Counter-Terrorism: The Valley In The Middle Of Nowhere

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May 22, 2010:  In Central Asia, a major source of most Islamic radicals has been the Ferghana Valley (which runs through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.) This fertile area has, for centuries, been a regional center of population, commerce and culture. But the three nations controlling it have kept the pressure on Islamic radicals so much that exiled terrorists continue to show up in Pakistan, and other parts of the world. Counter-terrorism forces in Central Asia spend most of their time tracking down Afghan drug smugglers. The heroin trade is where the money is, and money buys guns and manpower. The Islamic terrorists have few sources of funding, and eager young (pious and fanatic) men are not, by itself, sufficient to make much happen.

Ferghana was traditionally Uzbek, with Kyrgyz herders up on the slopes with their animals. But during over a century of Russian occupation, the valley got split between the three provinces (or "republics") of Uzbekistan (which now has the farm land on the valley floor), Tajikistan (has the narrow mouth of the valley) and Kyrgyzstan (occupies much of the uplands at the northeastern end the valley). The 22,000 square kilometer valley is a bowl of green in an otherwise very dry area. It has long supported a large population (1.5 million in the 19th century, more than five times that today). With so many more people in the valley, many inhabitants today are poor, and this is the main reason for the popularity of Islamic radicalism. That, and the high density of population there. But that dense population pattern has also made it easy for security forces to shut down Islamic terrorist activity.

Thus, for the last decade, it's been customary for young men seeking to be Islamic radicals, to leave the valley. Many are now in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and more distant battlefields in the war on terror.

 

 


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