China has for years denied any military interest in the region. In October, PLA and Tajik forces jointly participated in counterterrorism exercises in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan, following earlier activity in Whereas Tajikistan was then silent, this time it publicized the exercises, which aroused a visible anxiety in the Russian media although the Russian government has hitherto been unwilling to comment on this issue.
The Prime Minister and acting Interim President Shavkat Mirziyoev became president-elect by defeating three competitors in a highly asymmetric campaign characterized by the utilization of so-called administrative resources. The campaign also revealed rising new expectations on the part of the Uzbek nation after a quarter-century of one-person rule. Uzbekistan — a downstream country — has permanently and vigorously rejected and resisted the project referring to numerous risks associated with Rogun for all downstream countries.
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But Moscow does not make this mistake. From the beginning, Moscow has highlighted its access to the Caucasus through overflight rights and deployment of its forces in regard to Syria, e.
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In the years since independence, bilateral relations have been plagued by mistrust, disputes over water resources and outright hostility. Both sides have adopted a series of punitive measures against each other. This relatively low-scale increase in military confrontations between militants and security forces in the region nonetheless indicates a steady recovery of non-ISIS Islamist cells, which have been in decline since the emergence of ISIS in the region. The prospect of gas deliveries from Turkmenistan to European markets is disconcerting for Moscow, which regards the monopolization of gas supply to Europe as one of its major geopolitical and geoeconomic goals.
The North Caucasus insurgency has weakened dramatically in recent years. While Chechnya-based jihadist groups now number a few dozen fighters, jamaats operating in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay have been nearly wrecked. In Ingushetia, a few insurgent groups remain numbering a couple of dozen members. In Dagestan, the epicenter of the regional insurgents, several jamaats have survived and number around a hundred active members. Yet has the regional insurgency indeed been defeated?
Taking a closer look, however, it becomes apparent that virtually all such claims lack a sound foundation and that the remaining, more specific hints like reported sightings of black flags also stand on shaky ground. Consequentially, and contrary to the eastern parts of Afghanistan, there is no compelling evidence of a presence of the self-styled Caliphate in northern Afghanistan and, hence, also no immediate threat to Central Asia. The SCO summit of June was, symbolically speaking, a second — multilateral — platform created in the same place, Tashkent, for the same two states to restore peace.
Recent months have seen increased attacks on journalists and human rights activists in Chechnya. While most human rights organizations and journalists were pushed out of Chechnya in the s, the recent wave of violence has been particularly aggressive and threaten to remove the last resort for complaints on human rights violations as well as the only remaining sources of data on such violations in the republic. The Aral Sea — which became a symbol of environmental mismanagement and environmental catastrophe at the end of the 20th century — shows that sustainable development policies can help to deal with even the most difficult water issues.
Conversely, however, mismanagement and border conflicts over water might worsen the situation, leading to further political and economic tensions. The current question is whether Kazakhstan can collaborate with other Central Asian states in saving and perhaps reviving the Aral Sea.
On May 21, a U.
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Mansour was returning from Taftan, Iran, where he had gone for medical treatment, to his residence near the provincial capital Quetta, a mile journey. Mansour and his driver had completed roughly two-thirds of the nine-hour trip. A few weeks before the April fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia, a border crisis occurred between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on March Some observers connected these two events as links in the same chain.
Indeed, both cases revolve around so-called frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space; where one of the conflicting sides is a CSTO member and the other is not; and where speculations proliferate of a hidden Russian hand in both the instigation and mediation of the clashes. The two conflicts can be seen as a by-product of the same process — the continuing divergence of the former single Soviet space. Throughout , Kazakhstan celebrated the th anniversary of what it regards as the beginning of its statehood as a major national event.
This extraordinary interest in a seemingly academic subject had clear political undertones: Despite the existence of clearly pro-Russian attitudes in this region, Moscow has not supported them out of fear that it could raise extremist forms of nationalism in Russia, which would be highly problematic for the Kremlin. For more than a decade after the September 11, attacks in the U. 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. Not only do these texts veto their membership in NATO, but they exclude mutually profitable partnerships for these countries with the European Union and other Western institutions, constrain their domestic development, and encourage the suppression of civil liberties by warning of fictitious Western plots to change their regimes under the guise of democracy promotion and human rights.
Moscow has stated that among its defense and security priorities for , Central Asia and the South Caucasus will top its agenda. Kavkaz , the main strategic military exercise of the year, will take place in the Southern Military District MD , while Tsentr occurred in Central MD with among its vignettes a rehearsal of intervention in Central Asia. Surprisingly in this context, the Defense Ministry plans to restructure the st Base in Tajikistan from divisional to brigade status.
The purpose of the special operation was to break the backbone of the Muslim Unity group, a purportedly militant Shiite organization.
The context and implications of the Nardaran events have received little attention in Western media, despite the concerns raised both within and outside the region about Azerbaijan finding itself on the brink of religiously inspired civil unrest. In early November, John Kerry made a long overdue trip to Central Asia, becoming the first Secretary of State to visit all five Central Asian countries in one diplomatic tour.
His agenda focused on reassuring the regional governments that the United States cares about their concerns, specifically Afghanistan and religious extremism. Kerry also highlighted U. He further developed bilateral cooperation with each Central Asian government. It will require sustained follow-through by the current and next U.
Frederick Starr and Svante E. A number of initiatives have combined to make the development of continental transport and trade across the heartland of Eurasia a reality rather than a mere vision. Some of these have been external, while many have been internal to the region. Yet if Europe works with Central Asian states, it stands to benefit greatly from this process. This would involve work to make the transport corridors more attuned to market logic; to promote the development of soft infrastructure; to pay attention to the geopolitics of transport and support the Caucasus and Caspian corridor; and not least, to look ahead to the potential of linking Europe through Central Asia not just to China, but also to the Indian subcontinent.
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The minister claimed that all the 11 targets, located around 1, kilometers from the warships, were destroyed over two days. Russian authorities and pro-regime media have considered the strikes a big success. While information soon resurfaced that some cruise missiles had landed on Iranian soil, the fact that the October strike is definite proof of the failed attempts to turn the landlocked water basin into a demilitarized zone has received less attention.
As a first manifestation of this dialogue platform, Kerry made a Central Asian tour in early November. Russian authorities stated that the maneuvers aimed to help CSTO members develop means to effectively move airborne forces and other troops to conflict zones, including in Central Asia. Russia aims to establish itself as a key player from the Caspian Basin in the east, via the Black Sea, to the Eastern Mediterranean.
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Fourteen political parties competed, and six were able to pass the national and regional thresholds to win seats. Moscow is actively utilizing the risks and threats stemming from the ISIS to boost its clout in the near and far abroad. Rather than resulting from external factors, as the regime has argued, the recent violence in Tajikistan erupted from within the state itself. Elites within the Tajik state continually compete for political influence and economic gain.
These struggles occasionally break out into violence. Ironically, such conflicts are actually useful for the regime. They allow it to legitimize a purge of potentially disloyal members and a crackdown on other opponents. Many have pointed to this process as a sign of the changing paradigm of the regional resistance, which is being transformed into — or absorbed by — the global jihadist insurgency.
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But these assumptions can be challenged by a look at the internal dynamics, the distance from key hotbeds of jihadist violence, and the limits of the North Caucasian insurgency. It adopted a Development Strategy towards and admitted India and Pakistan as full members. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are currently confronted with a host of shared challenges ranging from the threat of radical Islam to socioeconomic instability, while their bilateral relationship is still constrained by unsettled disputes from the past. Central Asia is a key region that many believe has fallen into the crosshairs of the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State ISIS.
Local governments are gravely concerned about returning fighters and possible ISIS infiltration in the region, and foreign powers, especially neighboring Russia and China, have expressed their deep concerns.
This grim picture, however, obscures a more complex, and perhaps more accurate, story. Might the specter of ISIS have less to do with its on-the-ground ability to destabilize the region and more to do with the geopolitical concerns of those who are stating these threats? With the recent death of its leader and the decisions by numerous field commanders in Dagestan and Chechnya to disassociate themselves with the organization, analysts are wondering if the Caucasus Emirate can endure.
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