Counter-Terrorism: The Chechen Quagmire


May 30, 2008: Although Russia considers Chechnya "pacified," there is still above average violence there. For the first three months of the year, 17 members of the security forces were killed, compared to fifteen during the same period last year. About twice as many terrorists and criminals were killed in both years. There are practical reasons for the persistence of this violence. The Russians consider unemployment as the major problem in Chechnya. About half the workforce doesn't have regular employment. So the gangsters have plenty of recruits, as do the Islamic radicals. Both of these groups have cash, and employment opportunities. It's dangerous work, but it's the young guys who are most attracted to these activities.

The government is less worried about the gangsters (who try to avoid police), than the religious and nationalist "rebels." The police believe there are about 500 of these guys in the region (Chechnya and its neighboring provinces). Not a huge problem, but able to provide a steady stream of newsworthy terrorist attacks.

More of a problem are the thousands of gangsters inside Chechnya. These are usually allied with clan based militias, and gun battles between these groups are common. The media usually can't tell the gangster violence from the terrorist stuff (although the latter is usually followed with a press release), but the police and counter-terrorism forces can. No long term solution to either problem, aside from building up the local economy. That is difficult given the degree of corruption in the region. So the violence will continue.


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