Central Asia: Loyalty For Sale

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August 25, 2007: Despite growing despotism, and not much, if any, economic growth, Islamic radicalism is having a hard time gaining any traction in the region. In Tajikistan, for example, two Islamic radicals, recently released from Guantanamo Bay, were convicted of being mercenaries and sentenced to 17 years in prison. There are ten more Tajiks in Guantanamo Bay, and 70 more Islamic radicals in Tajik prisons. The Islamic radical movement was shattered in the 1990s, when a civil war left over 100,000 dead, and the Islamic radicals defeated. That, followed by the fall of the Taliban in 2001, shattered the morale of Islamic radicals in Central Asia. The al Qaeda attacks against civilians in Iraq, and other Moslem countries, has not helped with Islamic radical recruiting.

The weakness of the Islamic radical movement may only be temporary. Most governments in Central Asia have turned into inefficient dictatorships. Kazakhstan just held national elections that were declared, by foreign observers, to be rigged. The largest country in the region, Uzbekistan, has a president-for-life and a decrepit economy that breeds emmigration and resentment. Seventy years of Soviet rule left its mark. First, there was the inability to manage an economy efficiently. But then there was that highly effective Soviet police state. Islamic radicalism may not be the result of all this, but continued unrest certainly is.

In Kyrgyzstan, which borders China, three Defense Ministry employees have been arrested so far this Summer, and charged with spying for China. China and Russia have much influence in the region, and, as they have for centuries, buy the services of as many government officials as they can.

 

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